“I think directing is the most collaborative of all the disciplines within theater because… we have to be fluent in the languages of every other person within the theater, and I love that. I love the ability to as a director, get everyone’s impulses and synthesize them and create something collaboratively together. But those choices and those impulses are filtered through the director’s lens.” Trip Cullman


Born and raised on the Upper East Side of New York, Trip Cullman’s journey into the world of theater began with a childhood steeped in the magic of live performances. His parents introduced him to the theater as some families frequent religious services or amusement parks, fostering a deep connection to the art form.

However, it was during his adolescence, a period of self-discovery and grappling with his sexuality, that Cullman found solace and inspiration in groundbreaking productions like Angels in America and Falsettos. These transformative experiences ignited a passion for the theater and a desire to create spaces where everyone’s unique identity was embraced.

“The theater was the first place that was able to welcome me and to say your weirdness and your otherness and your oddities are okay,” Cullman told BroadwayBox in 2019. “And actually, the theater is completely comprised of people like you, so come on in, the water’s warm.”

When asked by Playbill how he became interested in directing, he explained: “The simplest and quickest answer is that in my senior year of high school, our drama teacher afforded the seniors the opportunity, if we chose to do so, to direct a one-act play. (I’d been acting in plays and musicals throughout high school.) Everyone else chose these very nice, easy, simple little plays and I chose Cowboy Mouth, by Sam Shepard and Patti Smith, which is a play they wrote when they locked themselves in a hotel room and took a lot of drugs and passed the typewriter back and forth between them—a crazy, nonlinear, super in-your-face play. It was a total thrill. The drama teacher had to tell the audience, ‘I’m going to put Trip’s piece last, if you’re offended by extreme language, please leave.’ As a teenager I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing.’ So I got hooked into directing that way.”


Cullman’s career trajectory took him from Off-Broadway acclaim, including an Obie Award for directing Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock, to his Broadway debut with Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other and subsequent successes like John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy. His repertoire showcases a diverse range of productions, each a testament to his ability to bring stories to life with emotional resonance and narrative coherence.


One of Cullman’s strengths as a director lies in his ability to collaborate seamlessly with a spectrum of talents—designers, writers, actors, producers, and stage managers. He attributes much of his directorial acumen to two influential mentors—Joe Mantello and the late Mike Nichols.

Learning under their guidance, he absorbed the nuances of narrative construction and the importance of being open to the organic development of a production. Nichols, in particular, left an indelible mark with his charisma, intelligence, and intuition, shaping Cullman’s artistic philosophy and approach to storytelling.

Mike was the most charismatic person I think I’ve ever met,” shared Cullman. “And so smart and so intuitive. I miss him so much. I miss our lunches and our conversations. I learned kind of everything I needed to know about directing from Joe Mantello and Mike Nichols. I didn’t need to learn anything else from anybody else.

He also has had long-time collaborations with playwrights John Guare, Halley Feiffer, and Adam Bock. Here’s what they had to say about Cullman…

He has a gift that so few directors have: a narrative sense. It is the most powerful thing for a director to have. You see so many plays where the scenes are absolutely beautiful but they don’t add up to anything.” — John Guare (John Guare and Trip Cullman’s 20 Years of Friendship and Six Degrees of Separation)

“We joke that this is the healthiest relationship in our lives…It’s so rare in life that you get to have a connection with another human being where the foundation is unbelievable mutual respect and trust and joy. I think because we have that, we are able to explore how really dark the situations are within the work itself.” — Halley Feiffer (He’s the Only Director Who Makes Her Comfortable Enough to Bare All)

“If you know you’ve got good collaborators [like Trip]..suddenly I’m like I have to be a better writer! Because these people are doing things, taking chances and surprising me in ways that I can’t imagine. And then that makes me want to surprise them.” — Adam Bock (Collaboration and Community in Before the Meeting)


Cullman directed Daniel Goldstein and Michael Friedman’s musical Unknown Soldier in its 2015 world premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival and its 2020 Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons. He will also now direct the Arena Stage production, which begins performances on March 29.

The sweeping musical begins when Ellen comes across a mysterious photograph hidden in her late grandmother’s belongings. As she meticulously unravels the secrets within her family’s history, she finds herself entangled in a story that spans generations. Unknown Soldier captivatingly weaves together the threads of family lore, historical facts, and unexpected love stories. Get your tickets today!