Michael Cristofer, born Michael Procaccino, was born on January 22, 1945, to working-class parents in White Horse, New Jersey (described by Cristofer as being between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey). Deciding to pursue an acting career, Cristofer joined Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Arena Stage Company for the 1967-1968 season but was disenchanted with the roles he received. He lived in Philadelphia during the early 1970’s, becoming part of the Theater of the Living Arts acting company but again felt himself stirred to go farther away from home in search of fame. He briefly appeared in a repertory company in Beirut, Lebanon, served stints in a variety of Philadelphia acting troupes, and made it to Broadway in 1977, cast as Trofimov in the Lincoln Center revival of The Cherry Orchard.
Comparing his own experiences in New York to those of his tragic heroine in his teleplay Gia, Cristofer states that he knows what life was like for an “Italian kid” who wants to leave a stifling hometown and become successful. Until The Shadow Box was produced on Broadway in 1977, Cristofer had met with limited success as an actor. He had had a role in the unaired pilot of Crime Club (Columbia Broadcasting System, 1975) and the 1976 National Broadcasting Company (NBC) remake of The Entertainer and had acquired two motion picture credits for his roles in The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)...
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