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Chris Sullivan ’02 Tackles Role as Football Player on Broadway

Chris SullivanLast year, Chris Sullivan ’02 told his wife he felt like Broadway would be the next step in his career. He was right. A few months later, the theater arts major landed a role in “Lombardi,” a new play on Broadway about Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. 

“This is a dream come true for me. It’s very surreal,” Sullivan said. “The ceremony of Broadway is pretty spectacular. It’s so big and so impressive. Everyone takes Broadway serious here as do I.”

Sullivan was cast as Jim Taylor, a fullback for the Packers. Taylor played from 1958 to 1966 and set many Packers records, including career rushing yards, touchdowns, and single-season touchdowns. He also was one of the first football players to have an agent and lawyer.

“Taylor had a unique vision of the game. He treated his position as a job and held himself to the highest level of pride and integrity,” Sullivan said. “He loved to hit and the violence of the game, but he also was a smart guy. He stood up for the rights of the individual players.”

“Lombardi,” written by Academy Award winner and Steppenwolf Theatre Company member Eric Somonson, stars Dan Lauria (of “The Wonder Years”) and Judith Light (of “Who’s the Boss?”). Also, for the first time, the NFL helped to produce the play, its first venture into live theater.

“Nothing bad can come from investors who want to put money into theatrical productions,” Sullivan said. “There are usually two groups in the audience: Broadway fans and football fans. By the end of the show, the theater fans become football fans and vice versa. They couldn’t have picked a better subject.”

Sullivan credits Diane Benedict, professor of theatre arts, and Ron Marasco, professor of theatre arts, with providing him a solid foundation as an actor and for teaching him to develop a love for theater.
“You can’t teach someone to be an actor, but you can lead them to experience moments of honesty and to gain a better understanding and respect for theater,” Sullivan said. “Diane and Ron shared their excitement and passion for theater, and showed me the different kind of possibilities a career in this field can offer, if you are willing to be honest with yourself and your audience.”

Finally, one of the biggest changes that the Sacramento native admits since becoming a part of “Lombardi” cast is his football team fandom.  “I grew up a 49ers fan, but now I can’t help but love the Packers,” Sullivan said.

Photos: (top left) Chris Sullivan (bottom right) Photo of cast from "Lombardi"

Posted Nov. 22, 2010