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Drama Desk Panel Luncheon at Sardi's

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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Drama Desk Lunch and Panel
(Drama Desk Website)
William Wolf, Drama Desk President
(Sardi’s Website)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 7, 2008

This afternoon I was fortunate to be invited to my first Drama Desk luncheon, as a new member, and the panel lunch at Sardi’s was exemplary, in its festive, yet informative organization. William Wolf, President of the Drama Desk, presided over the greetings and the subsequent panel discussion and questions from the members. And, for the record, the lunch, prepared by Sardi’s seasoned staff, was delicious. It’s such a treat to dine among the renowned sketches of Broadway stars and New York celebrities.

Today’s panel, on a topic of theatrical dysfunctional families, consisted of the Moderator, Elysa Gardner, Theater Critic, USA TODAY, Tracy Letts, author of August: Osage County, and cast members of both August: Osage County (Rondi Reed, who plays Mattie Fae, Amy Morton, who plays Barbara, and Sally Murphy, who plays Ivy)and Pinter’s The Homecoming (Raúl Esparza, who plays Lenny, James Frain, who plays Teddy, and Ian McShane, who plays Max).

(See a Review of August: Osage County.)
(See a Review of The Homecoming.)

Tracy Letts and members of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company (August: Osage County) spoke about the experience of working in ensemble, that is, working like a family that plays a family. These actors know each other very well, so the interaction seemed easy. They also spoke about the audience reaction, during the three hour production, as being critical to their performance. They mentioned that Steppenwolf Theatre allows the actors to experiment, without fear of failure. They can take risks, since, in Chicago, there is little stress around awards, as there is in New York. In fact, they can even try directing. There was much talk about Jeffrey Richards, Producer of both shows, represented today.

As for the cast of The Homecoming, they also spoke about the importance of a live audience to the daily performance, its impact on each day’s delivery of a monologue, of a reaction, of physical tension or humor. They mentioned the concept of the ensemble performing like “a school of fish”, with one actor leading the collective momentum. Pinter told them, “Put on it what you will; I just write it”. They mentioned going onstage “as if you’re about to add a punch-line to a joke”. Ian McShane described the cast as a “combo that goes out and riffs every night”. William Wolf thanked the panel and warmed the lunch crowd to the upcoming 53rd Annual Drama Desk Awards, May 18, 2008. Click here for the new list of 2007-2008 Drama Desk nominees.

Rondi Reed Greets Her Fans
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Raul Esparza Greets His Fans
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Ian McShane and Sally Murphy
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Amy Morton Greets Her Fans
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

William Wolf, Drama Desk President
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at