Meredith Rust: Playing with the Boys in the Sand[man]

17796453_2908919455812331_2638689124875306622_nThe American Theatre of Actors concentrates on dark New York back stories for its summer cutting-edge series. THE SANDMAN, written by Lynn Navarra and directed by Ken Coughlin, tells the story of two beat cops, moonlighting in construction, caught up in a battle between a pub owner and the Irish mob… NYC circa 1979 … will be revived for a limited run, August 9 – 20 (Wed. – Sat. @ 8:00 pm and Sun. @ 3pm). Performances for this revival will be held at The John Cullum Theatre of the American Theatre of Actors. For reservations, call 212.581.3044. Tickets are $20 (cash at the door).
Meredith Rust does well holding her own among the burly tough guys she has to encounter in Lynn Navarra’s play.

NY in the 70 was a tough place … is it better now? 

NYC was a gritty place in the 70’s, Safety was a big concern. Especially for women. My character talks about not feeling safe anymore. The Sandman takes place at the very end of a tough decade full of decline, bankruptcy, gangs, fires, and violence. Muggings were to be expected, robberies, murders. The numbers were on the rise. Poor people were desperate and the city had nothing to give them. Times Square was downright dirty, sex workers and porn theaters everywhere. Alphabet City was a burned out shell, full of drug dens and burgeoning punk rockers who were the only ones tough enough to move to such a desolate place. New York is very different now. It is changing rapidly. Old neighborhoods are getting major facelifts. In many ways it’s the reverse of the 70’s, which saw “white flight” of middle class New Yorkers moving out to the suburbs because it was a place they no longer wanted to raise their kids, now the “white flight” is into the city, and Brooklyn. There are strollers and kids on scooters everywhere you look. The people that make it here have money. Young adults are moving here straight from college to get their dream job, and eventually buy a brownstone in Brooklyn and renovate it, and move in and start a family. And they plan to stay.

This is an expansive play, would it make a good movie? 

I think The Sandman would make a great movie!

What is your role in the play and what is your creative process? 

I play Diane Cassidy, the Irish-American wife of Irish bar owner Tommy Cassidy. The upkeep of the bar and my husband’s drinking and shenanigans have taken their tolll, on both of us. I have a nostalgia for the seventies and have always wanted to own my own bar, so this is a real fantasy role for me. I have a lot of my moms’ clothes from the seventies, as well as some I’ve acquired myself. So the costumes are really fun for me and that helps me to form my character, but really Lynn Navarra’s writing is the basis for everything. There are so many nuances that I can draw upon to create the world of the Sandman in my head, which I hope translates to the audience. I search for the truth in every line, and In every scene and relationship. There is so much there to draw on. The world keeps getting bigger the more I explore it.

Your are in an historic theater. There’s only about three or four of the “original” off-off Broadway spaces left, how is it to work there.

ATA is such an in retesting place to work. It’s a whole world that Jim Jennings has created here and he runs a tight ship. He is completely dedicated to running every aspect of it for over 40 years, back to when he first opened it.  So many great actors have trod the boards. It is really an inspiration. I feel very lucky. I have also met so many great and generous people that work here regularly. It’s a great group to be a part of. Last year I was in a Jim Jennings original play and I was bestowed the Jean Dalrymple best supporting actress award for my work in it. I felt incredibly honored.

What’s next?   

Next up for me is work with another company I am a member of called Wednesday Repertory Company, or Wedrepco. We are currently working on a full length original play which we are workshopping and we will have a reading in September for that. We do two one act shows yearly that each of us has either written, will direct or perform in, and the next is in November at the Iati Theater on east 4th St. Dan Lane Williams (Donny Finn) and Tony Scheer (Ian O’Rourke) are also members and will be a part of it.

sandman poster 3
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