Tour-de-Force with O’Hara and Sandman

The 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).

One of the stars of THE SANDMAN spent some time with us, discussing the production and the time period. Winning high-praise for her portrayal of a down-and-out actress is Valerie O’Hara. Let’s hear what a  leading actress things of playing the other end.

headshot 2015-6NY in the 70 was a tough place … is it better now?

I was living in the suburbs in New Jersey during the ’70s, so I don’t have a lot of first-and experience of what the city was like.  I do remember, though, that there were definitely areas you didn’t want to go into alone, and Times Square was rife with triple-X movie houses and questionable characters.  The transformation of midtown, especially the Times Square area, makes NYC seem like some kind of theme park, with chain restaurants, musical theater based on Disney cartoons, and pedestrian islands.  The city was grittier 40 years ago, but also more genuine.
This is an expansive play, would it make a good movie?
I tend to think of plays as driven by words and movies as driven by images.  I believe we do a good job of telling an interesting story with our production, but can see how it would also make a very good movie.  A translation to film would allow location shooting (especially out in the woods), mood music and lighting for the bar and pool hall, and POV and close-up reaction shots.  Plus, the transformation at the end could be more complete.


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

I have a thoroughly delicious supporting role as Peggy, who spends a good deal of her time at the Sandman.  Lynn graciously provided me with a lot of Peggy’s back story in the text of the play, which has made it easy for me to get inside her skin and her head.  If anything, I tend to approach a role intuitively rather than technically.  I have been told that it is important to find something to like about any character you play, even if the character is evil.  Well, Peggy is far from evil and I just LOVE her!  


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  

The first time I stepped on stage was right here, in 2006, when this was the Chernuchin Theatre.  It was a single performance of a one-act play in a play festival.  Since then, I’ve been in shows in all of the theaters at ATA, including two Shakespeare productions in this theater, and it feels like home.


What’s next?   

I don’t have any projects in the works after The Sandman, so I guess it’s a matter of what happens in auditions!

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