As Luna Gale enters its final days of performances, we asked Erik Hellman—who plays Cliff—to answer a few "backstage with" questions.
Goodman Theatre: Place of birth and/or hometown?
Erik Hellman: I was born and raised in Denver, CO. I came to Chicago to attend Northwestern and stayed after graduation.
GT: First professional role/production you were in?
EH: Professional is a slippery term in Chicago theater. I spent a couple years working in the great off-Loop theater scene, and though I might question it's professionalism, I would never impugn its ability to create work on par with any professional theater's. But, I suppose my first "professional" gig was in Court Theatre's 2007 production of Arcadia. I was a late addition to an amazing cast and played Valentine to Mary Beth Fisher's Hannah. I had to be excitable, awkward and in love with Mary Beth. It required very little acting.
||Erik Hellman in Luna Gale
GT: Favorite professional role/production you were in?
EH: I wish I could be the kind of actor that says "whatever I'm working on." I'm not. However, I can, truly, say that Luna Gale was very unique and special. Making theater is many things: frustrating, exhilarating, boring, impossible. It is rarely fluid and easy. This is not to say that Luna Gale wasn't the result of lots and lots of hard work, it was. But I have never been in a rehearsal room where what we were trying to accomplish (the world, the tone, the tightrope walk of this piece) was understood by everyone so tacitly, so deeply and so communally. When you have that kind of environment, the play just flows easily into what it needs to be. I think we are all going to be very spoiled on whatever project we work on next.
GT: Dream role or production you hope to be in in the future?
EH: My family is from Sweden so I am particularly interested in the great Scandinavian trio: Peer Gynt, Hamlet and Pippi Longstocking.
GT: Role you know you’ll never get to play because of your age/sex/race, but would love to play in an alternate universe, and why?
EH: See above. I've had the opportunity to play women before and I always enjoy it. There are so many physical things little boys are taught to do to keep from appearing feminine, and it is such a joy to forget them. It makes me feel like a kid again. I'd love to play Shakespeare's Cleopatra; there's no better role, I think. I would love to do an August Wilson play because they are gorgeous, and my friends who've done them seem to have had the most wonderful experiences. But since I am a white male in my 30's, I guess I will have to content myself with playing the 70% of the cannon that was written for me.
GT: Production or role you've experienced as an audience member that left you speechless?
EH: My girlfriend is spending the year as the stand-by for the lead in Once on Broadway. She goes on a lot and I got to see her do it before we started Luna Gale. It's great to see someone you love on Broadway. But what really knocked me out was seeing someone I know so intimately transform themself, and how willing I was to suspend my own disbelief. It was one piece of a larger privilege I feel working in this community, and getting to see my friends, my colleagues-people who are silly and flawed and lovely-get up on stage (and, increasingly, on screen) and become some stunningly other thing. Transformation: it's simple magic, but it gets me every time.