André Gregory Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

While primarily a director and actor, André Gregory has coauthored several dramatic pieces of great significance, most important the classic film My Dinner with André. Born in Paris, Gregory, the privileged son of a fur merchant, moved to the United States as a boy, where his parents took up residence in New York and Hollywood. Both cities fueled Gregory’s dawning theatrical interests. Hollywood would especially inflame his passion to act, as from his bedroom windows Gregory could catch glimpses of film greats Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Errol Flynn, who were frequent guests of his parents. Years later, Gregory recalled seeing his mother kissing Flynn on the sly, and he received thyroid treatments for childhood obesity at Dietrich’s suggestion.

After graduating from Harvard University in 1956, Gregory studied theater and dance under such luminaries as Sanford Meisner, Martha Graham, and Lee Strasberg. Still, his early attempts to become an actor were unsuccessful, so he tried directing plays. As a director of avant-garde theater, Gregory would win an international reputation. He began his career in New York City, where in 1959 he coproduced John Millington Synge’s play Deirdre of the Sorrows (1910) and, in 1961, Jean Genet’s Les Nègres (1958; The Blacks, 1960) in 1961. At this time he married, and his wife, Mercedes, would also become an important avant-garde director. Their children, Nicholas and Marina, would have careers as actors.

Between 1963 and 1967, Gregory became the artistic director for the Seattle Repertory Company, Philadelphia’s Theatre of the Living Arts, and the Inner City Repertory Company in Los Angeles. Gregory quit the Theatre of the Living Arts over a controversy concerning nudity in his productions.

In 1968, Gregory began teaching at New York University and formed with his students the Manhattan Project. This theater group created an...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Freidman, Vanessa. “A Hard Act to Swallow.” Vogue, November, 1994, 182-184. This interview with Andre Gregory and Louis Malle focuses on the production of Vanya on 42nd Street and also explores Gregory’s life and his attitudes toward contemporary American culture.

Frick, John W., and Stephen M. Vallillo, eds. Theatrical Directors: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. This work gives a solid run-down of Gregory’s theatrical and film work up through My Dinner with André.

Kael, Pauline. “Current Cinema.” The New Yorker, January 4, 1982, 80-85. Kael’s column contains an important review of My Dinner with André that points out the film’s important comic elements as well as the great deal of work that went into this seemingly effortless film.

King, W. D. Writing Wrongs: The Work of Wallace Shawn. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997. This in-depth study of Shawn’s plays and acting career contains extensive interpretations of My Dinner with André and Vanya on 42nd Street as well as a profound critique of Gregory as a father figure and mentor to the younger Shawn.

Marranca, Bonnie. “The Solace of Chocolate Squares: Wallace Shawn in Mourning.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 22, no. 3 (2000): 38-46. In this study of Gregory’s production of Shawn’s The Designated Mourner, Marranca proposes that Gregory is among the finest directors in the early twenty-first century United States and that Shawn’s play is one of the most important theatrical pieces in decades because of its attempt to find meaning in an era of cynicism.