The last time Marc Grapey appeared on the Goodman stage was in February as attorney Jack Lawson in Race, a snappy four-character legal drama by David Mamet that speeds by in just over an hour. Race was our shortest play of the season, and just two months after its run ended Marc returned to the Goodman to take on the role of Chuck Morello in The Iceman Cometh, which has a cast of 18 and clocks in at 4 hours and 45 minutes—our longest play of the season.
|Marc Grapey as Jack Lawson in Race
(Photo by Eric Y. Exit)
||Marc Grapey as Chuck Morello in Iceman
(Photo by Liz Lauren)
For professional actors it goes without saying that every play is different, every role is different, and every production is different. But with Marc’s two Goodman experiences this season at the opposite end of the running-time spectrum, I asked him to share his thoughts on how the length of a play affects an actor’s experience—from the rehearsal process to performance.
Marc invited me to chat with him backstage during the first act of a recent Iceman matinee, which immediately brought to light one of the more notable differences in his experience—in Race, Marc was on stage for most of the play’s 80 minutes, but in Iceman he doesn’t even make his initial entrance until about an hour into the play. We talked in the dressing room he shares with two other Iceman cast members, John Hoogenakker and Salvatore Inzerillo, while the dialogue of the first act (which is coincidentally, the exact length of Race, start to finish) piped into the room on the performance monitor.
Lesley Gibson: Is your preparation process any different for a longer show? Do you have to start learning your lines sooner than you would for a shorter play?
Marc Grapey: No I don’t think the process is any different; I approach them both the same, and I actually learned my lines sooner for Race because I had so many more of them. I’m on stage in Iceman a lot but I don’t have that many lines. But I always try to come into rehearsal off-book; I’ve done that for about five years now. For this play it took about week; for Race I needed a month.
LG: Is the rehearsal process any different for such a long show?
MG: Iceman was a little different because we got an extra week of rehearsal and an extra hour every day—usually from 10am to 7pm—because the cast was so large. And Bob used all of that time. With Race, not only did we have a shorter play but Chuck is extremely efficient as a director. Not that Bob isn’t, but with Iceman there was a lot of extracurricular activity around the rehearsal process. A lot of storytelling, and so on. With Chuck we’d get in and get out and sometimes we’d rehearse only four hours a day.
LG: Is your daily prep any different now that the show is up and running?
MG: It is a little different because in Race I never left the stage. I would go up on the stage and warm up, and then I’d get dressed and at “places” I’d go and get on stage. Now at “places” I know I have another hour before I have to even get ready.
LG: What do you do during that hour?
MG: I think about my lines and look at my crossword puzzle and just relax. For all shows I usually give myself an hour to unwind before every performance, but with this show it ends up being an hour and a half, so it’s just very leisurely. I never have to rush to get ready. I shave; take a break; brush my teeth; take a break; put on my pants; take a break; and so on. The whole thing is a long leisurely journey. But it’s just the first hour that’s like this; I’m on stage a lot in acts two, three and four. Race was much more intense for me. This is just longer.
LG: Is your post-show routine any different after such a long play?
MG: It’s a different post show because nothing’s open; my social life’s going to hell [laughs]. I’m saving money now—when I was in Race the show would end around 8:15 every night, and we used to go over to Petterino’s and we’d hang out, eating and drinking and having fun. Which is pretty standard; a lot of times after any show a lot of members of the cast—a certain group of people—always go to the bar after a show. But now everything’s closed when the show’s over so we all go home. Or we all hang out in [the dressing room] for a little while and unwind after the show. We have a little refrigerator and after the show sometimes we’ll all hang out and drink beers.
LG: Do you think about these kinds of things—the off stage experience—when you’re offered a role in a particularly long production?
MG: I think about it with every show; as I got older I think about lifestyle more than I used to. I think about when it’s going to end, I think about how long rehearsals are going to be. And since I take the Metra downtown, I think about how long it’s going to take me to get home. With this show I don’t get home until 1am.
But during a long show the most important thing is having a good dressing room, and I have a great dressing room. The three of us really get along, we have a lot of laughs in here, and we’ve made our own little hangout after the show since everything’s closed; it’s like our little clubhouse. People know that it’s always open after the show—we play some music, we have a few beers, everyone’s welcome to come by.
LG: Have you noticed how the length of the play affects audiences?
MG: I’ve been impressed with the audiences—their attention, how quiet they are. I think they’re really great, they really stick with it. I expected people to be dropping off as they night moved on, but people stay to the end and they’re with us the whole way. Things that are brought up in act four that are relevant to act one they pick up on, and at the end there’s always this giant up swell of emotion. It’s mutual—I think they applaud us and we send that back to them in appreciation of their attention. It’s like, “Hey we did this together, we did this journey together for five hours.”