|Tara Sissom as Pearl
(Photo by Liz Lauren)
The Goodman’s production of The Iceman Cometh caps off at four hours and 45 minutes, and six times a week the marathon production takes the actors and the audience on a thrilling emotional journey. With nearly 50 performances of Iceman scheduled, the actors who work every day to bring this piece to life may have one perspective at the beginning of the eight-week run—when expectations are high and the general excitement of opening a show is pervasive—and another towards the end of the long run. We talked to Iceman cast member Tara Sissom, who plays one of the “tarts,” Pearl, to compare her perspective at the beginning of the run to her perspective at the end. Stay tuned for our follow-up with Tara in mid-June, when we’ll ask her the same set of questions and see if her answers have changed.
What are your preshow rituals?
I get to share a dressing room with all the ladies in the show. Our room is filled with so many flowers, I now refer to it as the Dressing Room Botanical Gardens! We have an amazing dresser Mieka, who helps us from everything from corsets to wigs and without her we'd be naked, hairless characters. In act three we all have quite a break, and it's been lovingly referred to as “chips o'clock,” because we'd regularly hit the vending machines and indulge. But now we've upgraded to salami, cheese and crackers. I like to play Edith Piaf and dim the lights while we enjoy our mid-show tapas.
How do you feel at the beginning of the performance?
Before the show I am so excited that I get to play with such great people!
What is your favorite line from The Iceman Cometh?
When Harry Hope screams at Cora at his birthday party, when she’s playing the piano: “Ya dumb Tart, quit banging that box! Bejees—the least you could do is learn the tune.”
What is your favorite moment in the show? [Caution: SPOILER BELOW!]
My favorite moment in the show is in act four—it is a completely silent moment when Hickey turns to look at everyone in the bar, and seeing he cannot force them to give up their pipe dreams, releases them by claiming he is really insane. For a moment that is so quiet, it is the greatest shift in the show and to me, the most profound.
What is one word to describe your experience on stage?
How do you feel at the end of the performance?
Like we all could use a drink.
What’s the most interesting or unique thing about your character?
Not the most interesting thing but interestingly enough, I gave my character a last name because O'Neill chose not to: Pearl Vignola. Although I also like to pretend that she is a woman living before her time and she only has one name because she was bound to be iconic, like Madonna or Cher.