With The Dance of Death, two Writers Theatre veterans, Larry Yando and Shannon Cochran, return to Books On Vernon for the first time in many years. Joining them for his first bookstore production is Philip Earl Johnson, who appeared previously at Writers Theatre in 2009’s Old Glory at Tudor Court. We asked this tremendous cast what they are most looking forward to about bringing to life Strindberg’s harrowing and hilarious The Dance of Death in the intimate Books on Vernon space.
Shannon Cochran – Alice
The well-known intimacy of the bookstore should prove to be a funny and frightening challenge for both actors and audience with this play, hopefully akin to a great theatrical house of horrors! Strindberg has always been a source of fascination to me. I’m aware of his well-documented mistrust of the emancipated woman. But his notion that all men and women can do is struggle against each other for power and domination, and know they are in a trap from which they cannot emerge, is more troubling. Stella Adler said “[In a Strindberg play], all logic, predictability, and order are lost. What is important is the desperate need of the moment.” How exciting is that???
Philip Earl Johnson – Kurt
My first response to this play was shock and maybe even a little fear. So much bad behavior and so many agendas! I had other work possibilities for this time period, but I felt it was time to reinvest myself as an artist. At this point in my life, I only want to be challenged. I have found that over time, the projects that push me past my comfort level are the ones I am most glad that I have done. When I saw who I would get to work with, in the most intimate space in Chicago, in a play that gave me such a shock, I had to be a part of it.
Larry Yando – Edgar
I truly believe it should be a requirement for all actors to do a play in the bookstore once a year. As actors, we basically have 2 obligations: to dig and dig in a never ending search for some complex truth about the role we are playing, AND, to reveal it to the audience who has been kind enough to want to witness it. Now, in a large theatre of 300 or more people, the practical need to perform for the back row can color that truth. In the bookstore, that part of the equation is taken away. It’s almost like getting back to basics; any sense of artifice is removed and an actor feels very exposed. I think we do our best work when we are vulnerable, and that feeling of exposure eventually leads to a crystalline illumination of the truth.