All Things Sarah Ruhl

Following a brief hiatus, The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl returns to the Commonweal stage through October 22. You may not know much about Sarah Ruhl, you may have never even heard the name Sarah Ruhl before…Drama Unfolds to the rescue! In this edition, I have included several links to interviews with Sarah, stories about her and, especially, her thoughts and inspirations on the gorgeous play of hers on our stage for the next four weekends. Read all of them now or save some and keep coming back for further reading. And now, all things Sarah Ruhl.

“Putting Things up Against Freud”

—Your dialogue often reads like poetry, filled with poetic lines breaks and metaphors. How did you develop your unique writing style?
I started out as a poet, became a playwright, and kept going. I think playwriting contains all other genres, including poetry, the essay (or argument), story, song… And it’s one thing that draws me to the form again and again — the way it folds all the other genres in. Click here to read the full interview from Proscenium Theatre Journal.

—Sarah Ruhl on Subtext. Click here to watch the full video.

—Sarah Ruhl: “I think our generation has to look at Sigmund Freud and Freud’s impact, and many of us say, Oh, maybe Freud didn’t have it right. Something that he was right about he got from literature: the Oedipal complex, from the Greeks. So maybe we ought to go back to the Greeks instead of back to Freud on the Greeks.” Click here to read the full BOMB Magazine interview.

—Sarah Ruhl and her plays remind us to be ten once more and play, to wonder if stones have thoughts as in Eurydice, if cell phones are portals to the afterlife as in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, and if jokes in other languages were funny enough to kill you as in The Clean House. To be childish, to be childlike — to be ten! Click here to read the full Breaking Character Magazine article.

—I grew up seeing pictures of my mother all over the house flying, in green tights. She played Peter Pan as a girl in Davenport, Iowa. I was also mesmerized by a photo taken by the local paper of my mother as a teenager standing next to Mary Martin (pictured here). My early love of the theatre was formed in the crucible of my mother’s flight, as it existed in memory. A year after writing For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday for my mother, I sat down with her in Evanston, Ill., where she lives, to ask her a little bit about her long life in Chicago theatre. Click here to continue reading an interview by Sarah Ruhl of her mother Kathleen.

The Clean House is now playing on Monday & Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in rep with Dracula: Prince of Blood. This is a limited run of twelve performances.
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy.

Portraying an Icon

Playing Literature’s Icons: A Different Kind of Challenge

by Jeremy van Meter

I just did an internet search for the names of the actors who have embodied the character that I am currently playing. Now, to be honest, I do not do the same search for every character that I play. That search is saved for only the iconic or the Shakespearean characters. And the man, so to speak, I am playing now is certainly one of literature’s most iconic.

My search resulted in seventy-seven other actors who have portrayed Count Dracula in some form or another. That search is specific to the film world which means that taking live theatre portrayals into account, that number most certainly reaches into the hundreds. Some highlights from my search:

  • Judd Hirsch of Taxi fame played the count in a made for TV movie entitled The Halloween that Almost Wasn’t.
  • John Caradine played the monster in Dracula vs. Billy the Kid. I promise I’m not making that title up.
  • Christopher Lee played Dracula in ten different films over the course of his career.
  • Robert Reed, the patriarch of The Brady Bunch, played the role in a vampiric episode of Fantasy Island.

Playing a well-known and iconic character is an interesting and fascinating challenge and, at times, can be an uphill struggle. I have known for quite some time that Scott Dixon was envisioning me as he was writing his title character in Dracula: Prince of Blood, an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. First of all, that is quite humbling and has made me take great care in how I created the character in rehearsal and how I play him in each performance. The other consideration was for all of those men who have played the role ahead of me. The one thing that I hope to never hear is that I am a reminder of Gary Oldman or that I sound like Frank Langella did when he played the role. The uphill climb of playing the iconic character is to find the specific nature and quality that makes the role “your own.” In so doing, I am being faithful to myself and my talent in not playing a carbon copy and I am being faithful to the vision of the playwright. An honest portrayal is my only task.

And speaking of iconic characters…my next role at the Commonweal is to play a radio actor playing George Bailey on-the-air in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. The answer to your question is, “No, I will not be playing Jimmy Stewart.”

Dracula: Prince of Blood is now playing at the Commonweal through November 11.
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 


Your Chance to Take the Stage

If you’ve joined us for a performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, you are well aware of the “volunteer” component of the piece. Four lucky, brave souls share stage time with Commonweal professionals to add combatants to the field and a whole lot of fun and laughter. Recently, Commonweal MDC member Kevin Kelleher tested the waters of the professional theatre stage by throwing his hat into the ring of volunteers. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, Kevin relives his debut. 

Make Your Professional Theatre Debut

by Kevin Kelleher

My friend Brian was the instigator. “When you go to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Commonweal just tell them you want to volunteer,” he said. “You’ll get to go on stage and be a part of the crowd,” he said. So, I volunteered! Up to the stage I go thinking I’d just be sitting there watching the action from the inside. Well, think again! The first thing I noticed was how dark the audience was, I could only make out the first couple of rows. When the actor/actress sitting next to me whispered “just follow my lead and everything will be alright,” I knew I was in for a more active time than I anticipated. My thoughts about how I should act quickly dissipated as the action on stage kept my full attention. When asked to spell bridge, I was afraid I’d blow it but it came out right. As the last “volunteer” left on the stage, I knew my time was going to end shortly. I made it through a word I’d never heard of but then the word their or perhaps there or maybe it was they’re, proved to be my Waterloo. Being escorted back to my seat falling into my friend’s arms pretending to be crushed thus ended my professional acting career. Thankfully for the audience and myself, I can now take that off my bucket list! The night was simply good fun and a learning experience to boot. Thanks for my professional live theatre debut, Commonweal!

As of today…Saturday, September 15…you have only five more chances to join us for a performance of the Bee and to “volunteer” to make your own professional live theatre debut. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee closes this month on Monday the 24th. Make plans now and perhaps you’ll make your own very special memory on the Commonweal stage!
GET TICKETS —> Performance Calendar
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy.