Q&A: Act II Playhouse’s Artistic Director Tony Braithwaite

He knows where to find the best chicken parm in Rosemont, and when he wants something a little different, the best Indian food too.

Tony Braithwaite, 41, Rosemont  
Artistic Director of Act II Playhouse in Ambler

Coolest thing about his job: That it rarely feels like a job. I always thought of work as a place where you have to wear a suit and tie, no one ever laughs or has fun, and people have things on their desks like that small ceramic cat hanging by its claws with the sign, “Hang in there, baby. Friday’s comin’!” My primary focus is making sure people laugh and are entertained. I’d do most of that for free. George Bernard Shaw wrote this line for Henry Higgins: “Happy the man whose profession is also his hobby.” I feel that way, too.

The last thing he read: The script for Neil Simon’s Hotel Suite. We’re potentially producing it next season at the playhouse, and it’s hilarious. I bet no other American playwright has ever garnered as many laughs.

The last thing he ate that he loved: My go-to dish is the chicken Parm at Gullifty’s in Rosemont. I’m not a big foodie, though I have become a big fan of Saffron Indian Kitchen next door to the playhouse.

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Country or rock? Neither, actually.

Role models: Johnny Carson. His timing was impeccable, and he could make even bad lines get laughs with a mere look. Jack Lemmon, because he was the classic neurotic everyman. Billy Crystal and Martin Short—both hysterical, both capable of switching effortlessly from stage to television, to stand-up, to sketch comedy. And James Martin, S.J., a prolific Jesuit author, not to mention a really funny one. I was educated at two Jesuit schools: St. Joe’s Prep, where I run the drama department, and Georgetown University, where I was actually a theology major with potential thoughts of becoming a Jesuit myself.

The perfect vacation: New York City for a week.

What he likes most about himself: That I had terrific parents. My mom passed away in 2005, and my dad just turned 80. They instilled in my
four siblings and me the enormous value of laughter and fun above all else. If we can make each other laugh, we can make each other feel loved. My father remains one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.

Pet peeves: People who don’t respond to emails, the pandemic of bad cell-phone etiquette, and the phrase, “It is what it is.”

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What he admires most about others: When they have terrific senses of humor, and when they can apply them at work. I always feel so sorry for so many people you see today who’ve developed a kind of guarded business style. It’s sort of über-professional, fakely poised, cautious at best, and fear-based at worst. They usually lack any kind of heart or true spontaneity. We almost elected a guy like that in November, actually.

Ketchup or mustard? Either. I taught sex ed for years, so always use a condiment.

Words to live by: Age quod agis. It’s a Jesuit mantra meaning, “Do well whatever you do.”

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!