Yesterday I attended an event sponsored by the Producers of Superior Donuts where the cast, director and author of SD met with a group of Theater Bloggers. I believe it was the first event of its kind for Broadway and I applaud Jeffrey Richards for setting up the event. It is now clear, at least to me, that Broadway is beginning to fully embrace the digital world in its marketing efforts. Below are some interesting facts about the company as well as some wonderful insights the Cast and Tracy Letts gave me as we talked.
- 5 of 7 cast members as well as 2 understudies are making their Broadway debuts with this production
- Most all had to move their lives here to NYC for the production, finding new places to live and changing their lives.
- The play has been extensively rewritten since its first production last summer at Steppenwolf.
- Superior Donuts was the most successful play in Steppenwolf Theater history!
On stepping into the Music Box Theater - Cliff Chamberlain (Kevin Magee)' - "I couldn't believe how small it felt and how intimate it was."
On being in a Broadway show -Yasen Peyankov (Max Tarasov) - "I am tickeled by the history of musical theater, Marlon Brando debuted at the Music Box, there is an energy that stays in every theater by the actors who have walked that stage. You can feel it when you are there."
On performing in Superior Donuts a year after the first production closed - Jon Michael Hill (Franco Wicks) - "The thing about his (Tracy Letts) writing is that it is so compact and complex that you can always find ways to go deeper. It been really fun getting back into it. And so much of it has been rewritten that it's like a new play."
On making her Broadway debut - Jane Alderman (Lady Boyle) - "All I can say is Holy Toledo. Its unbelievable, for me it's like an astronaut going to the moon." "I was on a bus today and as we passed 45th, I looked down 45th street, it was a zoo, and I thought, do these people know that I'm in that play. I wanted to shout out the window, hey I'm in here." "To be able to originate a role, and Oh God, then to have a chance to re-originate it and make it better on Broadway, I cannot describe it, I just can't. I mean, my God that's it." -
On revisiting a character - James Vincent Meredith (Officer James Hailey) - "It's not often that you get to do a role again. I look at it as a lucky opportunity to do it again. There's a level of comfort when come back in after a year away. It feels like you are putting on a new coat."
On revisiting the play - Kate Buddeke (Officer Randy Osteen) - "The re-writes that Tracy has done have given a lot more depth to everybody, taken them a little further, it's like another layer to the characters. I'm just excited to be back in NY with a Chicago group of actors.
On being in Broadway play and coming back to the role a year later - Robert Maffia (Luther Flynn) - "I can't tell the difference yet, I really can't. Does that makes sense. I'm still in the rehearsal space so when I get into the theater, maybe my ankles will start shaking a bit." "The changes he (Tracy) has made overall and to my character specifically, affect the choices I make and the tone of the scenes. It's not like starting from scratch but it's not doing the same thing."
Tracy Letts - on Broadway the second time around - "It's a lot easier the second time around. The first time we had a three hour, three act play, a three story set with 13 actors nobody had ever heard of and those kinds of plays aren't supposed to be successful and we knew that. We felt it was an important play, it was an important production so we felt a special kind of pressure to put it across as best we could. The it openend and it was a great success and that was a relief but it also meant there was a lot of work to do. It takes work to maintain a show. This is a lot easier, it doesn't have a lot of those pressures on it. The play itself (Superior Donuts) was created in a spirit of generosity that's kind of hard to define, it's hard to describe what that spirit is, but there's really no selfishness involved in the creation of this play. There is a real desire to share this work people, in the best sense, of giving a gift to people, you know. People keep asking me if I feel pressure and I haven't felt any at all, haven't felt a bit."
Tracy Letts on writing "It's always a little humbling to look back on a play and realize that I am all of those people. From the most noble to the sleaziest guy up there, they're all facets of myself. If they're not, chances are they are not very well written so Ill have to go back and work on them some more. I find the characters are oddly speaking to me, some wired sort of therapy for me, they are saying something back to me. These plays always have some sort of revelations for me. Donuts is about opening up, opening up to your fellow man, t open yourself up a little biut, this is who I am. No man is an island."
Tracy Letts on re-writing "It's hard, sometimes it's like carpentry. So much of the original creation of the thing is inspiration, there's kind of this weird mystical process there that I don't fully understand. But then I do understand the nuts an bolts of it, shaping it up. When you have a new play and sit around a table and read it for the first time, the fear is that they'll just throw it in the garbage, you hope they'll champion it, but the truth is somewhere in between. They'll say, that's really great, now let's go to work."
Go see this new play, it is hopeful, thought-provoking, moving, funny, and a good time. You wont be disappointed you went.