Amy Ryan

Amy Ryan

Ted Sod: Why did you choose to do the role of Sandra in Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love?     

Amy Ryan: Mike Bartlett described Sandra to me before an initial reading of the play. He said, “She is technicolor.” That mesmerized me. I’ve never played a character like her before onstage. I’ve also never taken on the challenge of playing someone over a 40-year time span. There was no way to say no.

TS: What do you think the play is about?

AR: I think the play is about the consequences of never really growing up. The passions and selfishness of Sandra and her husband, Kenneth, have a deep impact on the children. How can such bright ideas warp others?

TS: What kind of preparation or research do you have to do before rehearsals begin in order to play Sandra?

AR: It’s a couple of weeks before our first rehearsal. I read the play mostly every day. I look for language that is repeated and try to absorb Mike’s rhythm’s. I just saw an interview online with Judi Dench. She said, “Don’t always believe what other characters say about you.” That is great advice! I’m keeping that in mind as I work. I’m watching films and Youtube videos to get an accent that is right for Sandra. Richard Armitage, who is playing Kenneth, is sharing photos of London with me and has been guiding me towards some films that are very helpful.

Amy Ryan and Zoe Kazan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Amy Ryan and Zoe Kazan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

TS: How is this character relevant to you? Can you share some of your thoughts about Sandra with us? What do you find most challenging/exciting about this role?

AR: This may sound silly, but a big challenge for me is the smoking. I hate cigarettes and never smoked. But Sandra LOVES it. I think that’ll be hard to pull off. She is very different from me in many ways, so I think it’s best to just get out of her way. Mike’s script is full of everything I need. I will let it take me for the ride. I will also not judge her as I play her.

TS: Can you talk about the relationship between Sandra and her husband, Kenneth, as you currently perceive it?

AR: It’s love at first sight. They share a deep connection from the onset, and it never really matures.

TS: What do you look for from a director when working on a stage role?

AR: I look for a sense of humor. I look for a safe environment where we can disagree with one another and not have a falling out. Mostly, I look for trust that a director will be honest when something is not truthful or working well. I don’t want a babysitter or a hand holder. I don’t want to be told something is “good” when it’s not. To me that is not encouraging. What’s encouraging is when a director can see through nerves or laziness and tell me, “You can make a stronger choice, so do it.” I like when a challenge is laid out before me.

Amy Ryan and Richard Armitage (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

Amy Ryan and Richard Armitage (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

TS: Where were you born and where did you get your training? Did you have any teachers who profoundly influenced you?

AR: I was born in Queens, N.Y. and trained at the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. I was trained in the Stanislavski Method. I believe the best part of that training was learning to observe other people. Taking one bus and three trains to get to school every day provided that opportunity. New York City is one of the best acting teachers an actor can find. At the High School of Performing Arts, I was influenced by my teacher Roz Schein. After graduation, my biggest influence was Cicely Berry from the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was lucky to spend time with her through Theatre for a New Audience. I learned how to make text active from her.

TS: How do you keep yourself inspired as an artist?

AR: I’m inspired mostly by New York. I’m inspired by my daughter. I’m inspired by good theatre.

TS: Students reading this interview will want to know what it takes to be a successful actress. What advice can you give to young people who say they want to act?

AR: I remember being told by a teacher, “If you can think of something else you’d be just as good at or would enjoy better than being an actor, do THAT!” I think that is very good advice. If you can’t, I’d say challenge the person who tells you “No.” Or feel sorry for them that they don’t see your talent, and move on. Write to directors and writers you admire. Research a theatre’s upcoming season, see if there’s a part you’re right for. Write to casting and share your passion for that play/part. Save your money. Share information about auditions with fellow actors.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Love Love Love, Upstage

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Interview with Harold Perrineau

Posted on: October 25th, 2016 by Ted Sod


Harold Perrineau

Harold Perrineau

Ted Sod: Why did you choose to do Stephen Karam's adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and the role of Lopakhin?

Harold Perrineau:  Simon Godwin, the director, gave me a call and said, “We're doing this production of The Cherry Orchard and Stephen Karam’s doing the adaptation and I was wondering if you were interested in playing Lopakhin.”  I was more familiar with The Three Sisters, so I had to reread The Cherry Orchard, and then I watched it on Amazon just to refamiliarize myself with it and I thought, oh, this is  going to be amazing. It is an interesting time to do The Cherry Orchard because politically things were changing at that time in Russia just as they are changing here. People who were in power were being challenged, the country was changing culturally and economically – lives were in flux and were turbulent.

TS: As an actor of color, do you approach a role like Lopakhin in a different way, or is that not important to your process?

HP: I don't approach it any differently. I think it makes a lot of sense having a black man play this role. Chekhov wrote the play when the serfs were no longer slaves and they were slowly becoming part of the middle class. The aristocracy was in decline. Slavery is a part of my heritage and I come from a poor background. My mom used to wash floors and clean other people's homes, so I understand Lopakhin  --  his parents were indentured servants and now he is a hardworking businessman who loves the fancy life, but realizes he comes from nothing. That translates very easily. There are plenty of similarities between my background and Lopakhin’s that resonate for me.

TS:  Other than reading the text, what else do you have to do to prepare for a role like this?  

HP: I believe in a playwright’s words. Even when I'm doing television, I try my best to find out what the writer is trying to convey -- that's my part of this puzzle as an actor – if I can make that meaning come to life, then my work as an artist is fulfilled. Acting is bringing these souls to life. I really try to figure out where they are coming from. I have been doing a lot of reading about Chekhov, where he was in his life when he wrote this play and why he wrote what he wrote. I am reading the other plays and his short stories, but I am most interested in what was happening during the time he wrote The Cherry Orchard, which was his last play. I try to extract things that are relevant to me, then build the soul of Lopakhin’s character.

TS: It is often said your character, Lopakhin, is a self-made man. Do you agree with that appraisal?

HP: My family is from Brooklyn. No one in my family was ever an actor, let alone a successful actor. That's a journey that I've gone on, and I have had a lot of help throughout, but a lot of the time, it has just been me building my career. I understand the kind of continued work and dedication that you need to build a career that doesn't necessarily come naturally to you. And then navigating in the world that you've become part of – that is a huge challenge. At the beginning of my career, I really felt like a fish out of water, but I found a way to become a part of it, as opposed to always being on the outside looking in. That is what is happening to Lopakhin in the play. There's so much about this new world of affluence that he really seems to admire and enjoy, but he didn't grow up with it.

Harold Perrineau (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

Harold Perrineau (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

TS:  What do you think the play is about?  

HP: I am still discovering it, but the play feels to me like it's a commentary on privilege. And what your responsibilities are being part of the privileged class. I feel like Ranevskaya and her family have all this privilege, but they don't know what to do with it. There's some sort of commentary in this play about the fact that nothing lasts forever and you can't idly sit by and expect it to. That's what happens in The Cherry Orchard: the aristocrats sit idly by while change happens. The country evolves, the city evolves, evolution happens, and some people are unaware of it.

TS: Can you talk a bit about what you perceive to be the relationship between Lopakhin and Ranevskaya?

HP: I can't wait to start diving into it a bit more. Lopakhin eventually buys the cherry orchard, and I don't think it's just about power. I think some of it has to do with her, she's so dynamic. Everybody loves her. She's special. And people like that, you want to be around -- you want a piece of them. I think he's in love with her.

TS: It makes sense when you consider that Ranevskaya is trying to foist him onto Varya. If he's holding a torch for Ranevskaya, it seems obvious that he would never ask Varya to marry him.

HP: Right. But it's so unspoken between them.

TS: It’s unsynchronized passion.

HP: Exactly. I feel that when Lopakhin buys the cherry orchard, in some desperate way, he thinks Ranevskaya will say, “We can be here together. We can be together. “

TS: Do you think Lopakhin may not care for Varya because she's too much like him?

HP: I think it’s because her mother is just so much more dynamic than she is. Varya seems nice enough, woman enough, and he'd still be part of the family. It would all make sense if he can just hold onto whatever he is feeling for her mom. Hopefully, if we build it well enough, it'll almost be impossible for him to be in the room with the two women together.  This passion is so deep with him. He says when he was a kid, Ranevskaya was nice to him. He’s been holding a torch for this woman ever since he was a child.

TS: What do you look for in a director?

HP: I really like to collaborate. There are times when it's not possible. You work with directors who just don't have the language to speak with actors. I find that happens more in films, but I really look for an artistic partner, and I look to be an artistic partner. I love that we come in for a night and we only have that night to tell the story, and whatever happens, it's only for all of us who are in the theatre that night. We will have to work as an ensemble, as a team, in order to create this very special evening. So I look for a director to create a production that we can perform eight times a week and have an experience with. I look for someone to help guide and shape this entire thing.

TS: I'm wondering if you would talk a bit about where you got your training. Did you have any teachers who profoundly influenced you?

HP: I had a number of teachers who profoundly influenced me. I was a violinist in high school. I went to Shenandoah Conservatory, a music conservatory, where we had this great theatre director named Harold Herman. I left Shenandoah because I got a scholarship to dance at the Alvin Ailey School. I danced at Alvin Ailey for years and years but really wanted to be an actor. Eventually, I stopped dancing and I studied acting at the William Esper Studio, where I studied with Barbara Marchant -- that changed my whole way of thinking about being an actor. When I first went there I would do this thing -- I would think in my head, how would Denzel do it? How would Sam Jackson do it? And Barbara said, “How would Harold do it?” And that one question changed the way I approached acting for the rest of my life.

TS: Any advice for young people who want to have an acting career?

HP: I always say you should really study and learn and have a craft that's yours -- that can't be taken away from you -- because it's so hard to be an actor emotionally. You're being turned down, you're being told that the thing that you're selling, your wares, are not good enough, they're not strong enough, you're too short, you're too skinny, you're too fat, you’re too dark, you’re too light. Things that just beat you up over and over and over and over and at every level, it gets trickier and trickier. But if you have craft, that's the thing that you can always carry with you. I tell people: work and learn your craft. No one can ever take that away from you.


The Cherry Orchard is now playing at the American Airlines Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, The Cherry Orchard, Upstage

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Playwright Mike Bartlett

Playwright Mike Bartlett

Ted Sod: Where were you born and educated? When and how did you decide to become a playwright?

Mike Bartlett: I was born in a small town called Abingdon, just south of Oxford. I was very lucky in that my secondary school had a big theatre and a really good drama teacher. I started off by acting in school plays, then directed a play or two. I went to Leeds University, studying English and Theatre Studies, and it was a fantastic course that allowed us to really experiment and explore the possibilities of making all sorts of work. By the time I left I was pretty sure I wanted to be a director, but I found I would write brilliant cover letters to get me the interview for the assistant director job, then get an interview and mess it up. There’s a skill a young director must have: to be able to communicate your vision in person, without actually having any work to prove what you can do. I wasn’t great at that, so when I wasn’t doing any directing, I started writing instead and found I was much happier. I wrote some short plays, and I went into the Young Writers Program at the Royal Court Theatre, taught by Simon Stephens. I had my first play produced in 2007 at the Royal Court Theatre, entitled My Child. The Royal Court did a brilliant thing. They said, even before My Child was staged, “We’re also going to commission another play from you straight away.” That was a turning point for me, being able to just focus on writing. From then on, I’ve written plays and, more recently, television.

TS: What inspired you to write Love, Love, Love?

MB: I was feeling that my generation I was born in 1980 was scrambling around in London, not able to make ends meet, living in terrible flats, struggling to pay rent, trying and often failing to do what they wanted in life, but at the same time being hit over the head all the time with stories about how great things used to be. Stories of the ‘60s and early ‘70s and the amazing lifestyles that young people had then. My generation would go back home from their tiny flats to visit their parents, who were living in huge houses with big empty rooms and lots of money. And it occurred to me that so many aspects of the culture in Britain preferred that particular generation over young people now -- and because there are more of them and more of them vote, it’s going further and further that way. And then, the other side, which I think is equally important to the play, are the criticisms of the older generation towards my generation: If you care so much, why aren’t you more politically active? Why don’t you do what we did? Why don’t you fight for these rights? Why don’t you protest and vote, and get involved and change things? And they’ve got a point. Are we the generation that moans, but does nothing? Those two opposing views made me think that it’s a great subject to explore through a family over time.

TS: This play spans the years 1967 through 2011. What type of research did you have to do on the time period in which you weren’t yet alive?

MB: I remember as a child my grandmother’s flat felt like it was still in the ‘60s. My parents and grandparents would talk about what it was like in 1967. For instance, one thing that surprised me was that very few people had telephones in 1967. More people had televisions than telephones, and that sort of thing makes a huge difference to what it feels like to be in a room or how you would meet someone. I think all those details are fascinating. A bit of that 1967 scene is my own experience, in terms of the places I’ve been. And importantly a lot of it is imagination.

TS: In the early 1990s, you were just coming into the tween years. You must be an astute observer of behavior.

MB: I think most 12-year-olds are very astute observers of behavior. Many parents underestimate how much their children know and see, and how much they remember. I think that’s why childhood memories are so vivid. You’re just like a sponge. You soak up places and smells, and definitely behavior as well. I think, as a child, you’re particularly fascinated by what adults are doing and why they do it. The trick is actually maintaining that as you get older. It’s being as open, observant, and sponge-like as you can into adulthood.

Zoe Kazan and Ben Rosenfield (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Zoe Kazan and Ben Rosenfield (Photo by Joan Marcus)

TS: I listened to a BBC interview you did, and you said once you have an idea for a play and you’ve decided it is worth writing about, you put yourself in hibernation. Is that true?

MB: It depends on what it is. But, yes, broadly speaking, I think that’s the case. I’m not like a monk. I don’t lock the door and not see anyone. But I do try and  stay in the zone as much as I can, until I’ve got to the end of that first draft. With this play, I wrote the first draft very quickly in a week or two. Because once you have a sense of the setup, what you want to do is let the characters loose. The state I want to be in with the characters, if I get it right, is that I’m not in full control of them. They are driving the drama forward, through what they want to do - through their emotions and psychology and desires. All I’m doing is transcribing what they tell me. I know perhaps that sounds a little unhinged, but it’s a bit like when you dream. Everyone creates stories and characters who want things and have goals and overcome obstacles when they dream.

TS:  Many of our audience members are Baby Boomers, and they’ve lived through the very years portrayed in the first act of your play. What is it about that generation that intrigues you?

MB: You can’t deny the cultural, social, and economic impact the Boomers have had in Britain and, I suspect, in America. As young people, they completely revolutionized the culture. Then in middle-age, they revolutionized the economy and the entire country that they lived in. Now, they continue to change the dynamic and to define where their countries are politically and economically. As part of a younger generation, I can criticize that and I do find fault with many things that happened, but what I can’t do is deny that they are an unusually influential generation. If you look at what it was like in the mid-‘60s, in terms of the establishment and the country, when that generation came through, to where we are now, it’s an astonishing story. There’s nothing more boring than a one-sided play. And that’s not my aim with this it’s an honest and sincere exploration of the dreams that that generation had, which ones came true and what they managed to achieve. And, also exploring the ways in which this generation has been a failure. The best audience members for this play are Baby Boomer parents coming with their adult children.

TS: Are there specific things in the text that you have to change for an American audience?

MB: We are making some changes, but they’re more changes that I’ve wanted to make since the play was last on. I’ve got unfinished business with some sections. I found with King Charles III, when we brought it across to Broadway, I made all sorts of changes, because I was advised to be concerned about, in quotation marks, the American audience. Once we were on, I found the audience understood everything easily, and all the changes reverted back to the original version because I didn’t need to spell things out or explain things. The audience was just really smart and got it.

Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan (Photo by Joan Marcus)

TS: What do you look for from a director? What type of actors do you need for this specific play?

MB: The main thing I look for in a director is a real collaborator, because I come from a background of making theatre, not just writing for it. I love to be part of everything: design, performance, rehearsals. I need a director who understands that we’re making this all together. I love a director who is engaged with the text. And I don’t mind them questioning lines or pushing to make the play as good as possible. And then with actors, I think my work has a rhythm to it. I love the sound of a line. I love punctuation. I like hitting the full stop. And I love using dashes, ellipses, interruption points, all to convey intention. Rhythm conveys intention in English. So, I need actors who are really up for that.

TS: What advice do you have for a young writer?

MB: The main thing that I found is if you worry about quality, you’ll just get stuck. You’ll write three lines and say, “Oh, God, it’s not as good as Shakespeare!” Whereas, really what you need to do is let yourself go and give yourself permission to write absolute rubbish. Just write, write, write. See lots of plays and read lots of plays, but write huge amounts, because you’ve got to get the practice in. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And if you’re tempted to start chasing agents and networking in theatre bars and going to lots of play development type things, question whether you’d be better off spending those hours writing something new, rewriting what you’ve got, or just practicing. What I have discovered is, all the time I spent trying to artificially further my career or “networking” was a complete waste of time. As soon as I could actually write something of any worth, it did the work for me. That’s how you get a career as a writer, by writing something that means something to an audience.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Love Love Love, Upstage

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