Jesse Williams and the Take Me Out crew are especially grateful to the Broadway plumber. Without hot water running through the pipes at the Schoenfeld Theater, the infamous dressing room scenes in the Tony-winning revival would have been even more intimidating for the actors who do it all on stage.
Initially, Williams jokes, the cold water pouring out of the showers was a unique problem. “[The water] must be pushed through the pipes. When it first comes out, it’s not friendly,” he says. “They’ve all seen ‘Seinfeld’… Shrinkage.”
While it’s sparked a lot of chatter, the two scenes featuring the completely naked men aren’t meant to create a sensation, but rather to showcase the fragility of hypermasculine egos.
“The audience needs to be confronted with what we are confronted with,” Williams shared diversity Broadway Breakfast business presented by the City National Bank. “We have to look at each other’s cocks every day. We have to be naked every day. As a spectator you have to decide whether to look up or down.”
Williams adds, “We joke that we should ask, ‘What did they say in that scene?’ Many of you do not know.”
“Take Me Out,” a comedic drama about a baseball player who comes out as gay at the height of his career, makes a rare return on October 27 after a five-month hiatus. Williams, who received a Tony nomination for his portrayal of MLB star Darren Lemming, admits he was hesitant to return to the stage.
“When they asked me into my dressing room in a week of eight or nine shows, I thought, ‘I need a nap.’ But after a pause that gave him time to reflect on the ‘unique and rare experience,'” he says: “I didn’t want it to end. He also shared that actor and producer LaTanya Richardson Jackson gave him a push to return. “I’ve never been happier.”
The logistics of one of the theater’s most debated sequences was one of many revelations at diversity Broadway Breakfast business presented by the City National Bank.
Other topics of discussion on the mornings of the panels and keynotes include Broadway’s efforts to diversify and the awkwardness that can arise when you’re taking notes with your spouse (well, that situation may be unique to LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who directs her husband Samuel L. Jackson in the revival of August Wilson’s play “The Piano Lesson”). Here are five takeaways:
Nothing beats live theatre
Samuel L. Jackson is the billionaire box office hit of Pulp Fiction and Avengers: Endgame. But, he says, “if theater were paid for like cinema, I wouldn’t be making films.”
“I have to do films because she likes things,” he says, pointing to his wife.
Jackson, who shares the stage with John David Washington and Danielle Brooks on “The Piano Lesson,” laments that people don’t applaud when you make movies and TV shows.
“Handles and [assistant director’s] never mind,” jokes Jackson. “They just want to know how many more takes you’re going to do.”
Put a broader spectrum of talent in the spotlight
Broadway is making strides to improve diversity and inclusion efforts. “Communication is the most important thing. We always want to hear what the room has to say,” says Crystal Lucas-Perry, who plays John Adams in the revival of 1776. “It creates better work.”
Ain’t No Mo playwright Jordan E. Cooper says these initiatives also include the need to create a safe and welcoming space for actors and other new talent to flourish in the community.
“Theatre asks you to give 145% of yourself,” he says. “You have to feel safe to do that. We make sure we take care of ourselves. This is a major shift that we have made as a community to engage with introspection about our own mental health.”
Even seasoned actors continue to hone their craft
Yes, veteran performers like Jackson still need a few takes to perfect the art of live theater. Regarding a “harmless line in the play” – his words – he struggled to get the tone. “I’ve tried whimsical, I’ve tried hard, I still don’t know what it means.”
Richardson Jackson fired back, “I told him what I thought it meant.”
It’s one of the many notes she had to share with her husband at work as a director.
“He doesn’t tolerate fools,” she says. “You must do your homework. You really have to know what you’re talking about.” Sometimes, when her spouse hesitated to make a note, she had to put the law down and say, “I’m telling you, this is a better choice.”
A changing audience for changing times
Lee Daniels, a producer of the new show Ain’t No Mo, wants his relatives to have a desire to go to Broadway.
“Theater is not for black people,” Daniels said on the Broadway Producers panel, moderated by City National Bank’s Erik Piecuch. “Unless you want to see Denzel [Washington] or viola [Davis] Crying, or Sam Jackson. It’s not for my nephews. We have to find our space.”
Tony-winner LaChanze, producer of Kimberly Akimbo and Topdog/Underdog, says clearing that space is necessary to attract new audiences to theater. “The future of Broadway requires inclusivity. We need representation.”
“I’m so thrilled to be part of the producing team on Topdog/Underdog because Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Corey Hawkins are the most dynamic black young actors in the business,” she says. “When you watch the show, you forget for a moment that you’re looking at two black men. You are watching two brothers.”
People are ready to come back to the cinemas
After a long break, the performers felt the love of eager viewers.
“People are so excited to be back in live theater,” says Lucas-Perry. Chris Wood, who stars in Almost Famous, agrees. “There’s nothing quite like electricity, whether you’re on stage or not. It’s otherworldly.”
For many people in the crowd, it’s the first time they’ve been able to socialize in public.
“Theatre is like church,” says Cooper. “Let people go to church.”
https://variety.com/2022/legit/variety-events/jesse-williams-take-me-out-business-of-broadway-1235405932/ Jesse Williams and ‘Take Me Out’ co-stars discuss the need for hot water in infamous shower scenes