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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Lileana Blain-Cruz


The insanely talented director on Signature Theatre's Daniel J.Watts’ The Jam: Only Child.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Lileana Blain-Cruz
Lileana Blain-Cruz

Today's subject Lileana Blain-Cruz is currently living her theatre life as the director of Signature Theatre's latest Signature Features streaming offering entitled Daniel J.Watts' The Jam: Only Child. The show recounts Watts' life as the only child of a single mother. From the fierce growing pains of boyhood innocence to the awkwardness of teenage years to a proud Black man, Daniel digs through his memory's attic in a powerful and playful story of metamorphosis. The production is available for streaming through May seventh on Marquee TV.

Lileana's Off-Brodway work includes Anatomy of a Suicide at Atlantic Theatre Company; Fefu and Her Friends at TFANA; Marys Seacole at LCT3(Obie Award); Faust at Opera Omaha; Fabulation, Or the Reeducation of Undine and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World at Signature Theatre Company (Obie Award); Thunderbodies and Revolt. She Said Revolt Again at Soho Rep; The House That Will Not Stand and Red Speedo at New York Theatre Workshop; Pipeline at Lincoln Center; War at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater and Yale Rep; and Hollow Roots at the Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater.

Her regional credits include Girls at Yale Repertory Theater; Water by the Spoonful at Mark Taper Forum/CTG; Henry IV, Part One and Much Ado About Nothing at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; The Bluest Eye at The Guthrie; and Salome at JACK.

Lileana is the current resident director of Lincoln Center Theater and is a 2018 United States Artists Fellow and 2020 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist.

For a tour de force solo turn that is bursting with lyricism, dynamic tap dance, heart, and an excellent DJ (DJ Duggz), check out Daniel J.Watts' The Jam: Only Child as directed by the insanely talented Lileana Blain-Cruz.

Was directing for the theatre always your objective or did you think you might work in another facet of the performing arts first?

I really discovered my relationship to theater in college. I directed a production of Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls...and that's when I fell in love with directing - all of its possibilities and its potential to combine all of the elements of the arts.

Where did you receive your training?

I went to undergrad at Princeton University and graduate school at the Yale School of Drama where I received my MFA.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Lileana Blain-Cruz
Daniel J. Watts in Signature Theatre's streaming production of
Daniel J. Watts' The Jam: Only Child.
Photo by Chiet Productions

How did you get involved initially with Daniel J. Watts' The Jam: Only Child?

I worked with Daniel on The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, and he introduced me to the piece and asked me to collaborate with him.

What was it about Watts' material that made you say YES! to directing it?

Well, it was both the material and Watt's himself! He's an amazing performer - but his lyricism, his ability to capture moments of childhood that I felt really akin to, and his deep questioning about what it means to be alive and exist in the world was moving to me. AND it has amazing music. Hah!

When it is safe to gather again, what are you most looking forward to about live theatre's return?

OH THE PEOPLE! I miss people - the collective laughter, the collective surprise, the collective catharsis - that ability to share time and space together in unique ways in the midst of story.

Special Thanks to Signature Theatre's Director of Marketing and Sales Jennifer Buzzell for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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