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Until television director Andrew “Andy” D. Cadiff ’77 took his first science classes at Harvard, he planned to pursue a career in medicine. But a C-minus in Natural Science 3 forced him to reconsider.
“Like everyone else at Harvard, I was pre-med,” Cadiff says. “But I changed my mind and decided to pursue a career in theater instead.”
Since the end of his first year at the College, Cadiff, a native of Newton, has produced and directed at Harvard, on Broadway and in Hollywood.
His most well-known TV projects include “Home Improvement,” “Spin City,” “Growing Pains,” “Quantum Leap” and “The Hughleys.”
During his time as co-executive producer and director of “Home Improvement” and “Spin City,” both Cadiff and the shows received critical acclaim. In 1998, Cadiff won International Monitor Award for “best directing in a film originated from a television series” for an episode of “Spin City.”
Cadiff quips that he has had more nominations for television awards than wins. But, he says, “it was a thrill to be nominated.”
“You get a great party for being nominated and that’s all you need,” Cadiff says.
After deciding against concentrating in the sciences, Cadiff chose a special concentration in the history and literature of theater arts. He graduated magna cum laude despite a busy theater schedule.
“So much of [college] is a blur. I think I was so busy doing shows that it’s hard for me to remember if I ever went to classes,” Cadiff says. “But I guess I did since I got enough credits to graduate.”
Cadiff says he would generally direct one major production a semester and “put [himself] into a hole for the rest of the year.”
“I’d spend the spring trying to catch up with work,” he says.
By exam time, Cadiff says he was always unprepared.
“I have memories of sitting in Memorial Hall and staring at a blue book, thinking I need to fill this in three hours,” Cadiff says. “I would sit and stare at the other 1,000 people and wonder, ‘who are they and how did they get the information to put in this book.’”
But since Cadiff’s special concentration allowed him to tailor his schedule to his interests, he says the “other blue books” were not so daunting.
Cadiff also directed a number of productions that appeared at the Loeb and Agassiz theaters.
Cadiff says another student, Joshua M. Rubins ’70—who also went on to a career as a director—encouraged him to become part of Harvard’s theater scene.
In his first year at the College, Rubins—who Cadiff says was “the czar of the Harvard theater scene”—let Cadiff assistant direct the spring 1974 production of Kiss Me Kate, Rubins’ last show at Harvard.
Soon thereafter, Cadiff began directing his own works—including Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town.
Cadiff recalls that he invited Bernstein to attend the performance but, instead, only Bernstein’s mother came.
“My mother sat next to her and they got along so well that I ended up meeting Bernstein when he was doing 1,000 Pennsylvania Avenue in Philadelphia,” Cadiff says.
Rather than pursuing a master’s degree in performing arts, Cadiff chose to seek a professional career in theater upon graduation—using a Harvard connection to his advantage.
While he was an undergraduate, Cadiff met Harold “Hal” Prince, the Broadway producer of such shows such as West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, and Phantom of the Opera.
When Cadiff graduated, Prince offered him the position of assistant stage manager for On the Twentieth Century.
After he held a number of other posts under Prince, Cadiff says Prince encouraged him to begin directing his own shows.
“Hal said, ‘if you want to direct, you’ve got to get out—find writers, get your own material, start your own projects,’” Cadiff recalls.
Cadiff says he decided to team up with his Harvard mentor, Rubins, who had been working with other writers and musicians on Broadway.
They co-authored Brownstone, which won the Richard Rogers Award for Best Musical in 1984.
Named for the lyricist from the Rogers and Hammerstein duo, this prestigious award also came with a $100,000 prize, which Cadiff used to produce the show.
Before making the jump into television, Cadiff directed Three Guys Naked From the Waist Down, an off-Broadway hit.
He says the show’s success gave him the name he needed to make the transition into television.
“When I went to L. A., they knew I could direct,” Cadiff says. “I just had to learn the cameras.”
Cadiff is best known as Home Improvement’s regular director and producer.
Cadiff ran the show, which garnered 34 Emmy nominations in its eight-year run, for more than four seasons.
His current project, “My Wife and Kids,” airs Wednesdays on ABC and stars Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell-Martin.
Cadiff attended Belmont Hill High School before coming to Harvard and, though he has lived in Los Angeles for many years, he says he still considers the East Coast home.
“If I could be in Boston, I’d be in Boston,” he says. “But if you want to do television, you have to be in L.A.”
Cadiff says he will be enjoying spending the summer in Rhode Island and Cambridge to “reinvigorate” himself before returning to work on “My Wife and Kids.”
Cadiff has also become involved with class of 1977 reunion activities.
This year, he will co-chair the 25th reunion’s talent show.
After “scouting out” last year’s show, Cadiff says he hopes to shorten the production from its previous three and a half hour length.
“We have some really diverse acts this year,” says Cadiff. “Some great musicians, singers, even comedic acts. I’m amazed that we got so many people crazy enough to do it. But they know everyone’ll be too liquored up to be embarassed.”
Cadiff says that he feels closer to his Harvard classmates 25 years later than he did as an undergraduate.
“When I was there, the class seemed to be comprised of cliques,” Cadiff says. “There were the jocks, the theater kids, the Crimson, Lampoon, the preps.”
But with the advent of reunions and class spirit, according to Cadiff, a new clique has emerged—the class of ’77.
“All the other internal cliques have gone away,” he says.
But Cadiff also says reunions remind him how much time has elapsed since he graduated.
“I was at a class dinner a while ago and was looking around and thought I was at my parents’ reunion,” he says. “25 years can take its toll on you. People should go into my profession. You never have to grow up.”
—Staff writer Katherine M. Dimengo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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