The Archbishop’s Ceiling presented by Regeneration Theatre.
The Archbishop’s Ceiling by Arthur Miller; Production directed by artistic director Barnaby Edwards
Regeneration Theatre presents a revival of a show never seen in New York City – The Archbishop’s Ceiling. Miller play tells of three old friends who meet up in an unnamed country, probably in Eastern Europe, and cannot be sure who is still a friend, who is still an enemy, and whether higher powers are listening in on every word they say for their own ends. Painfully timely, the production allows the audience to draw their own conclusions…
The Archbishop’s Ceiling by Arthur Miller
May 9 – 19 (Thursday – Saturday @ 7:00 p.m. and Sunday @ 2;00 p.m. with a special Monday showing (May 13) @ 7:00 p.m.) Regeneration.BrownPaperTickets.com
While the interview was slated to be with artistic director, Barnaby Edwards, he – a proponent on the collaborative aspect of the theatre – invited cast members to join in the discussion:
Tell us about yourselves as artists?
Jessica Carollo: As an artist, I hope to bring a different perspective or understanding to a person’s life. We are both the voice and experience for this character, so to have that honor to tell their story is what as an artist excites me. We offer not just a different perspective but an opportunity to understand what has led them to their actions. This is how we build the beginning stages of empathy and it’s something that is truly needed right now in this time in history.
Jon Spano: I love the process of exploration, no matter which phase of my career. I started as a dancer and later became a playwright. Although I studied acting at the end of my dance career and did a few plays, I never pursued it full-time until about three years ago. I love learning. I’m always learning. I’m a stickler for craft, no matter the art form. Know your craft. Appreciate its history. I love solid technique: dance, singing, writing, acting… I also then love to push past it or even throw it away. Because when you experiment and take risks, the foundation and craft are still there. I have to have that anchor. Natural skill and good instincts are a great place to start, and sometimes you’re lucky and that’s all you need for a project or two. But for the long-term, know your shit!
Michael Meth: Honestly, I haven’t known anyone who isn’t an “artist.” It’s part of being human. We all are connected to the divine source. Whether it manifests in fine arts, performance, craft, a great lasagna, parenting, or making a paycheck last until the end of the month. My story is that I got involved in theatre as a kid and it just stuck. I trained in stagecraft, lighting design, directing, writing and acting. I discovered that the theatre (and on-camera arts) had the power to help people connect to people and experiences beyond themselves and feelings within themselves. I just try to be useful within a company of people to make that happen for our audience.
Kristen Gehling: As an artist, I thrive in a collaborative environment. The rehearsal room is my happy place. The best part of theatre is the exchange of ideas, emotions, breath. We have that connection as creatives in the rehearsal room, we have that level of support as a cast on stage, and we have that ebb and flow with the audience every performance. The majority of my professional credits are musicals. But my training is classical – Williams, O’Neill, Miller (my favorite!). Theatre connects us on a base level – the story of our humanity.
What drew you to tackle a legend like Miller and why that piece? Do you find it topical … finally?
Barnaby Edwards: As a company, we’ve been working our way through playwrights active in the 60s to the 80s, which has become something of our niche, so it was only a matter of time until we reached Arthur Miller. The Archbishop’s Ceiling is a troubled play, and it took a while to figure out how to do it, but given the themes of surveillance, response to power, and where art fits in a country which is all about the few rather than the many, it seemed important that it be seen again. (Of course, it was also topical a few years after Watergate when it was first done, but perhaps the country was not ready to recognize it yet).
What innovation or personalizing (if you will) do you plan to bring to the production?
Barnaby Edwards: Given the relatively unknown nature of “The Archibishop’s Ceiling” and it’s suddenly very (unfortunately) prescient-again subject matter, it would seem like a disservice to Miller to innovate and personalize beyond just doing his play and his words. In the Washington DC tryout in 1978 his producers forced changes upon him to make the play simpler to understand, which have since been discarded. It would seem wrong to do anything else.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this piece? What have you done to make it as universal as possible? Or Have you?
Jon Spano: That Miller was attempting to work a politically dissident zeitgeist coming out of the Watergate era with repercussions that persist today. “Surveillance” and its potential to disrupt art, relationships, and justice. “Suspicion” is a big factor in this play, too. Art and artists are always under threat because we speak, write, act, dance, and sing the truth. Good liars make terrible artists. On the other hand, some artists – as represented by “Marcus,” the character I play – compromise their art, and their integrity, not just to “sell out” and live well, but literally to survive. To survive institutionalized oppression and one’s own brave-but-failed activism against it. The unfortunate consequence of that compromise is that the artist suffers at some level, no matter how outwardly successful the fruits of that compromise seem, because true freedom of artistic expression is lost.
Michael Meth: Obviously I hope our audience is engaged intellectually and emotionally. I hope they feel their time with us was well spent. Beyond that, I hope they take away opinions about the role of surveillance and the intrusiveness of the state. I also hope they consider Sigmund’s description of politics as theatre and have a spirited conversation about that over a nice piece of cake.
Kristen Gehling: I hope the audience leans into this piece. I hope they leave the theatre with a better idea of how they stand as an ethical and moral human being. This is a story of devotion to friendship, self, and country. Whose life would you preserve – your comrade’s or your own? Would you risk your life to save something you’ve never read but trust in your bones is a masterpiece? It’s not an easy discussion to have. I hope more people will have it.
Jessica Carollo: To appreciate the freedoms and opportunities we have. That our instincts are our biggest ally. Putting politics aside, we have a chance to speak our truth and express ourselves. This play reminds us that any form of expression is a gift. We must treasure this and be able to share it with the world. No government should have any control over how we think and perceive things.
What’s next for you?
Jessica Carollo: I’m very fortunate enough to not only be an actress. I’m also a producer and video editor. I’m the Producer of an on-line series called, NYC Smile 4 Me where we go around different red carpets asking the simple question, “What makes you smile?” Based on their answer we do a full interview. I’ve been a part of it for 3 years now and since it’s award season for Theatre in NY, we’ll be busy. Please visit nycsmile4me.com to check out our past interviews which includes, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Bette Midler, Lin Manuel Miranda and many others!
Kristen Gehling: I closed a two-person musical (“John and Jen”) two days ago in Alabama. I Skyped in for the first read-through with this lovely cast. After this, I have a month before I head to The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival to play the role of Raffaela in “Grand Hotel” directed and choreographed by Brett Smock.
Michael Meth: Ditching Alexa.
Barnaby Edwards: Next up for Regeneration is Michael Cristofer’s “The Shadow Box”, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award in 1977 and asks us what happens when our health fails, how we react, and how are we supported; once more it is a timely discussion we should be having given the important of healthcare in our national discourse, which is what Regeneration strives to encourage.
Barnaby Edwards concluded with a surprise: “One of the things we do at Regeneration is to put the writing first. Aside from this rare classic, our “Next-Up” series, which accompanies the mainstage production, will present readings of two other lesser known Miller plays on May 14 & 15. Keep your eyes on the Facebook page for updates: http://facebook.com/regenerationtheatreco“