Corey Brunish is an actor, director and producer. In just two seasons as a Broadway producer, he has received two Tony Awards (Porgy and Bess; Pippin) as well as Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Awards. At the moment, Corey is in a show in Portland, Oregon but was kind enough to do a phone interview with me about his work in theater.
The Playbill Collector (TPC): Tell me a little about what got you started in the theater business.
Corey Brunish (CB): I’ve been acting for forty years and segued into directing. When you are an actor, you observe hundreds of directors. That’s how you learn what works and what does not work. I’ve been directing regionally for a few years now and have been an assistant director on Broadway.
TPC: What’s your philosophy on directing?
CB: Nurturing is the way to go. Criticizing the actor shuts down their instrument. I lead by helping others find their way. Like an orchestra conductor, I neither write nor perform the work, but it is incumbent upon me to make sure both are shown to their best advantage. I am there to respect and serve the author, the audience and the cast.
CB: My partner, Brisa Trinchero and I have done many shows together as producers and investors. We are currently working on “One Night with Janis Joplin”, “Beautiful” the Carole King show and are part of the investing team on “If/Then” starring Idina Menzel. There may be more depending on what catches our eye. Brisa and I love the creative process. Improving the property that is in front of you is the ultimate goal. Feeling you are making it the best it can possibly be, that is key.
TPC: How did you get started in producing?
CB: First you get a bunch of money. (Laughs). Jeff Calhoun who was working on “Bonnie and Clyde” in Florida, mentored me. By getting to know him, I was able to come on board with the same producers, who were doing “Porgy and Bess” and it snowballed from there. Another great thing about producing, you get to sit in on advertising meetings. I love the collaborating aspect. I come in the room with fresh eyes and I am usually able to see things differently than others who may have been with the project for years.
TPC: Do you split time between New York and Portland?
CB: Yes, two years ago I started commuting. Usually I spend a few months in each place.
TPC: Tell me what you’re working on right now.
CB: “Fiddler on the Roof” at Portland Center Stage. This is my third time doing this show — if you count high school and college. This show is very special to me. In high school I got my first lead. Then in college, same thing, my first lead. And now at PCS (where Janis had its world premiere and “Somewhere in Time” did as well earlier this year) it is my debut with them — and the reviews have been glowing. It’s a great piece — almost 50 years old now. In fact, we had a performance on the same night it opened on Broadway, lo these many years ago. Ten of our leads are out of NYC, so it feels like the perfect hybrid of my two lives.
TPC: Do you prefer to act in a musical or play?
CB: Both. A musical combines every art form you can name. It has literature, design, dance, music and acting. However, doing a play, you are not under the baton, as it were. You can pace the drama or comedy as you wish. You are more in control as an actor.
TPC: Are there any shows you would love to be in?
CB: “Man of La Mancha”. Thankfully, there is still time. And I have the hair for it.
Keep an eye out for Corey Brunish and his upcoming work. In the meantime, you can find his CD “As Time Goes By” on cdbay.com, iTunes and amazon.com.