After graduating from Northwestern University in 1988, but before hitting it big on “Friends,” David Schwimmer co-founded Lookingglass Theatre Company with seven fellow alums. Now, thirty years later, the star returns to direct “Plantation!” — a comedy about a Texas matriarch who uncovers her ancestral home’s complicated history — during the Tony-winning theater’s anniversary season. Here, the New York-based actor talks about the play, his favorite Chicago spots and how he’s getting involved with the #MeToo movement.
This is your fifth directorial project at Lookingglass. What makes “Plantation!” stand out? It’s kind of a farce — if we do our jobs right, this will be nonstop laughs beginning to end. It’s timely and relevant with an all-woman cast, and it centers on the topic of race. This is just another way to explore it.
Which role do you prefer: acting or directing? Acting is more intuitive, emotional and instinctive, whereas directing is more intellectual; I really enjoy the collaborative effort. It’s kind of like a team sport: I like being the coach — directing — but sometimes I like being the quarterback.
You’ve found an artistic home in Chicago. What draws you to this city? I love Chicago. It’s a real working city; there’s a humility and pride in craftsmanship that I love. Let’s not forget it’s still one of the most segregated cities in the world, but that’s why plays like this are exciting — to find ways to bridge the gaps.
Where do you like to hang out when you’re here? I [have a home] in the West Loop and the restaurant I hit every time is Avec [615 W. Randolph]. I also like Little Goat Diner [820 W. Randolph] for breakfast. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I love my buddy Billy Dec’s place Sunda [110 W. Illinois]. And Rick Bayless’ newest place, Leña Brava [900 W. Randolph] is crazy good.
What other projects do you have coming up? I’ve been working on six short films on sexual harassment called “#ThatsHarassment.” I’ve always been an advocate for children’s and women’s rights, in particular around sexual assault. [Recently], I felt there was a new war on women emerging, where women were being systematically discredited, harassed and not taken seriously. As a father of a young girl, I couldn’t really sit this one out. I’m going to do what I can to address the issue.
For tickets to “Plantation!” ($40-$75) running March 4 through April 22 at Lookingglass Theatre Company (821 N. Michigan), visit Lookingglasstheatre.org. To watch #ThatsHarassment, visit Facebook.com/pg/thatsharassment.