Updated: Jun 22, 2021
By Lyla Trilling
In high school, Adam Glusker, CC ’21, was not cast in RENT his senior year. This is significant because, in my mind, Glusker was the lead in every play our showbiz-infested Santa Monica private school produced. On a warm Los Angeles afternoon, over a fermented grain bowl and some sparkling limeade, Glusker corrected my fabricated memories—he never sang “La Vie Bohème” in our black box theater, and he certainly never danced among a group of Angeleno teenagers pretending to have AIDS. In fact, Glusker never got leading roles at all—he was always beat out by a kid with famous parents or a kid who was “skinny and blonde.” Perhaps I was confusing Glusker acting in RENT for Glusker blasting Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake” during lunch and dedicating it to our high school’s theater director. Either way, he put on a good show.
This RENT Mandela effect undoubtedly stems from the fact that as a human being, Glusker radiates main character energy. At 6-foot-5, with bleached hair and a unique talent for vocal projection, Glusker takes up space. “Imposing” is how he describes himself. Despite our shared high school and college experiences, our friendship is fairly recent—I can distinctly remember a time where Glusker and I ignored each other in the salad line at Milano’s. But I’ve always been particularly impressed by Glusker. In high school, he directed and produced an ambitious staging of Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, he dominated the stage in The Crucible (—“Did you play a judge?” — “No. The judge.”), and he’s gotten almost every internship I’ve ever wanted (HBO, A24, and Anonymous Content, to name a few). He assured me, however, that he’s had a relatively normal upbringing compared to his industry-bred Los Angeles peers: “My parents don’t work in showbiz—I guess you could say that my story is a ‘from rags to indie television’ situation.”
Glusker is a recognizable campus figure—aside from his towering physical presence, he’s both a Blue and White-published writer and a former cast member of V125, Columbia’s last in-person Varsity Show. This fact still surprises me—as someone who describes Columbia’s culture as “testicles, vomit, and Virginia Woolf, to use three words,” Glusker does not seem the type to celebrate said culture in a musical-comedy setting. “The thing about me being an actor,” Glusker told me, “is that, like, fundamentally, acting is a mental illness.” Needless to say, V125 is merely a shadow in Glusker’s theatrical past—he has no intention of becoming an actor.
Despite his aversion to the craft, acting and theater have undoubtedly played a major role in Glusker’s life. “A big part of my personality in high school was that I was like, ‘I hate this town’—‘this town’ being Los Angeles, California—‘I’m going to the big city!’ My high school bedroom was literally decked out in the New York City skyline—I had the fucking Top of the Rock view on my wall.” But then, Glusker went to one of those “The city is your textbook!” high school semester programs where instead of living in the Big Apple, Glusker was plopped into the middle of Dobbs Ferry. Maybe Los Angeles wasn’t so bad after all. “Sure,” Glusker told me, “When I was a freshman at Columbia my bio did read ‘LA/NY’ on Instagram … But, I guess, the sort of struggle of my life has been whether I am Beverly Hills or I am New York.”
Glusker is, of course, referring to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise. He likes the “Aaron Sorkin speed” of New York’s dialogue, but the drama of Beverly Hills, to Glusker, is unmatched. Glusker is utterly obsessed with the Real Housewives, a fact that became apparent in his playwriting thesis, R.I.P. Andy Cohen, which I had the pleasure of watching (and then reading, and then re-reading) in April.
R.I.P Andy Cohen, which Glusker described as a “play/cry for help,” uses the real-life story of Glusker and his ex-best friend, whose character is aptly titled “[redacted],” betraying each other “in the spirit of being wholly iconic.” As my roommate and I sat on our couch, watching his virtual performance, it felt as though we were intruding on something deeply personal. There was something perverse about listening to actual podcast recordings and reading real, emotionally vulnerable text messages between Glusker and [redacted] while the boisterous banter of Beverly Hills’ finest housewives
hummed along in the background.
Originally, Glusker wanted to create from memory what he remembered about his relationship with [redacted], but it didn’t feel real enough. “That felt bad,” he told me. “I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t really remember this,’ which was sort of like lying and fabricating conversations, which I guess is what auto-fiction writers do all the time—I just felt weird.” So Glusker stuck to the facts: “I knew that I had these audio recordings and I had that text message and those were real. So I started with those. And then, from there, I sort of made a play.” His “sort of” play was exceptional, shocking, and grotesque all at once, and it deservedly received the Robert W. Goldsby Award and the Dasha Epstein Amsterdam Award in Playwriting.
I asked Glusker if he wanted to be a playwright, and, to my surprise, he shook his head no. He graduated in April and is starting work at the Creative Artists Agency (“CAA—ever heard of it?”) for the theater department in August. “What then?” I asked him, mockingly. “You want to be a development executive?” Glusker shot me a guilty look—I nailed it. “No! You are selling out!” I yelped. But he isn’t, not really. Glusker would never compromise his integrity or authenticity—everything he does is exactly what he wants to do. He makes one dream of working in corporate Hollywood. But I have my suspicions. In my mind, I know he’ll be a famous playwright. Just like I know, without a doubt, that Adam Glusker played Mark Cohen in our high school’s 2017 production of RENT.