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ShowTickets Interview: Jon Cryer on Going Solo in 'True Stories' Off-Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Danielle Moore |

The Emmy winner talks adapting his bestselling memoir for the stage

A two-time Emmy winner, Jon Cryer is no stranger to sharing his experiences in showbiz. In his 2015 New York Times bestseller So That Happened: A Memoir, he dishes on navigating roughly three decades of the ever-changing landscape of Hollywood – from his cult-favorite turn as Duckie in John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink to playing Alan Harper on Two and Half Men. Currently, Cryer plays supergenius Lex Luthor on the CW’s Supergirl.

Writing a memoir is one thing, but pouring your heart out to a live audience is another. And that’s exactly the challenge the seasoned actor is currently embarking on as he prepares to transform So That Happened into a solo show that’s slated to play Off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre on May 1, 7, 9, 12 and 16.

Luckily for him, though, both showbiz and solo shows run in the family.

Jon Cryer's new solo show, 'So That Happened,' will premiere Off-Broadway in May (Photo: Matt Beard Photography Inc.)

Jon Cryer's new solo show, 'So That Happened,' will premiere Off-Broadway in May (Photo: Matt Beard Photography Inc.)

“The idea for it came from my mother, who actually teaches people to turn their life experiences into solo shows. She had read my book, and said, ‘You know, there’s a lot in there that you could use as a launching pad to do a solo show.’ And I hadn’t thought about it that way, at all.” He laughs.

“But the more we talked about it, the more it seemed like it could be a really fun experiment.”

Jon’s mother, Gretchen Cryer, is a Grammy-nominated writer and actress, who has penned the book and lyrics for several Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals, most notably the groundbreaking I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road at the Public Theater. True Stories, the series of solo shows of which So That Happened is a part, was Cryer’s brainchild, and she directs each of the five pieces.

While mother and son have worked together on theater projects before – Jon starred in a recent 54 Below concert presentation of the 1973 Broadway musical Shelter, which Gretchen co-wrote – their current collaboration is unique. “We’ve never written anything together before, and usually I’ve been just doing things that she wrote. This is sort of crafting my story into something that’s new. Mostly, I’m doing the writing, she’s just supervising the structure of it. So that’s a new experience, and I’m learning exactly how lazy I am as a writer.”

“Because, like many writers,” he quips, “my true gift is finding many things to do other than write.”

When it came to determining which anecdotes from the 354-page book would make the cut for the solo show – a process that, according to Cryer, is still very much in progress – the theme of a lifelong love of theater emerged. “I love the chance to go back to the theater whenever I can, because theater has really had a huge effect on my life, and it’s really sort of looking back over that, and trying to convey my gratitude to an art form.”

Cryer made his Broadway debut as an understudy in Brighton Beach Memoirs after, in his words, a “bonkers” audition process stemming, in part, from his resemblance to a certain other actor who rose to prominence in ‘80s teen flicks. “I had kind of the dream experience where, out of nowhere, basically my mom ran into a neighbor of hers who was an understudy in Torch Song Trilogy. And he said ‘Oh, your son is exactly the right age and look’ – because I looked a lot like Matthew Broderick, who originated the role – ‘He should audition, they need understudies.’”

“So I auditioned that day, and crazily, I had an audition for Brighton Beach Memoirs the next day. Word sort of got out that there was this kid who looked a whole lot like Matthew Broderick.”

The result? In something of a “dream scenario for every young actor,” Cryer booked both jobs – only to be fired from Brighton Beach after six weeks of rehearsal. The story of how he found his way back to eventually make his Broadway debut in the production is one that he looks forward to sharing with audiences in So That Happened. “When you’re a grown-up,” he adds, “and you’ve been lucky enough to have a career for a good long time, you’re grateful for the struggles.”

Cryer has since appeared on other major stages in New York and Los Angeles, including the New York Philharmonic’s 2011 revival of Company as David. But his love of the art form was actually sparked by a very different Sondheim musical: Sweeney Todd.

“That was the show that made the biggest impression on me, out of any show that I’ve ever seen. The kind of show that changes everything for you, as an artist.”

The title character is, Cryer admits, his dream theater role. “In all likelihood I will never play that part, but one can always dream.”

Your move, Sondheim. 

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