Five Questions for David Cote
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
Born and adopted in New Hampshire. From the age of four I grew up in a small town, population 2,200. Since I was 10 I wanted to live in a city and sure enough, I ended up here after going to Bard College. I didn’t always know that NYC was where I wanted to be, but after graduation, Eric Dyer of Radiohole –fellow Bardian a year ahead of me — said come to New York, we’ll make theater. So I did and stayed.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
I watched way too much TV as a teen but a lot of it was good, so I’ll just say the following programs had a big impact on my brain, in addition to reading Shakespeare, Dickens, Ray Bradbury, and assorted sci-fi, fantasy and comic books: The Singing Detective, The Prisoner, Doctor Who and lots of other BBC import stuff. I’m a big geek.
3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
A photographic memory, especially for quotes and imagery. I feel like everyone else remembers pithy little applicable quotes or can summon up very vivid mental images of certain painters or objects. I’m very textual and forgetful…not a total moron, but I have to work hard to commit things to memory. I envy people who have memorized large chunks of poetry.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
I’m a desk monkey by day and a glamourous Theater Critic by night. I basically work 10-6 supervising TONY’s theater section, which includes assigning freelancers, writing blog posts, editing reviews and articles, planning the next few weeks of the section, writing my own reviews and articles and making sure the print and online components are moving along smoothly. Three or four times a week (maybe more if it’s really busy) I see a show, either to review to keep up on what’s out there.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
When I got the job at TONY in 2000, I was keenly aware that I was stepping over a line and might not go back. Meaning: I had spent the previous eight years as an actor and director doing Off-Off Broadway work at various venues (La MaMa, P.S. 122, HERE). Although I had dabbled in theater journalism by putting out the zines OFF and EdgeNY, those publications were on the advocacy side, not “impartial” journalism. So I was going to become a dreaded “crrritic.” Still, I had seen plenty of theater and had lots of opinions and thought I could do some good in addition to starting a new career. And so I have. I make a living by writing. I’m paid to watch theater. It’s pretty sweet. The outcome? I love what I do and in the last few years I’ve tried to step up the institutional criticism and emerging-artist advocacy. And in the last two years, I’ve been working on extracurricular projects. I’ve been commissioned to write a play for the Gingold Theatrical Group’s Press Cuttings program (http://www.projectshaw.com/BeyondShaw.php). End of December, I will have an invited dress. I wrote the libretto for a one-act play called Fade (fadeopera.com) with composer Stefan Weisman. I’ve got lots of little creative irons in various fires and it feels great. So I was able to choose work, then choose art.