Jeff Daniels, Lila Neugebauer on Making
Jeff Daniels, Lila Neugebauer on Making

Jeff Daniels, Lila Neugebauer on Making Broadway Magic: Create a Safe Space, Then Embrace Danger

Actors and directors still have to learn how to communicate with each other even if everyone’s speaking English.

In fact, as the director Broadway’s “The Waverly Gallery” says, stage directors have to learn to communicate with each actor in their own way.

“You speak different languages, Jeff,” exclaims Lila Neugebauer in her “Variety on Broadway” conversation, presented by City National Bank, with actor Jeff Daniels.

“We do,” concedes Daniels. But Neugebauer isn’t complaining. She calls finding a common language with every actor “one of the great pleasures of my job.”

“I’m interested in how do we find a language together that makes sure that all of your needs get met and the needs of everybody else in this room gets met,” she says, “and that we’re honoring the project of the play as we have collectively come to understand and imagine it together.”

Daniels is in the middle of a year-long run as Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In the conversation, he tells Neugebauer about his creative relationship with Sorkin going back to “The Newsroom.”

“I did three years of ‘The Newsroom’ with Aaron,” says Daniels. “I never changed a word. Never asked to change a word. I have too much respect for Aaron, but that comes from the theater. I started out at Circle Repertory Company in the ’70s with Marshall W. Mason and Lanford Wilson, I would never consider going to Lanford Wilson and saying, ‘Why don’t you take another shot at this speech?’”

On stage with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Daniels reveals to Neugebauer, he’s working with “a great company” that is willing to respond to small changes, even if it alters the performance. “If you look at me differently tonight, it’ll come back differently,” says Daniels. “It’s a dangerous way to work. I prefer it.”

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