Production: ‘The Coast Of Utopia” (Working In The Theatre #352)

Production: ‘The Coast Of Utopia” (Working In The Theatre #352)

One of the season’s most thrilling events
is Tom Stoppard’s three-play epic The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center Theater. It chronicles the lives of the dissident thinkers
who triggered change in mid-19th century Czarist Russia. This nine-hour trilogy has a cast of forty-four
actors playing over seventy roles. I’m Ted Chapin for the American Theatre Wing. Welcome to “Working in the Theater.” Joining us today to talk about their roles
in the production and their lives as actors are Jennifer Ehle, Ethan Hawke, Amy Irving,
and Josh Hamilton. Now, I wanted to start by asking the same
question to all of you– which is basically what on earth possessed you to spend eight
months of your life in a three-hour– in a three-part, nine-hour trilogy about Russian
dissident thinkers? Jennifer? That actually wasn’t my fear. (LAUGHTER) I had no doubt that this was an
extraordinary piece of work. And– I– I loved reading it. It’s really a three-part play, that’s a triptych. And I– I adored it. I adored the idea of a chance to work with
Jack O’Brien (PH). And it’s so rare that one is able to do repertory
theater anywhere in America– let alone in Manhattan. My fear was that it would be like living on
an oil rig, and that was all that worried me. Meaning just so much work. Just being cut off– So much work and being completely cut off
from your life. Yeah, yeah, yeah. An offshore oil rig. Exactly. Yeah, right. And– but– and– and it– it had– it has
been in some ways. And in– in other ways, it hasn’t. It’s– it’s certainly– the most extraordinary
experience I’ve had in the theater and the– the project I’m proudest to have been a part
of. Great. Ethan? Well, I remember one thing that– Stoppard
said at the– the first day of rehearsals that nobody’s gonna see this and walk out
and say, “Thank god, I finally know everything about mid-19th century Russian radicals that
I ever wanted to know.” Right. It’s– you– you can phrase it like it’s a
nine-hour thing about Russian dissidents. But it’s a play about life. And it’s an incredibly ambitious one. It’s not interesting because it’s about Russian
radicals necessarily. It’s interesting because the people are recognizable
and the lives they have and the politics that they are struggling with are recognizable
to ones that we deal with. And it’s kind of fun to be isolated– to take
a period of history and isolate it from common– from– from right now so that it’s– you don’t
have a knee-jerk liberal response or a knee-jerk conservative response. You just kind of take the politics. And you don’t know– we all have a stance
on the Iraq War. We all have a stance on– what to do with
environmental rights. We don’t have a stance on, you know, the–
the serfdom, you know? So you can kind of listen to ideas and it’s
really kind of– I’m against it. You’re against it. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. So–
(OVERTALK) And so to be honest, I can’t imagine– there’s
very few actors who are really serious about the craft of acting that wouldn’t say yes
to anything Tom Stoppard, Lincoln Center, and Jack O’Brien offered them. That– that– that triptych is a very powerful
one if you’re sincere in your interest in the craft of acting. Do you agree, Amy? Yeah, but I mean, also this plays deals–
I mean, one of the first things we were all told to read was– Romantic Exiles, which
deals with the sex lives and the romance and the triangles and all that goes on in– in–
in the lives of these people, which is, you know, a really good read. It has nothing to do with– it’s not over
anybody’s head. And that’s– that’s part of the story we’re
telling as well. I personally– when I was asked to come be
in this project, not only is it Jack O’Brien, Tom Stoppard, but– my father was the artistic
director at Lincoln Center from 1965 to ’72. So it was like going home. And– Jennifer and I share a dressing room,
and it was my mom’s dressing room when I was a girl. And– it’s– it’s– it’s kind of history. Jack really– Jack O’Brien wanted to bring
Jennifer back there, too, ’cause her mother, Rosemary Harris, was there when my dad produced
Streetcar Named Desire. Trish O’Neil (PH), who’s a member of the cast–
played Stella in that production. There’s a whole lot of–
(OVERTALK) Trish Connelly (PH). What did I say? Trish O’Neil. Oh, who’s that? I don’t know. (LAUGHTER) Can you edit that? Anyway. So I mean, for me it was– it was going home. I have to say I love it– when– when you
came out on stage and I saw you and I thought, too, about your– your parents and your history
in that theater. I thought it was great. Oh, thanks. Josh, so what did– what– what convinced
you to do this? I just needed a job. (LAUGHTER)
(OVERTALK) I like long jobs. (LAUGHTER) No, I– I mean, I’ve always– I’ve
always– tried to see Stoppard’s plays whenever I– whenever I could. I’ve always– you know? And– so– but last– about a year ago– a
good friend of mine said, “You know, they’re finally bringing those over. You should get some– a copy of them and read
them.” So I– I bought all three plays and I read
them. And I just was like on fire. I said, “I have to be a part of this somehow.” And– and basically I just, you know, harassed
them until they let me– until they let me be a part of it. And I love ensembles. This is like the definition of ensemble acting. And– You know, am I– am I allowed you to tell
your– your moment post-getting the part? Okay. (LAUGHTER) Well, it– Josh and I have done a lot of plays
together. (OVERTALK) And– and– the– Josh read the plays, was
on fire, desperate to be a part of it, got a part of it. And then called me up the next day and said,
“Isn’t my part really small?” (LAUGHTER) “Am I gonna be miserable?” Because, I mean, that’s been the big– if
you really wanna be a part of a company, everybody loves these expressions, it’s ensemble work,
it’s company work. It’s hard on the ego. And people who are actors and who are successful
actors, you don’t– didn’t get into it– because you’re good at things like humility, you–
you know? (LAUGHTER) I mean, that– that– and so it’s a– it’s
really challenging. It is. You know, it’s– Josh is, in– in a way, I
think you’re– you know, to use Jack O’Brien’s– your triumph is the greatest triumph because
Jack is– you know, Josh plays– a small– like has two scene– three scenes in the first
two plays and then, you know, becomes one of the leads in the third. And so he had to go through six months of
rehearsal of rehearsing three scenes, you know? And doing them and going through all these–
(OVERTALK) But knowing that– that there’d be–
(OVERTALK) He did have a payoff. Yeah, that the payoff was– was coming. Yeah. Well, I think we– we understand that– that
in a fascinating way, we– you know, among the four of you, Jennifer plays three distinct
different parts in each– in the three plays. Ethan, you play the same role all the way
through. Amy plays two roles in only the first two
and not in the third. Don’t say “only.” I get to. No, I’m not say– (LAUGHTER) I get to the–
the privilege of. But I think, I mean, certainly as an audience
member, that’s one– one of the most fascinating things– It’s so– –is to be able to see, “Oh, wait a minute,
that’s not the same character, but that’s, you know, that’s the same actor.” That’s different for us actors, too. I mean, to be able to play such diverse characters
in one day. I mean, it’s– And that’s– my friends who come see the show,
that’s their– one of the things that’s the most thrilling about it is to watch– you
know, Josh and I play the same character. Watching you guys play different people is
so much fun for the audience– just– I mean, I think it is neat to watch. Now, Stoppard– in an interview said that
he doesn’t rewrite his plays but he adjusts them. And he was around for a fair amount for this,
was he not? Most of the time. (OVERTALK) Did he– did he make adjustments? Oh, yeah. And if so, what kind? A lot. I mean, the first six weeks of rehearsal was
literally– we started with a– a round table. And it was like this master class where he
would just tell us where the inspiration came for the play– what– what ideas he was bringing
to the play, explain anything we didn’t understand because we’re not gonna be able to convey
it to the audience if we don’t know what we’re talking about, you know, from the ginger cat
to everything. I mean, we– all a different philosophies. And– it was– it was anything that would
come along that didn’t– didn’t necessarily work or– or something, he was right there. Often it was going back to the original text
’cause he cut a lot because the original production in London was longer. And some of the cuts didn’t work. I mean, some of them you just felt like, you
know, I remember Josh and I are married in this– well, we– yeah, we were married in
the second play. And– and there was some character thing about
us that wasn’t clear. And I said– I went back to the London text
and I went, “Ah. So that’s what we’re talking about.” And I said, “Look, it’s not that I want more
lines, but– you know, (LAUGHTER) this makes it a lot clearer.” And Tom was like, “Of course, of course. You know, what was I thinking?” And– and he was open to all sorts of– whatever
we needed to make it work. And to– and since– since it is based on
historical figures but as– as Stoppard, in his inevitable brilliance, sort of connecting
the dots through a complete fictionalization– were you urged to research the people you’re
playing? Oh, yeah, there– there’s a– a dramaturge
at the theater, Anna– Ann– VARIOUS VOICES
Kantanio (PH). –Kantanio, thank you. I wasn’t gonna get that wrong. And she actually researched each of our characters
separately and gave us specifically what we needed to read as well as there was so many
things that you can read. And we– we’re all smarter than we used to
be. (LAUGHTER) But– specific– character specific. She– she helped us find. And there’s tons of material on these characters. Clearly, clearly. And I have to say I– I give Ann great credit
because the slips that come in the program– explain– Very helpful. –(UNINTEL) enough– I mean, when– when I
saw Part One, I– I hope she doesn’t mind my saying so. But Andrea Martin was sitting next to me and
sort of was panicked at the beginning like she hadn’t done her homework. Yeah, you don’t need– And I said, I’m– –to read anything. –I’m at the theater and I– I know it’s–
Stoppard also says that he– he hopes that these plays– he considers these plays distinct
plays, that he likes them played together but also they’re– each one is a distinct–
distinct play. (OVERTALK) We also went– we went to– some of the actors
went to Russia right before– we started rehearsals. Some of the actors went to Russia. Josh went to Russia. (OVERTALK) The really cool actors went to Russia. (LAUGHTER) The– the best of the actors. On your own or under somebody’s auspices? Well, on our own but we– because– through
Tom and through Ann and– and people that we had these connections ’cause we got to
meet the guy– who translated the play into Russian, because they’re actually rehearsing
The Coast of Utopia in Moscow right now. Wow. So– we had– we had dinner with the guy who
translated it into Russian. And then we met a lot of the actors who–
from the Russian company. We met our counterparts. Brianne– Burn (PH), Martha Plimpton, and
Jason (UNINTEL) Harner (PH) and I went over for a– a little over two weeks. Wow. Yeah. Are you– are you believers in– in research
under any circumstances as actors for your roles? Yeah. Do you– do you tend to dive in? Jennifer, do you tend to dive in and– I see it as an opportunity to– to learn and
to satisfy curiosity. I don’t find it important for the piece or
for the character. But I do enjoy learning what I can as you
sort of are going along. Yeah. Romantic Exiles is an incredible read. It really is. Amy’s right. It’s like a beach read. I mean, you can’t put it down. And I read an interview with– somewhere where
Tom said it’s a book you can read in an evening. And I’m not sure (LAUGHTER) that I would say
that that’s (UNINTEL) for me. (OVERTALK) But– in– in one of Tom’s evenings, he can
read it. But it is– it is a wonderful book. And– I found that fascinating. But I– you know, I– I just– I like the–
I like– I like the text, and I kind of– that’s– that’s my thing. But I enjoy whatever else I can pick up along
the way. I must say, just because they didn’t go to
Russia, I still think they were really good in the play. (LAUGHTER) (LAUGHTER) I love being able to do research
on a role. When there’s material there– I mean, I just
did a one-woman show about Elizabeth Bishop. And, you know, she has this book of 2,000
pages of her letters through her life. And it’s like seeds planting inside of you. So, I mean, you can– your character has just
that much more to resonate off of. And this play just– but sometimes you have
to throw reality away in drama. I mean, I read about– in the first char–
play, I play Jennifer’s and– I play all the– everybody’s mother. (LAUGHTER) And– and– I started to learn
what my role was at that time, what the women did as far as keeping the slaves, the serfs
in line and– and how serious it was to get these girls married off or the kind of lives
they’ll have without it. And– and a lot of them were kind of very
depressing characters. And then Tom said to me– I mean– Jack said
to me one day, “You know, you have a really good marriage.” I went, “Oh.” So instead of using what the general– general
women went through at that time, I was like, “Okay, I do all that. But I have a good marriage.” So I didn’t have to be kind of dour and depressing
all the time. I got to have some fun and being married to,
you know, Richard Easton is fun. Right. (LAUGHTER) I mean, is– is– is Stoppard at
all intimidating? I mean, one– one might get from his– from
his– the mind as evidenced through his work that he would be intimidating. I’m scared to have dinner with him. (LAUGHTER) I think maybe he knows that people tend to
be. And so I think he goes out of his way to be
incredibly gracious and kind and sort of– you know, sort of gives– has great faith
and– and– in your intelligence as sort of– He never lets you feel stupid. No. I mean, he’ll sort of– he– he– he– he–
is very gentle with his– his great intellect I think. I also think that’s the real gift of his plays. There– there’s this idea that, you know,
that it’s so highbrow and it’s so intelligent. Every time I’ve gone to see one of his plays–
and I’ve heard– I’ve heard other people say this– I feel smart when I leave because he
treats you with such respect as an audience member. And you can follow it. And, I mean, I think the great– part of the
way The Coast of Utopia has been so successful is that people think, “Oh, mid-19th century
Russian radicalism. It’s nine hours. It’s– I’m gonna go there, it’s gonna be like
signing up for Harvard or something.” Then you go there and it’s about love affairs
and brothers and sisters crying and people having– And it’s funny. –you know, people breaking up with– and
you’re like, “Oh, wow. I get this.” And it also deals with some real– exciting
ideas and some real political thinking and some real spiritual thinking. And you feel like, yeah, I can handle all
that. I felt that way when I left Arcadia. I felt that way when I left Invention of Love. And it’s funny. And you get the jokes. So it’s– it’s not– and he does that as a
man, too. I– I think he is very intimidating. I think– I don’t know why. I– there are people that walk this earth
that, for some reason, you– But I think it’s what we bring to it. It’s not the way he acts. (OVERTALK) True. It’s not his fault. You know, he doesn’t intimidate you. It’s what we come to it thinking, like, “Oh,
gosh, I can’t say anything about it because he’s Tom Stoppard.” But he doesn’t do anything to make you feel
that way. It’s– Yeah. Yeah. Right? (LAUGHTER) What– what about Jack O’Brien? I mean, I think– I think Jack O’Brien has
always been a very good director. And I have to say when I saw this play, I
thought, Wow, you know, he’s now at the top of the list. I mean, this is– this is– this is an extraordinary
work of theater. Again, I– when I sat next to, you know, Andrea,
Debra Monk was sitting next to Andrea. And I said, you know, “This is amazing.” And she said, “Jack makes it fun.” Jack just makes it fun. I mean, is– is that a good way to characterize
Jack O’Brien? Oh, yeah. We– I mean, he’s a one-man band. (LAUGHTER) I mean, he’s not only coming up
with these inspirational ideas how to do a play, he knows how to tell you how to find
your character. He keeps you laughing all the time. He makes every single character, every single
actor in that company feel important to the whole thing. He’s– he’s beyond– I mean, I– I think working
with him was the best experience I’ve ever had working with a director. Yeah, he’s a good director. During notes, I mean, people would just be
rapt at note sessions, even though they might not–
(OVERTALK) –wouldn’t have a note for like– you know,
in that– in that play. But they’d– people– he’d say things and
people would actually just write down like– other people’s notes because they’re just
so beautifully thought out and phrased and– And– and what– what is– what is it that
a good director gives– gives an actor? I mean, creating an atmosphere to begin with
and– and– Well, I’ll tell you one thing. The biggest thing about Jack is I did– I’ve
done two plays but five plays, you know? We did the Henrys– Henry I and II and this
Coast of Utopia is three plays, which was these two giant endeavors. And he is tremendously successful at making
everybody in the design team, the actors, the– we are all in service of something larger
than ourselves. And you– you know, I mean, he– he’s very
good at that. That we are all on– that we have a message. We have a– we are delivering a story. And as soon as– and he’s– he’s really good
at team, at a sense of team and community and getting everybody united around the ideas. And I think that that– that is where his
great skill set lies. And he has fun. I mean, you know he’s enjoying it so much. I’ve never worked on a play where the director
doesn’t get cranky at least at tech. But you didn’t work on “Salvage.” Oh, I know. (LAUGHTER) By– by the time “Salvage” came along, was
every– was there a little bit– (OVERTALK) There was a def– different feel definitely. Well, I– I think that also I think when they
did it in London originally they– he was sort of finishing “Salvage.” They did– they put up all three at once in
London. Right. They opened them at the same–
(OVERTALK) At the same time. So I think he was sort of writing “Salvage”
as they went along. And then– but this one, too, I think they
were so prepared and so hyper-prepared with– with Parts One and Two. And by the time they got to Three they sort
of were figuring it out as it went along a little bit more, which was incredibly exciting
in some ways. It was very exciting. With– with exhaustion added in. Yeah. Yeah. From doing the other two and– For everybody. There was– I mean, if– I think if– if I
were in charge and I could say to do it again, I would have given us another, you know, three
weeks’ rehearsal for “Salvage” because– just to factor in the– the tired factor. Guys like Jack and– and our whole design
team, these guys are– I mean, (UNINTEL)– I feel this way about Jack. And– he’s a master of our profession. He’s entered some other level at it now where
he– he knows how to use space. He knows how to tell stories. He knows how to do all this. So he can do it. But they were all really tired. They had worked– I mean, it’s– And we had the least amount of rehearsal time
for Part Three, too. Yeah. It’s like eight or nine days before we went
into tech or something like that. Yeah, it’s– I think they thought this– that
we’d all knew our characters and the story and the set and that it was gonna snowball. And, you know, in truth, it did. They were right. It did. They were right. Jack was right. He– he knew that he could do it like that. It just– it would have been– we would have
had a more– more giggles. Or if we’d had three weeks to just play One
and Two before we started rehearsals for three. Yeah. Because the toughest part for me in the whole
process is the preview weeks because everyone sort of makes a big deal out of the ten-out-of-twelves,
the two days of ten-out-of-twelves you do during tech. The preview periods are generally two or three
weeks of nine-out-of-twelves because you’re there every day from noon ’til five. And then you do a show in the evening. And the show. And there’s so much pressure– And it is– –and fear– –it’s exhausting. –and you don’t know if the show’s gonna–
it– you know, there’s– no matter what, there’s this anxiety about the show being judged and
are you ready. You were also–
(OVERTALK) –by the– by the time you went into rehearsal
with– of– Yeah, but we didn’t take any of that for granted. We know that the– There could be a backlash. –that rug could be pulled out from underneath
us at any time. And in fact, we were– the success of the
first two only made us more insecure in a way because– You don’t wanna be the one–
(OVERTALK) –we didn’t wanna let down “Shipwreck” and
“Voyage.” Do you– you know, there was this huge– and
we didn’t wanna let down the audience members who were so excited about it. I mean, the– the– the pressure just was
mounting. It was. But it wasn’t miserable. I mean, it’s not– It’s far from miserable. –it really– it wasn’t like– yeah, it was
far from miserable. I was so happy to not just be hanging out
in my dressing room. (LAUGHTER)
(OVERTALK) I was having a great time. (LAUGHTER) Well, also, I think– I mean, you– you mentioned
earlier about Lincoln Center Theater. I mean, from– both to have the guts and the
wherewithal to do a play like this, to gather a company like the– like you all– I mean,
it’s an amazing kind of– I think the New York theatergoers are– are the beneficiaries
of– of this extraordinary, extraordinary thing. I wanted to ask back to– to directors, I
mean, I– I imagine that– that– how do I say this delicately? You don’t always, as actors, get to work with
first-rate directors. And do you find that– that you have to have
defense mechanisms or different systems to put into place when you suddenly realize,
“Uh-oh, I’m not gonna get from this guy what I get from a Jack O’Brien”? And how do you deal with that? Oh, it’s tough. I don’t know if there is a formula to it. It’s tough. It’s always tough. If you– if you are in that situation, you
realize that you’re not– getting what you need or that you maybe shouldn’t trust as
much as you, of course, have gone in ready and willing and doing. Wanting. Yes and wanting. It’s very hard to pull away, to cut the umbilical
cord in the rehearsal process because that’s what it’s all about. And so I don’t know. I’ve never been able to get it right. It’s– It’s different every time. Yeah, I mean, sometimes there’s a director
who will like put a show on its feet and go, “Ooh, I like this play,” and kind of walk
away. And you go, “Whoa, whoa, wait. Now is when– now is when the work starts
to happen.” And– I’ve had the experience where I’ve had
director friends go sit in an audience and write notes for me, you know? I mean, if you’re not gonna get it from the
director, you gotta get it from somewhere. Or fellow actors, you know, who say, could
you like, you know, help me here? ‘Cause– I need a director. I’ll be the first one to admit. And that’s my favorite part of acting is the
rehearsal period where a director takes you somewhere where you can’t go by yourself. So if you’re not getting it then, you know,
then the stimulus is gone and, you know, you have to find it somewhere else. One of the great things for me about this–
the process when we were rehearsing for all that time and we were always having another
show going on was to be able to– to continue to get notes from Tom and Jack and– ’cause
I like to have– I like to be fed– I like to have fodder thrown at me constantly. And it just– it’s very important. And now already I can feel that we’re not
getting that now ’cause they’ve both gone away. (LAUGHTER) And we’re now just doing the shows,
which is also joyous– of course. They’ll be back. They’ll be back and it (LAUGHTER) will be
wonderful. But I– I do love that constant checking in
and, you know, I like to have my temperature taking a lot. Jennifer and I sit backstage in our dressing
room, we give notes. (LAUGHTER) Nobody ever gets them. But, “Shouldn’t that person be doing it this
way?” You know? We’re– we’re redirecting it all the time. We’re not the only dressing rooms–
(OVERTALK) I’m sure not. Forty actors in a building. (OVERTALK) –so insecure. I know. We– we never–
(OVERTALK) Amy’s not there for “Salvage.” I’m not there for (UNINTEL). Oh, good. Yeah, right. So she’s out in front. I mean, I thought you were perfect. (OVERTALK) I’ll tell you this, I tend to do my best work
with my worst directors, do you know? And that– that’s like– You what? You know what I mean? Like if I really don’t like a director– You do your best work? –yeah. Wow. That’ll show him? (LAUGHTER) You know, I have– I have– listening to you
guys talk, it’s like so interesting. Like– I mean, and Jack talked to me about
this. Like I mean, it’s really– my desire to please
a director I respect sometimes can get so high that it starts to– I know that feeling. Yes. –it starts to kill my own impulses. And, you know, versus if I’m kind of– I’m
working with a director that I don’t like, that I’ve lost respect for, that I don’t think
is interesting, I start– being more confident and being more aggressive in a way. I mean, Jack took me aside er– early– I
mean, in tech in– in “Voyage” and– and said, “You gotta stop being so respectful of this
process.” It’s like you– you gotta go out and claim
it. Because– ’cause I was just– I admired the
two of them, Jack and Tom, so much that I found it a little bit– you know, a– a bit
in my mouth. Yeah, I’ve done that with this, too, actually. So– so he cut you loose. So if he gave you freedom to– He– he tried to. It’s– it’s not a pressure he put on me. It’s a pressure I put on myself. And I don’t know. To be honest, this– I felt, since they’ve
been gone, that– that I’ve– I don’t know if it’s true, though, ’cause I love their
notes. But at the same time, I’ve been– It’s yours now. –a more relaxed performer not worrying about
whether or not I put– you know, I stressed the “if” in a certain sentence. ‘Cause Tom was watching, it drives him crazy
when you don’t, you know? Now, I know that when this– show was originally
scheduled at Lincoln Center, it– there was– it– to culminate with three times when you
would do what they called “the marathon.” Uh-huh (AFFIRM). And I believe you’ve done one, and now because
it’s been extended once and maybe twice, you have many more marathons. What was the first marathon? You’ve only done– you only done one, right? We’ve only done one. So what was it like? It was a– I– It was so fun. –it was a wild ride. Yeah. It was fabulous. Well, the audience was like I think probably
the best audience we’ve had. (OVERTALK) They were so into it. And New Yorkers love events. And it was just– They were with it. –they were all so– right from the very beginning
they were just like so happy to be there. And– and it was really nice for us ’cause
that made us sort of blossom and– Yeah, it felt– I don’t know. I just– I love any– I love theater when
it feels at all like the circus. And it– (LAUGHTER) it had a little bit of
that feeling. Like the sound of them sitting out there waiting
for it and us all arriving. It just felt somehow like– like a circus. Yeah, you could tell they’d gotten the tickets
like six months ago and they– (OVERTALK) They all wanted– they all wanted to be there. Yeah. And they all were prepared to be there and
excited about it. And they– I think they just encouraged us
(UNINTEL). And I have to say, the plays– the thing that
you said earlier, that the plays stand up on their own. Tom likes to say that. I don’t think they do. I– I don’t think anybody’s gonna do a production
of “Salvage,” you know, without any of the other ones. I mean, and I think doing it as a marathon,
you felt the arc of the play– You really did. –in a way that you– I never had. The– the plays are actually– play– paced
incredibly well when done as a whole. The mood shifts. You know, the way– the way it moves and the
way that I felt the ending of “Salvage” worked in a way I have never felt it work on its
own. Yeah. That– and, you know, the set design, the
music, everything made sense and– and– and the text. It all came together in a powerful punch in
a way it doesn’t when you haven’t watched Alexander Hertzen (PH) go through all this. You– you– Yeah, within the last 12 hours. Yeah. It’s amazing– I know. It is the way to see it. Yeah, when Martha comes– The marathon. –and makes fun of– you know, when Hertzen
has that moment on stage where he says, “Oh, Natalie, it’s like Tata (PH) grown up,” he’s
referencing his wife who we knew passed away two hours ago. And then Martha comes out and kind of makes
fun of him about this kind of intimate moment. And it’s all still so fresh. You know, in a way that that moment I don’t
think has the same power to an audience where half the people didn’t see– “Shipwreck.” Yeah. Or who saw it two months ago. Although, I have to– Or saw it two months ago. I did only see “Shipwreck” when I was in London
at the National. And that one does hold up on its own. I think if I had to pick one that would be– I think that’s the one that does hold up. That’s the one– Interesting. Yeah. ‘Cause “Voyage” is a setup. It’s a– it’s a drama. And “Salvage” is a conclusion. Yes. But “Shipwreck” is kind of the– Yeah, no, I’ve heard that from people who
have seen them as well. They– they– it’s kind of the one they long
to go back and see– see again, having seen them all. But I may do a– do a marathon. So– but it wasn’t exhausting at the end of
12 hours? It was exhilarating? Oh, but I mean, exhausting but, I mean– But the good exhausting. –you know, that– you know, you’re– you’re
more exhausted right before the end than you are at the end. You know? ‘Cause it’s that going through the ticker
tape thing. And it was– and the audience’s response was– Amazing. –amazing. Amazing. And then you have 2 1/2 days off for the first
time. (OVERTALK) –and that’s really nice. (LAUGHTER) I wanna talk about the– the design a little
bit because– I know that the set is credited to two designers. And each of the plays has a specific, distinct,
different lighting designer. But how did the two set designers work? Did they split it up? Or did they– That’s actually not a good question for us
because I actually have no idea how they– (OVERTALK) I– I don’t know either. I have no idea, and I never even met two of
the last two lighting designers. So it was all– it all happened so fast. I mean, we literally had 2 1/2 weeks to do–
to rehearse “Shipwreck” and 2 1/2 weeks to rehearse “Salvage” basically. And that was it. And they were– it– it all happened–
(OVERTALK) –these figures in the back of a dark theater
whispering to each other. And we never– –really fast. (OVERTALK) Yeah, they– they worked with each other. A lot of that was planned out before we ever
came in the room. And then a lot of it was planned out on the
fly. I mean, it was a weird combination of they
had– you know, Jack had some overarching themes to the piece that he was gonna bring
out in the set. So they had to manifest that. But I– I have no idea. They would bring us together to show us what
the opening was gonna look like with the black silk. That was exciting. They would bring us together to show us what– The first time we watched that. –the revolution in Paris was going to look
like. So, I mean, it was not a collaborative– we
weren’t part of a collaboration involved in that. They’re just brilliant. There– there’s something extraordinary about
that shiny floor. I don’t– it’s just– for some reason– It is a great idea. Well, and it also– it also, to an audience
member, it– it– it tells you this is important in a good way. It’s like this– this– you know, take– make–
make– pay attention. This is gonna be– this is gonna be important. On that note, we’re gonna take a break and–
hear a little few words about the American Theatre Wing. (OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)
(BREAK IN TAPE) We– we were talking about the– the– the–
(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION) We were talking about the physical production,
the sets and costumes and lights and– and stuff. And I wanted to talk about that particular
theater ’cause I think, you know, for– for years people considered it a problem theater,
that it was hard to– to– to– to conquer its geography, its– its architecture. But I find– I find it very appealing to see
shows in it. What’s it like performing in that sort of
3/4 round thrust? I love that space. I love it. It’s– it’s– it’s hard to judge sometimes
acoustically. But they– they did a lot of work on it I
think from– since the time when it had the really, really bad reputation. And I don’t know. I love it. I love it. I– do you guys like it? Yeah, and I like the space performing it. It’s– the sound thing is weird because it–
there is– because of the 3/4 thing, I think oftentimes you sort of– the people in front
of you think, “Why is he shouting at me?” And the people behind you are like, “What
is he saying?” You know? So you strug– I– I struggled with that. But I’m not, you know, classically trained. (LAUGHTER) It takes getting used to. I have to say when we– when we first stood
on the stage after we’d been in the rehearsal hall, it seemed like the largest place and
it felt like we had to scream to be heard. I don’t feel that anymore. And I– I think, you know, we’ve learned to
adjust. Jack had to teach us how to move around so
you don’t just– so you– you– there’s ways to– Strafe. Strafe, yeah. (OVERTALK) So that, you know, you can let everybody in
on it. And you have to be brave enough to know that
there’ll be moments that people have your back. And that’s okay ’cause they’re gonna get your
front later. And– it’s– it took– it’s an adjustment. But then there’s something about the– it
feels intimate now. And it feels like– like when we first come
out on “Voyage” and we all go to sit down at dinner, I feel like we’re the only people
there. I don’t feel like– in some theaters, you–
you– you see people move their legs and, you know, you can hear them with their candies
and stuff. It is–
(OVERTALK) You feel isolated. You don’t see them. You don’t– you sense them, of course, when
they laugh. But I mean, I’ve never heard a cell phone
go off there. I know. Have there– has there ever been one? I– yeah. (OVERTALK) Oh, I’ve never heard one. But it’s been much less than– I’ve done plays
at 100-seat houses when– where the phones ring a lot more. (OVERTALK) But you just feel more– more– that– I mean,
the– the immediate needs of the audience in– in a smaller space are there. In this place, it’s just us out there. And it’s– there’s some– there’s something
very comforting and intimate about that. And, you know, this– there is something exciting
to be on this set and this design that we’re working with right now is a work of art unto
itself. And so it’s kind of thrilling to be a part
of that. You feel, when you walk on the stage, that
it looks good, that– you know? I mean, it’s a confident thing. It does. Yeah. It– it– it’s– You can come and watch and not speak a word
of English and just look at the pretty pictures (UNINTEL). Yeah, when I realized that you could– You do– you–
(OVERTALK) We have so much pride. I mean, in the– in the– in the beginning
of the second act when– when the ice skating rink comes up and the ice sculptor in Moscow
suddenly shows up and the people are clapping and I have an entrance. I kind of take in the claps. Like, yes, aren’t we wonderful? It’s just like– I thought that was for you. Yeah, I– I– I pretend. (LAUGHTER) I pretend. But it’s just, you know, you know– I mean,
I know when we first saw that, we were like, (GASP). I mean, I cried when I saw that the first
time. And– and– and they’re– when the stars come
out in– in– in Part Three– It’s so beautiful. –it’s just so magical. And you just– you just– you transcend into
other worlds– in a way that I don’t know I’ve ever felt before in a theater. It also has that wonderful large stage upstage–
(OVERTALK) –well, it’s used rather brilliantly in this
because it’s– you know, the– it– it– once can make reference to the epic nature of it
if you want. (LAUGHTER) Well, I know my– Jack used to say, yeah, “And you’re gonna–
then you’re gonna exit. You’re gonna go all the way down to 9th Avenue,”
you know? And– It’s so true. I feel like I need jogging shoes. (LAUGHTER) I feel like in the first play I
run all the time. And you’re in a corset. So you’re like– you know, you feel like you’re
in a– in a dash at all times. But you do cover a lot of space there. I– I love your– your comment about it being
intimate. And moments in this being– being in– intimate
because I– I wanna talk a little bit about– there’s a wonderful journal that Lincoln Center
Theater put together that has all kinds of essays and an interview with Tom Stoppard
and things like that. And in it– it lists favorite lines from some
of– some of the– I think the actors, one of– you know, some of your favorite lines. Can we talk about favorite lines and/or favorite
moments in the– in the show? Oh, wow. Yeah, sure. I think the moment that breaks my heart is–
when Hertzen talks about– his son– The death of a child. The death of his child and– and it being
dark and he can’t hear and how hard that must have been. That’s– I– I– I go on that (UNINTEL). Yeah, ’cause he– his son can only hear by
reading lips. And there was no–
(OVERTALK) And it was dark in the– when he died. That must have been so– That’s– that’s the most moving part of the
play for me. (LAUGHTER) Maybe because I have sons. Right. Josh, do you have a– a favorite line of yours? I mean, that’s– of mine? Of yours. Oh. Oh, of mine. Or moments that– that you– that you love
playing– (OVERTALK) I have one– I have one– my favorite– probably
my favorite moment in “Salvage” is– well, I– you know, see, we’re doing the play still. I can’t tell you. Yeah, it’s really–
(OVERTALK) I can’t tell you ’cause I’ll ruin it. Yeah. I don’t wanna– Yeah, yeah, yeah, I–
(OVERTALK) Oh, this is my favorite moment. And then I just said it badly and I’ll (UNINTEL). It’s why it’s hard to read reviews ’cause
if somebody ever points out something you’re doing right, you never do it right again. So you have to wait until after the show’s
over if you wanna read the reviews or if you wanna read the reviews. Stoppard is– is so literate and– and obviously
his intelligence is– is– is awesome. Do you– do you– are there ever moments in
his– speaking his dialogue where it sounds more like– speeches than– than– than people
talking? Or is that not a– Well, that’s– that’s– that’s the danger
of Stoppard. That’s the danger of any– I mean, of Shaw,
of any of this– I mean, people don’t talk like this. It is stylized in a certain way. I mean, it’s– Yeah. It’s– Yeah. We had an interesting moment one time. Was that– I think I haven’t done that many–
lang– I mean, I guess all plays are language plays. But I haven’t done that many that are sort
of heightened language plays. And– I think when I was first working on
one of the scenes, I was sort of doing that mistake that sometimes (UNINTEL) actors do
where they try to do like Shakespeare like kind of really, you know, like bring it down
to– Make it real. (OVERTALK) –make it real. But, you know, and so we were doing this–
I was in a scene with Jennifer. And– Tom was like– Tom stopped me and he
said, “No, you’re– you’re– you’re sort of talking like you would talk in the Green Room,
looking very real. Sort of real. And I– I want super-real.” (LAUGHTER) And that’s what sort of became
like a little– Super-real. It was very helpful actually. Super-real. You know, it’s sort of realer than real. It’s like sort of slightly heightened– and
’cause these words, you can’t sort of say these words like you’re talking like– I mean,
it is– they are beautifully crafted– They’re constructed paragraphs. –and scripted– yeah. You know, there’s– the reigning style of
acting right now is realism. I mean, you know it started with Brando and–
it didn’t really start there. But I mean, it’s– it’s been going ever since
about realism. And– and one of the things I– I like most
about this show is, both in Jack’s interpretation of it and in the writing, in the– in the–
in the incredible aspiration of the writing, is it’s modern art. It’s half movie. It’s half Shakespeare. It’s half opera. It’s half symphony. It’s not a nostalgic piece of theater the
way I don’t like a lot of that old presentational style that kind of John Gielgudian style of
acting where it just sounds super pretty. We’ve somehow gone beyond that. It’s not– but yet in this play, you do this
play right, you need some of that John Gielgud. And you also need the– the realism. It needs to be both emotionally invested and
have some kind of authenticity. And, you know, I’ve never had a playwright
in my life say to me– I– I thought he was kidding at first (LAUGHTER) when he said this–
the first day of rehearsal, “There’s only one thing that’s important to me, which is
clarity of utterance.” And I– I would love when it’s all over to
ask him for a cup of coffee and say, “Do you really mean that?” is it really the mo– Oh, absolutely he means it. I– I– I– it’s– it’s astounding to me. I mean, he really wants to hear the “t” in– Diction. He want– –in the diction. And he wants your “a’s” to be pronounced correctly. And I think this was very hard for him at
first because he has an– this is a thing Josh, you’re gonna– you– you say it. Well, no, (UNINTEL) talk about– I mean, ’cause
I mean, his plays are usually done with either British actors or English accents. And I think he’s not used to American actors
butchering his lines. But– but I mean, the– because most of his
plays take place in England. Right. We’re Russians. (OVERTALK) But these are Russians. So we don’t– he’s never heard his play–
his writing done with an American accent, which we’re like– which was hard for him
at first. I mean, I have lines like, “I say, Belinski
(PH), what do you know about Count Salaga (PH)?” I mean, that’s not– an American doesn’t,
you know, “I say.” I mean, you know? But you somehow have to try to pull it off. But it’s been a fascinating part of this is
how to make it presentational or super-real the way that Tom– But supe– super-real through realism kind
of in a way that– if you– is that what you’re sort of saying? That our– we live in a realistic world of
acting these days? Well, that’s the reigning style of acting. Right. Yeah. I mean, you know, I mean, in the movies it’s
terrible. I mean, all– all anybody has to do is smile
and have real moments or– or seem like– But they– if you try to do that– that style
of acting with Tom Stoppard’s writing, it doesn’t make it more real. It actually makes it–
(OVERTALK) It makes it not work. Yeah. The only way I can do it, and having done
now four Tom Stoppard plays, which you’ve done four now. You’ve– you’ve– this– you’ve done three. Well, these, yeah. This is my first. So you’ve done two. We’ve all done a lot of Tom Stoppard now. I see. And– unless you count Coast of Utopia as
one play. But my– my way– the thing that I– that
doing those four that’s– is– the way I– I do it is to start with– looking at each
line and trying to figure out how Tom would say it. And I go in assuming that every single line
he’s written, he has written as he would speak it and to be said in that way. And– so that’s the only way I know how to
do it now is to start with that and try to fit– keep looking at it and try to figure
out– and if necessary, go to him and say, “How would you say that?” And he will always say– “You’re right. I wrote it to be said the way I would say
it. And this is how I would say it.” And it’s sometimes helpful if you’re having
trouble with– and if you say it the way he wrote it to be said, it will always make sense
and it will never sound like a speech– (OVERTALK) And it will generally get a laugh. He knows– he knows what he’s doing. Yes. Yeah, he really does. And I find it easier to do that than to–
try to come at it the other way around or finding, you know, some–
(OVERTALK) You eventually bow to it. (OFF-MIC CONVERSATION) It’s an interesting point you make about The
Coast of Utopia being done in– not with any particular English or otherwise accents. You know, what– do you– do you think that
was a– a hard choice for Stoppard? Or do you think it was– Well, I think it’s an obvious choice. I mean, if you’re gonna do it– they’re Russian. We’re not speaking– I mean, it’s– it’s–
it’s an obvious one. And did he make any adjustments in any of
the lines because– you were not English? Yes. Speaking– I mean– There were a couple phrases that sort of seemed
very English and then when it’s– in an American mouth it might have sounded a little bit–
(OVERTALK) And he would ask us, you know, “Do you say
this or do you say this?” And he would change it to whatever the American
audience is gonna get. Yeah. I think maybe because he culled this play
from so many different historical sources and things, I don’t know if he was as– I
don’t know. He’s not proprietary. (UNINTEL) as precious with it– Yeah. –as he might have been with a play that he
completely written from his– you know? That’s a good point. So I think sometimes if we had– oh, it’s
like– we said, “Oh, you know, I actually read a letter in which my character said this.” And he goes, “Oh, yeah, let’s put that in”
or “Let’s take that out.” And, I don’t know, was he– well, you did
the revival of The Real Thing. Yeah, he changed things in The Real Thing. I don’t think we changed anything for American
audiences. We were asked to broaden our acting for American
audiences. But that wasn’t Tom. (LAUGHTER) But– I– I wonder who that could have been? I– no. But I– I know he also– ’cause I don’t–
I don’t remember hearing him change that much in these plays. I know that we talked about things like responsibility
is can to carry in England. And– we didn’t change that and the (UNINTEL)
still says “can to carry.” And I– I heard it ’cause I– I asked Tom
what– a “last” is in shoemaking ’cause– Breean (PH) has a line– Hertzen has a line
where he says, “The cobbler with his own last is an aristocrat compared to the man working
in a shoe factory.” And I said, “What– what is a last?” And he said, “Oh, it’s that thing, you know,
that you use to make your shoes.” And he said, “I– I like it when, you know,
people might leave here and go and try to find out what a last is. And I like that.” You were the first. Yes. (LAUGHTER) So he doesn’t– he doesn’t always
want everything to be– (OVERTALK) It’s okay that you don’t get– Yeah, it’s okay. –everything means. But are– are there a lot of lines in Coast
of Utopia that are– come from the source material? Yes. (OVERTALK) There’s a lot. Yeah. American– American– no, Romantic Exiles,
if you read it, it’s– it’s so much of it comes from the letters. And– Well, so much of– the first act of “Voyage”
comes from the EH Carr (PH) biography of Berkonin (PH). And My Passing Thoughts, which is Hertzen’s
memoirs. Got a lot from there. I mean, it– to me, it– among other fascinating
things is that these are not people that I’d ever even heard of. And I– I hadn’t either. –imagine a great many of the– of the people
have never heard– (OVERTALK) There is so much out there about them. Clearly. No, it’s– yeah. Once you– but none of it is really– that’s
what I think is so remarkable about what Tom has done. These– this is a really interesting moment
in time that not many people knew about. And they really are fascinating people. And there’s– the– the great thing is there’s
a moment in “Voyage” where the– it’s crazy. The sisters are reading this letter from Natalie
Bayer (PH) about, you know, your– you don’t understand that your brother and I should
be going out because of his– what– what are the lines to this? (OVERTALK) It’s– anyway, I can’t– I can’t remember
right now. But it’s so high falutin’ about, you know,
their spirits need to become one and it’s all about the absolute and the universal beauty
and truth and everything. And it’s a real letter. I mean, you– people sit there in the audience
and they think that Tom Stoppard is like getting kind of Stoppardian. And the funny thing is that’s a real letter. And these– these people at this moment in
time were so hit– there were so many ideas that were shattering the way that people were
normally thinking at that moment, that it was an exciting moment to dramatize. Well, also the– the– the sort of– the–
the breaking the clichés or the fact to which the aristocracy were– who were the revolutionaries
and– and that the– and the fact that– the whole notion of the– of the literary world
was the world of be pushed aside. Absolutely fascinating things. I mean, it’s a lot of food for interesting
thought in– in these plays. God knows. Yeah. I– I– I wanted to– to ask about– wait
a minute. Let me just take a moment here. Is there anything else– is there anything
we haven’t touched on that– that– that might be interesting to– to dive into? Oh, I– I know– I– I had a– a question. Clearly this is a wonderful experience for–
for– for all of you. I mean, clearly this is– we– we talk about
all kinds of fascinating– things in– in among the acting company, the directors, and
all that. Do you feel that, generally speaking, this
is a pretty good time for actors? Or is this an opportunity that comes along
once in a lifetime? You mean is this indicative of– Is this indicative– –a sea change or, you know– Yeah, well, it– –being a rich time? I mean, I think that there’s a feeling that
there is a lot of very interesting work going on now. And I guess the– the more articulate way
to say it is do you feel that there is a lot of good work going on and good work– good
opportunities for actors today? Whenever the world gets bad, the artists get
more interesting. I mean, that is true. I mean, one of– I mean, from a very kind
of gross thing to say. But we are living in a very challenging time,
you know, with technology exploding and with our country being at war. And these ideas of terrorism and these ideas
of the environment that seem so pressing on everybody and on the culture. And that is provoking– I mean, I remember
in– the first time that I was really paying attention in the ’80s to art, it was so vacuous,
you know? It was very– you didn’t have your Bob Marleys
and your John Lennons and you didn’t have your– you know, the early Scorsese movies. And people really, you know, the whole kind
of renaissance that was happening in the American arts in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And I think that it is true that the more
volatile time period you live in, the dialogue that we’re discussing becomes more interesting. One of the arguments in the play that comes
up– between Belinski and– and the whole question of working under censorship, artists
working under censorship or whether they should go to France where they can write freely. And one of the arguments is that, no, it means
so much more to work in a– to try to do work in a place where– it– it’s– it’s– you’re
being watched. And it’s– it’s– people take it so much more
seriously. And I– I was watching the film The Lives
of Others yesterday. (GASP) Isn’t it wonderful? Just so incredible– set in East Germany–
(OVERTALK) –deals with a playwright. And there’s so many parallels to our play. And I was just thinking about how, you know,
I don’t know if there’s more opportunities for actors, but I do think there is– whenever
you’re not living in a complacent time, which we certainly can’t afford to be doing now
given– the state of this administration and the world, that I think there are– there
is a lot of– need and a desire for artists all across the board to– to try to– make
their voice heard. And at– two of you had a theater company
for a while there. Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Was– was that part of– part of wanting to
have your voice heard? Or was it part– It was (UNINTEL) desire to do our own work
and– Uh-huh (AFFIRM). –not sit around and wait for people to give
us jobs. And– The life of an actor can be very– it can
be hard waiting for people to give you your at-bat, do you know? And, you know, and a lot of young writers
struggle with the same thing, you know? When Sam Shepherd and Arthur Miller are be–
are being done off-Broadway. I mean, Arthur’s passed away now. But, I mean, you know, it– it’s really hard
for a 24-year-old struggling playwright to get his play done if, you know, those people
are being done off-Broadway. I mean, so it’s– that’s what– that’s what
the– Malapert (PH) was a company that we had started. But it’s kind of a thrill for us. Like last year, a season ago, we got to do
Hurley Burley together. And we’re able to– I mean, the idea of company
acting is what we’re achieving here in Coast of Utopia, where you’re working with people
that you know and so there’s a level of intimacy that you can build on. I know I answered four questions– No, that’s all right. That– I didn’t– I wasn’t very clear. But also– also– I think the– the inevitable
question that someone like– like me always wants to ask actors like you is, you know,
you’ve done film. You’ve done theater. You’ve done television. Do you like a menu that has a little bit of
everything? Or do you– and do you prefer one or the other? Or do you– do you think that they all feed
each– each other? Amy? I personally– would be happy to stay on the
stage for the rest of my life. I– I’ve enjoyed my film work. I’ve enjoyed working on television. But– nothing beats the theater. And– if one can stay in New York and do theater
and– and have a life, that’s perfection to me. I like the hours. The hours of theater? Yeah. They’re kind of hard when you– now that you
have a child, though, you’re gonna notice the hours are a little difficult, too. Oh, that’s true. I hadn’t–
(OVERTALK) ‘Cause you miss– you miss a lot of dinners
with your kids. Oh, that’s true. That’s– you know, I was– I was making sure
my son– I’m a single mom of a 16 year old. And he– I brought him around the theater
during rehearsals for a while. And he started to play some poker with the
guys. But– they’re not allowed backstage during
the show. So I’m– I’m happy I’m not in Part Three because
I do get to have some dinners with him. It’s hard, that schedule. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Ethan? You’ve also directed film– And written. And written. He’s got a new film that’s wonderful coming
out. You know, my theory about it is that I like
to be in the room with talented people. And if you can be in a room with this crowd
and Tom Stoppard and Jack O’Brien, then there’s nowhere else to be, you know? But I– I’ve had that experience on movies
where there’s some really, you know, bright people. It is– there is something for me about the
present tense of theater. The– there is something nostalgic about film. The simple fact of taking its picture to preserve
it for later as opposed to living in the moment. The audience that was there at the last marathon,
you know, somebody can go up to me in 50 years and say, “I saw the marathon.” You know? Oh, really? Which one? The first? The first one? (LAUGHTER) So you were there when, you know,
Breaan forget that line and wasn’t that funny? That– that’s so funny, you know? And– and it was like we had dinner together. It was something very real that the way that
movies never are. But, you know, but the theater is– is a struggling
art form right now, you know? People aren’t interested in nostalgia. They’re not terribly interested in the moment. And Jennifer, you– you’ve– you’ve– did
you grow up in England? Or– I know you have England–
(OVERTALK) No, I grew up in America. But– but you– But I spent 12 years in England. Yeah. So– so– From 18 to 30. And– compare and contrast it. I– you know, it’s hard to ’cause I– I also–
stopped acting for four years in– sort of in between the changeover. So I– and I– I just feel like– I feel–
I’m just in such a different place when I was– than when I was living in England. I can’t really– it seems like that was somebody
else. But I– I don’t know. I– right now I– I just– this job is so
fulfilling. I can’t really think of anything I would rather
be doing. I can think of– reasons to possibly be doing
other things, you know, with the– left side of my brain. But it’s not– but this is– so fulfilling. It really is. There’s no– there– there’s no place else
to be. I mean, it’s– it’s– It’s as good as it gets. It’s as good as it gets. It is. For actors. Yeah. How many more marathons have– have you in
you, do you think? I think we get to do it about– As many as–
(OVERTALK) –thirteen more. Ideally, I wish we could do three marathons
a week and that’s it. I do, too. Yeah. I do, too. Would– would they do that? Or–
(OVERTALK) No, that’s nine– that’s nine shows a week. I just think that’d be so great– I think there are people–
(OVERTALK) –people to see it that way. –that can’t deal with a marathon. Yeah. Yeah. It’s an amazing– for people who see it, you
know, one a week, one a– day. I mean, there’s lots of ways it can work. (OVERTALK) Tom– Tom said that he thought the best way
was one night after the next. Yeah. My mother and my step-father coming in, they’re
seeing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Yeah. (OVERTALK) But when– when– when we did the marathon,
we all just thought that’s the way to see it, you know? Well, it’s fun for us because we get that
arc. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it’s obviously fun for the audience,
too. (LAUGHTER) Yeah, it is. I know that if I was coming to see this that
I would come from wherever I was in the world to see this. I would go see the marathon. That’s what– I would go see a marathon. But that’s a certain kind of person. And I know I’d walk out and right away try
to buy tickets for another one. (LAUGHTER) I just– I would want to. But you wouldn’t be able to. (OVERTALK) Unless there’s another extension. Have you sensed a difference in the audience
from– since the very beginning when I think it’s fair to say nobody quite knew what this
was gonna be? It’s hard to say ’cause there’s always a difference
in the beginning with subscription audiences. So it’s hard to tell, you know? And the first few weeks they’re subscription
audiences. And– And they hadn’t been told– Also, the shows are– –how great we were yet. (LAUGHTER) But also the shows– the shows are finding
themselves in those first few weeks. So everything– the whole experience is different
now over– over the course of time. I think people forget how much– not you but–
in general, people forget how much a show changes over the course of its run. And we’re still discovering things. Yeah. It’s so much fun. I mean, you know, we– we– we get out there
and, I mean, pennies are dropping still. I mean, it’s such rich material that you just
never stop working. And we’re not repeating it. It really is thrilling to not– each time
you’re doing a play, you have– haven’t done it three or four days. And so you’re a little nervous and tentative
and that can breathe for some good creativity, you know? At one point, we hadn’t done Part One for
three weeks, wasn’t it? Yeah. And when– when Ethan’s character arrives–
(LAUGHTER) we were so excited to greet him. And I’m thinking to myself, “Are we a little
too overexcited?” But then again, he’s been gone for five years. And– oh, my god, my boy. He was 17 when he left and he’s 21 now. (OVERTALK) –see each other. It was actually– it was actually better. It was exactly appropriate for these passionate
Russian people to be so happy to see him. That’s how– that’s, you know, we learned
from the time gap. That was fun. (LAUGHTER) That was fun. Have you ever shown up to one thinking that
it was another? I did once. I arrived too late to the theater for– to
get ready for my Part One. I thought it was Part Two, where I don’t come
on ’til the second act and started to think the dressers were crazy ’cause they were all
the wrong clothes for (UNINTEL) until– okay. It’s “Voyage” tonight. But it– it– it sounds like it– it kind
of– going to the acting gym, having these three plays and–
(OVERTALK) It’s true. –and keeping you on your toes. It keeps your muscle well oiled. No time for boredom? I’m– I’m sure there will be– I wonder what
it’ll all be– the next job will be like for all of us? Do– do you know? It– it’ll be so– Different. –small. (OVERTALK) We all had great plans for our backstage life
for those of us who aren’t on stage on. We were all gonna learn a language and– I was gonna read all the great Russian novels
I’ve never read. –read all the classics. (LAUGHTER) It doesn’t– I find myself listening
to the play every night. Over and over again. I’m not in the first act and it’s like my–
the best radio play I’ve ever gone to. (LAUGHTER) And I listen every night. And I enjoy it every night. I feel so lucky that I get to hear it every
night. But it’s– it– taking on Ethan’s comment,
is– do you long, when this is over, to do a– a– two-person play in some quiet place? Or do you–
(OVERTALK) No, I– I’m feeling like it’ll be kind of
anticlimactic. I can’t imagine doing a play for a little
while after this. I– I think it will ruin me for attempting
anything else for a while. I could do this for another year. It’s so much fun. Well, I certainly– I hope you– I hope you
do it for at least longer than– than it’s– (OVERTALK) Than in May– May 13th. I don’t think we’re going to be extending. I mean, I– I do think it’s fascinating that
when people wonder if there’s an audience for good theater in this town and then something
like Coast of Utopia comes– comes along. And suddenly it appears–
(OVERTALK) –as if there actually is. I know. I’m so grateful that people wanna come see
this. I mean it’s– It’s sold out every night. We never see an empty seat. It’s amazing. Yeah. Every time I– you know, if there’s ever a
night where you feel sort of like tired and you think like, oh, you just did this, you
know, I– I think about someone who’s like saved up their money, some like– like a grad
student studying Russian literature or something who’s like saved their money to come see it. And I’m like– I’m just so– I’m so impressed
and grateful that people are coming to see this because it is challenging material. But it’s also really entertaining, too. So– But do you also feel that the freedom of an
institutional theater where you would have played a certain time no matter what, did
that give you freedom to– to– to– not to– I mean, in the commercial theater world there’s
always that, “Oh, my god, we might not get good reviews. Oh, my god, we might not run.” Yeah, we knew we weren’t gonna close after
opening night. Did that give you freedom? Or was it– was it– did it not matter? It didn’t really matter I don’t think because
we knew we were gonna open all three. And the original date for us to close was
three– was this week, was next week. So we were only ever going to run three weeks
after “Salvage” opened. And the ticket sales were– Until we extended. So– –so good before we opened that, you know,
we didn’t really need to open– we actually delayed our opening because– one our of cast
members was ill and– it was like– as far as selling tickets, it didn’t need– need
the– (OVERTALK) Lincoln Center was just so incredible and
supportive and– (OVERTALK) Very. They just believed in this– I mean, I’ve
just never seen anything like it. This took this great risk, and they– they
put a lot of money into this and their heart and soul. And the thing is if you’re in a show that’s
not working, you want it to close, you know? I mean, that’s– you don’t sort of just–
(OVERTALK) And just ’cause the New York Times doesn’t
like it doesn’t mean it’s not good. No, no. I didn’t say anything about the New York Times. (OVERTALK) When you’re in a play and nobody likes it– I’m saying if the audiences are not enjoying
it. (OVERTALK) And everyone knows it’s not going well but
you have a certain run. And it’s like– that’s the– that’s–
(OVERTALK) It’s horrible. It’s public humiliation every night. –nobody sees it or– (NOISE) You wanna get that? Yeah, excuse me. (LAUGHTER) It’s my agent. No, it’s interesting. You– I mean, I– I know that you’re– you’re
actors and don’t read newspapers. But you’re so controversial that the New York
Times doesn’t even seem to agree about the play, which is I think, you know–
(OVERTALK) It’s good. They should–
(OVERTALK) Absolutely. I mean, it’s a debate about real live theater
and about a play that– that is demanding– you know, of the audience’s attention and–
and passions. And I think it’s– how many actors are there
in it? I– I’ve heard from– between 36 and 44. Do we know? I think there is about that span because there–
we’re– there were more children brought in as we went along for each– for Part Two and–
(OVERTALK) –and then more for Part Three. So– I think there’s 36 adults in the show. And the– I don’t– I don’t know. Thirty-six adults? Dave– we’re about to lose David Patoo (PH)
at the end of this week. Oh. And so we– we’ll have– He– he had a commitment to go into another
play. –one less. Which was he? (LAUGHTER)
(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION) Are– are there covers and understudies– Of course. –within the company? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s– (UNINTEL) things is that everyone
understudies– most– I mean– everyone– so when someone falls out, there’s this huge
shirt. And all of a sudden, you see like three people
playing roles they’ve never played before. And that’s so fun. That’s happened like twice this weekend. (OVERTALK) Happened last night– –these people are great. You know, these people are like– they’ve
been serfs, they’re all of a sudden playing– We have a really good company. –a– a company– and they’re like– and they’re
fantastic. Yeah. And– and one understudy just– ’cause if
somebody’s understudy– they’re covering for somebody but then somebody has to cover their
part and somebody has to cover their part. It has this great domino effect. The– the whole company is so amazing that
about three weeks into the first– first set of rehearsals for– in September for “Voyage”–
and actor was gone and his understudy took his place for a few days. The first run-through. Yeah, for the first run-through. And we all just were looking at each other
going, “Nobody can leave the room.” Yeah. We can’t leave the room. Because he was so–
(OVERTALK) None of us were missing (UNINTEL). We realized how good the understudies were. We were– we applauded him and cried, it was
so good. It was just– so everyone’s done their best
to not be off since. Yeah. So our understudies don’t show us up. They’re too good. Well, that’s the funny thing about Jack O’Brien
is he’s worked in the theater so long and he knows so many people that, you know, our
understudies are somebody who, you know, played Hamlet in the production in Philadelphia. And like these people are good, you know? And– Also, I think when– when– when Richard–
was sick, Richard Easton (PH), who– who I’m– was documented in– in the paper. And I– I remember I think Andre told me that
his line, his exit line was something “That– that’s all– the last I’ll say about that,”
and– and– you know, and collapsed. But just the whole way that– that you all
stuck together and they delayed the opening ’til he could come back. And– and, you know, I gather he was the–
he was high on the list of the people that wanted him back. He wanted to get back and, you know, get back
and put the tap shoes back on and get out there. Yes, indeed. (OVERTALK) They’re very classy, Lincoln Center. They just– they’ve handled this situation
with– complete class. Yeah. Well, I– I certainly know, on behalf of the
audiences, we are very pleased that it is here. We are pleased that you are part of it. And I wanna thank you all for being here today. This has been wonderful. Thank you. (OVERTALK) These programs are brought to you from the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York with our partners CUNY TV. On behalf of the American Theatre Wing, thank
you for joining us for another addition of “Working in the Theater.”

One thought on “Production: ‘The Coast Of Utopia” (Working In The Theatre #352)”

  • Артём Третьяков says:


    As I understand, the philosophical basis of “The Coast of Utopia” includes philosophical ideas of CATASTROPHE THEORY and the concept of DIALOGUE, suggested by Karl-Otto Apel. Tom Stoppard considered it in the context of SYNERGETICS therefore the catastrophic situation became some kind of incentive for reconstruction of words meanings in communication and for meanings of moral volumes for a time (the dialog in Apel’s sense). This approach on the one hand originated in Postmodernism because in accordance with Postmodernist position we can escape from the world of Simulacra only though the death (it is the only real thing accordingly Jean Baudrillard) and on the other hand it let him take literature out from ‘intertextuality’ of Postmodernism (so-called TRANSGRESSION).
    Tom Stoppard expressed these ideas creating the story about Russian revolutionary movement of XIX century. Socialist revolution that is not yet born (but there is an idea of revolution in the minds of heroes) become the catastrophic situation when Alexander Herzen’s family has split. This situation revealed that heroes of the play are naive, their ideas are utopian and they don’t understand each other. This situation engaged the heroes in dialogue and made them restore traditional volumes or meta-narratives (first of all volumes of patriarchal family). I think Stoppard made the greatest return, simple and thoughtful to Russian classical literature, I mean “Demons” by Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky.
    It should be noted that “The Coast of Utopia” is not didactic piece. Stoppard don’t give us any answers about what we must to do and how the re-actualization of meta-narratives can ‘working’ without violence. He just show us the issue of the day. I believe that the last monologue of Alexander Herzen is hopeful and no losses are in vain for them all.

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