Gavriel Savit, both a writer and an actor, creates worlds.
As an actor, he has performed on three continents, from New York to Brussels to Tokyo, and just concluded a Broadway run of “Amazing Grace,” in which he played a supporting role. As the author of The New York Times bestselling WWII novel “Anna and the Swallow Man,” he was praised in the Times for his “splendid debut … masterly storytelling.”
In both capacities, Savit mesmerizes, sweeping his audiences into worlds of his own making. Though Savit knew he wanted to be an actor since high school, his writing career, which took off with a remarkable bang, came as more of a surprise. In 2010, after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in musical theater, he moved to New York to pursue a Broadway career. He did well, landing parts in popular Off-Broadway shows such as “The Voca People” and “Zorba,” but still waited tables in a Mexican restaurant between gigs. “Excellent fish tacos, but it wasn’t the most creatively fulfilling job,” he said.
To fill up the time, Savit started writing a screenplay, which was ultimately published as a young-adult novel in January 2016. “Anna and the Swallow Man” tells the story of a 7-year-old Polish girl who is orphaned during WWII, and taken under the wing of a mysterious nomad. The two spend the war constantly on the move, hiding in forests close to the lines of the Eastern Front. Though the scenes they encounter are increasingly horrific, according to critics, the book is a thing of beauty; the Jewish Book Council described it as “part fairytale, part magical realism, and part psychosocial exploration of what it may mean to grow up surrounded by horror … an exquisitely haunting narrative written in prose that dances.”
Savit traces his love of storytelling, expressed through acting, singing and writing alike, to his Jewish roots. Raised in a traditional, Modern Orthodox family and community, he cites the seder — “a musical, strongly text-based performance that aspires towards the beyond” — as one of his earliest inspirations. Though he is no longer traditionally observant, his Judaism continues to inspire his work. “My life and my art, as if those things were separable, are subsumed in Jewishness,” he says, “and that’s just the way I like it.”
A true renaissance man: Besides writing, singing, acting and playing the violin, in high school Savit studied fencing.