In 8 days I open DYING CITY by Christopher Shinn. It’s a beautiful play, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and had it’s NY premiere at Lincoln Center. My theater company, The Seeing Place, is really honored to be the first company to revive the play in NYC since its first production. (No pressure, right?)
The play follows the story of Kelly (my character) who lost her soldier husband, Craig, in Iraq one year before. Showing up at her doorstep is Peter, Craig’s twin brother (someone she has been trying in vain to avoid.) The play bounces back and forth between that day, and 1.5 years earlier on Craig’s last night with Kelly. I’m lucky enough to play opposite my love of more than two years, Brandon Walker, who has the monumental task of playing both twins (Craig & Peter.)
Creating the role of Kelly has been really thrilling and also very, very challenging. On the surface, it’s kind of a head-trip playing opposite Brandon when he’s playing the twin brother, Peter. Peter is gay, and part of the conflict in the play is that Peter looks exactly like Craig, who is dead. It’s exceedingly difficult to suspend my disbelief and accept that this is not the love of my life. But it creates a really weird sexual tension that is completely inappropriate. So, that’s kind of a head trip. It’s also a little crazy to be playing opposite Brandon when he's playing Craig, who is Kelly's husband but throughout the play you discover that there's an estrangement. It's hard enough to keep a relationship strong, but to be on stage every night in desperate circumstances it makes it a challenge to keep the relationship whole. At the end of rehearsal each night we have to find a way back to each other - we usually do it by going out to a restaurant or bar with our fellow castmates and winding down. (This leads to many a late night...) :)
I think the hardest thing about the play is having to tap into my inner grief and all of its elements, which is something that we as humans try our best to avoid. Those of you who know me know that I experienced two losses in recent years: my father (to a heart attack at age 69) and my dog, who was my best friend for nearly 17 years. So I have a lot to draw from in creating the grief that Kelly is feeling, but it’s a well that becomes pretty scary to dip into. As actors we are trained and crafted so that our minds and our bodies can understand the difference between fantasy and reality. But sometimes we become afraid that we’re going to go so deep that we’ll get confused and never come out of it.
My father died in 2006, and I've had a copy of the book, “A Year Of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion on my bookshelf, waiting for the day that I’d be ready to read it. I cracked it open today, and by page 14, I had a complete breakdown. (My apologies to the people around me on the bus - I was “that person” today!) My own experiences with my father’s death came rushing back to me, but I was also starting to understand an element of death that I’ve never experienced - the loss of a partner/spouse. It's important research, and it's a journey I'm willing to go through because I want to tell a full story with this play.
So, I’m going to muscle through the finish the book, and I’m going to bring all of the joy, pain, hurt, suffering and healing to my role start February 21. If you’re in the NY area, it would mean everything to me to have you there so I can share it with you. The theater cannot exist without an audience - not because we need ticket sales, but theater is a collaboration between an audience and its storytellers. It’s why The Seeing Place’s slogan is “Voyeurism, Simplified” - we honor the relationship between the voyeur and exhibitionist, the game of which is that both parties get their kicks by pretending that the other doesn’t know they are there. :)
Tickets are only $12 and can be reserved at SmartTix (click the link.) You can also find full details on The Seeing Place’s site.
DYING CITY by Christopher Shinn
February 21-March 9, 2014
Wed-Sat 7pm, Sat-Sun 2pm
The Seeing Place @ ATA’s Sargent Theater
314 W 54th St, 4th Floor
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Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.