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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