It’s a cliche to say that someone is “surprisingly grounded” or “refreshingly down to earth,” but those really are the phrases that come to mind sitting down with Sawyer Spielberg, the youngest son of the legendary (yes, another cliche) filmmaker Steven Spielberg. The actor grew up around one of the most storied names in cinema, and his father’s passion and love for his craft clearly rubbed off on Spielberg—but there’s no sense that he’s riding on the coattails of his famous name. Sawyer Spielberg will appear in Our Fabulous Variety Show’s production of Art by Yasmine Reza at Guild Hall from April 25–May 5, where East End audiences will be able to see this promising young talent’s passion and drive live onstage.
One of the most telling things about speaking with Spielberg about Art is how excited he is to dive deep into the nitty-gritty of rehearsal. “We have a lot of discovering to do,” Spielberg says. “When your team is strong, it makes everything a lot easier.” The play, about three friends who come into conflict over a curious painting, also stars other actors familiar to the Hamptons theater scene, including Joe Pallister and Edward Kassar. “I love Joe, I love working with him,” Spielberg says. “I’ve never worked with Eddie before…to get to work with both of those guys together onstage, it’s going to be really exciting for me.”
Art is being directed by Jenna Mate, who was Spielberg’s high school drama teacher. “She taught an acting workshop,” he explains. “We did some scene study…we did all sorts of different kinds of performing. We did music, we did a drum circle, which I remember being really incredible. She taught a lot, it was a combination of music, acting, scene study.”
But Spielberg didn’t really start to think about acting as a career until well after high school, which might be surprising given his upbringing. Instead, Spielberg spent his teen years simply being a teen. “I was more into the process of leaving high school,” Spielberg says. “I was into sports, and my girlfriend at the time.” In fact, as a kid, Spielberg had no aspirations of being in show business. “I wanted to stay as far away from the Hollywood industry as possible,” Spielberg explains. “I remember as a kid I wanted to do everything but that! I want to get into engineering, do something that is completely on the other side of it because there was so much of that going on growing up that it was too overwhelming for me.”
Eventually, Spielberg did decide he wanted to be an actor, and his parents, including actress mom Kate Capshaw, were supportive. “They gave me enough space to sort of figure it out,” he says.
Early on, Spielberg used a stage name. “I had an interesting journey with my last name,” he muses. “I went by Sawyer Avery for a long time, for the first three years, because I did want to turn the volume down and I wanted to just focus on the acting, and I didn’t want the noise of having such a big last name. But then I gained enough confidence and I stopped caring about what other people thought, and I started to really love acting more, the process more and then I was just like, f–k it! I’m a Spielberg. It’s who I am….I just own it.” Spielberg trained at the Atlantic Theater Company, which is home to acting luminaries such as William H. Macy.
Spielberg’s acting endeavors have even led him to appear in one of his father’s films, The Post, in 2017. He notes that working on the film was an exciting experience, but that both father and son had some jitters. “I was very nervous about working with my dad. Because, you know, how can you have a professional relationship with your father? My dad tried to teach me to drive and got too nervous!” he jokes. But the experience ended up being a positive one for them; Spielberg played a protestor and performed a monologue. One of his favorite parts about filming with his father was getting to see his process. “I stayed on set afterwards for a few hours. It was really a privilege,” he says.
While it’s always tempting to steer the conversation with a superstar’s child back to said superstar, Spielberg’s love for his craft and his work makes him a compelling subject all his own. “The dynamic between me, Joe and Eddie is going to be dynamite,” Spielberg says of Art. “I’m really excited about the three of us onstage at Guild Hall. Our chemistry together is going to be really fun to watch.”
Art runs from April 25–May 5 at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For tickets and more information about Art and Our Fabulous Variety Show, visit ourfabulousvarietyshow.org.