Barrymore winner makes Theatre Confetti directorial debut


As multifaceted as the human condition he enjoys exploring, Aaron Cromie deems denying thoughts on theatrical limitations an inherent component of his vocation. Aiming to captivate audiences and incite his imagination, he has established himself as a creative chameleon capable of greatness within many disciplines.

Beginning tonight, he will become reacquainted with classic theater as the director of Theatre Confetti’s “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them,” a work laden with themes central to his sensitivities.

“It’s a play that addresses longing, abandonment and acceptance,” the resident of the 1600 block of Tasker Street said last week of the two-year-old brainchild of A. Rey Pamatmat. “Because of their lives’ lack of supervision, the characters must find a balance between desires to be kids and wishes to be independent, as well as finding the strength to give themselves permission to be in love.”

The overseer earned the opportunity to helm the Philly premiere through his friendship with Theatre Confetti’s co-artistic director and South Philly dweller Bi Jean Ngo, who will handle the title role. Aware of his credentials, including his writing and starring duties in last fall’s 1812 Productions “David and Aaron Go To Work,” she offered the five-time Barrymore Award winner the assignment last year, with Cromie finding the piece and the personnel enthralling.

“With such talented actors and designers, it was easy to find a reason to be a part of this project,” the 40-year-old said of his team, which includes Justin Jain, another South Philly-based thespian. “The story has everyone navigating through emotional circumstances and is helping me to better my goals of inviting viewers to be interpreters of, and participants in, what they see.”

A recipient of a 2012 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association citation, the dramatic comedy will mark his first collaboration with Theatre Confetti, formerly Nice People Theatre Co. with performances at the Old City Power Plant. Set in the 1990s, it analyzes the perils of adolescent angst and forced maturity, with its execution situating Cromie in a world he has often frequented yet also commonly remained distant from — text-based theater.

“I love classic theater,” the multidisciplinary artist said, “but I also like shows that don’t rely on text, that can have a physical vocabulary.”

Cromie gained exposure to the first sort of works while growing up in New Jersey. Through his father, who taught drama and music, he began to ponder a career in the creative realm.

“I was on course to resemble my dad, but then my focus changed,” he said, noting his penchant for notes as a music major at The College of New Jersey.

Acting appealed to him, too, and brought him to Philly in 1995 as a Walnut Street Theatre Dorothy Haas Acting Fellowship winner, through which his résumé soon came to include opportunities with companies such as the Arden and InterAct theatre companies, Lantern Theater and 1812. Ever the chaser of incendiary and dynamic endeavors, he eventually found himself drawn to commedia dell’arte, a theatrical form deriving from Italy and specializing in comic effects through improvisation, masks, physical antics and stock characters.

“I had an instantaneous attraction to the style, which pretty much relies on human cartoons and helps people to harken back to childhood when real senses of imagination and play were prevalent and barriers were minimal,” the 2001 graduate of the California-based Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre said.

Two years after completing his Golden State-centered studies, his pull toward that element yielded a position as an adjunct associate theater professor at the University of the Arts, a post that allows him to teach mask performance and that came to be coupled with a founding faculty job at Headlong Performance Institute, 1170 S. Broad St., where students receive dance and theater tutelage. Abounding with curiosity and conviction as a composer, designer, director, performer and writer, he has worked on dozens of productions, including such momentous works as “Charlotte’s Web,” “Hamlet” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“Every work has needs, whether it’s scripted or improvised, so the handling of it often comes down to the intersection of ideas and placing artists in environments in which they will thrive,” Cromie said of managing diverse tasks.

He has seen his dedication pay off through his receipt of the aforementioned awards, yet gaining distinction has not supplanted giving satisfaction as his ultimate task. His Theatre Confetti charge will be to convey the power of love, which he is doing offstage as well through his two-year relationship with Mary Tuomanen. The two picked up an Individual Project Grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage last year to devise their first full-length theatrical work, “The Body Lautrec,” an examination of French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s pieces and brittle frame. With Cromie as the lead, the opus will have a work-in-progress showing at The Mütter Museum in April, the same month he and another collaborator, Gwen Rooker, will offer their designs for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts’ “The Trial of Murderous Mary.”

“Whatever the work, it’s all about transcending and evolving,” Cromie said.

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Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.