EN ROUTE: Traveling at the Speed of Life

This continue our series EN ROUTE: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Cast of CUL-DE-SAC & Their Journey to our Stage

CUL-DE-SAC runs April 29 - May 14. LEARN MORE or BUY TICKETS.

What are the top five fascinating things we need to know about Bruch Reed?

lol. Fascinating? Well I dunno about that but here are some random tidbits:

I have been a rabid follower of local and national politics since I was a kid. I have been to jail for justice, for peaceably protesting the first Iraq War. I compulsively hunt wild mushrooms (can safely harvest and consume around 100 species now), I am obsessed with turtles and native plants. Oh, and I'm an UNCLE now, to an 18-month-old boy and a girl who will be born at the end of May; their birth makes me someone I always wanted to be!  I raised a baby squirrel in my shirt pocket while living in uptown Manhattan and rehearsing/performing a production of Lombardi! in Staten Island (Harbor Lights Theater); named "Gabby Douglas" by Lusia Strus of the TNT show Good Behavior, the baby survived, went to squirrel rehab and was released in the Berkshires the following spring. 


"I raised a baby squirrel in my shirt pocket while living in uptown Manhattan and rehearsing/performing a production of Lombardi! in Staten Island..."


The basics: Where did you grow up? Where did you study? What did you study? How did you end up in theater? What do you love about acting? And: If you stopped being an actor tomorrow, what what you do next -- purely out of love (not money!)?

I'm from Plainfield, Illinois, where my parents were English teachers; Melissa McCarthy was our babysitter at some point and I still call her "Missy" (she has probably long forgotten me but I thought she was hilarious then and now). My Mother, Joan Marie Reed, put my sister and I through Catholic grade school and high school at great expense and sacrifice and I will always be grateful for that, (atheist that I am now). I have an undergraduate degree from Illinois State University, with a double major in Theatre (Acting) and English Literature and minors in French Language and Peace History.

I always loved performing in school plays. Theatre always felt so serious and significant and brave to me. Both of my parents took us to high school plays, community theatre and the occasional major production in Chicago. I was about 9 when my Mom took my us to see a  high school production of The Diary of Anne Frank, in which the entire company reacted to a sudden noise downstairs by shuffling off their shoes in perfect unison, bringing home in a moment the humanity of their desperate terror with the simplest action in the world... to this day I look for that moment in every piece I see, or attempt.

I originally attended college just as an English major, but within my first month I saw director Calvin MacLean's production of Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good and was just blown away, just knew I HAD to be a part of a program that could produce something so profoundly wonderful. I ended up seeing it 8 times and if I could, I'd go see it tonight. I got lucky in college, there was a level of excellence at Illinois State that fed directly into a pipeline of Chicago theatre and prepared me for the dizzying array of opportunities Chicago provides. I still consider myself "and Illinois State actor" and always will.

If I stopped being an actor tomorrow I think I'd do a lot of things with my time but I don't know who else I'd BE. My identity is so enmeshed with the joys and sacrifices of this profession that even considering this question makes me faintly sick. And what's funny about that is, I think about it every day, and have for many years, and wonder if I'll ever stop thinking about it. Acting is hard. Horribly. Landing the jobs is hard and doing the jobs is hard. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone and I don't really want to do anything else. But hey, I'm open to suggestions.

What was your very first experience with a John Cariani play -- either that you saw, or that you read -- and what was that experience like?

I moved to NYC in the fall of 2011. In the fall of 2012, my talent manager (Kevin Thompson of Thompson Talent) wanted me to audition for Last Gas, which was receiving its full-AEA production premiere with Opera House Arts of Stonington, Maine. His voicemail excitedly mentioned Almost, Maine, several times and when I called back he was shocked that I had never heard of it. He emailed both Almost, Maine and the draft of Last Gas to me and demanded that I read Almost, Maine immediately. So when I got off work that night I opened up the play on my phone on the train and... I just couldn't stop reading, each scene was so beautiful and funny and moving, I rode the 1 train clear up into the Bronx and then missed my stop on the way downtown again, just so engrossed in John's sweet, incisive exploration of humanity. "Sweet" gets used too often in describing John's writing, I think, because while his characters are almost always trying their best to be good to one another there's always an edge, a danger, a menace, even, pulsing underneath his characters' interactions. Finding that menace is key to making his comedy explode. His plays are life and death itself and playing for the inevitable laughs isn't even necessary; laughs will almost certainly come, so go for what's deadly serious. But go QUICKLY, because people in John's plays are at a white heat of living and loving each other. He writes at the speed of life and that provides an opportunity for actors and audience to arrive at the same place at the same time in a glorious explosion of Carianian dramatic surprise.


"He writes at the speed of life and that provides an opportunity for actors and audience to arrive at the same place at the same time in a glorious explosion of Carianian dramatic surprise."


You can probably tell I have a special affection for John and his plays. I'd do anything he asked. But part of my affection stems from my affinity for challenging material. John's stuff places special demands on an actor: you must LISTEN like a feral animal and also IGNORE things said that your character, who may at any moment become a flawed listener, cannot hear...except sometimes you must suddenly hear them later, after it might be too late to avert heartbreak.... there's a beautiful, precisely timed music to his dialogue BUT if at any point it starts to come out stale/sing-song-y then you have to step back and re-attack it. I get very anxious working on John's material both out of my fervent desire to serve it and out of fear that my humble human instrument will fail to do so. It's maddening, literally -- and addictive.

When did you first meet John, where were you and what were you both doing, were you nervous, was he, and what was your first impression of the playwright? 

I can't remember if I met John at the audition or callbacks for Last Gas but I know he was there at the first rehearsal in Maine on January 4, 2013.  I had come down with the H1N1 influenza within hours of arriving in Stonington and for 2 weeks I didn't take off my coat, snowpants or boots, just crawled down the stairs to tablework rehearsal and then back upstairs to bed every day, coughing up blood and hallucinating with fever. Good times. My character, "Nat Paradis," was supposed to be "skinny and sad," as described by several characters in the play; when I was cast, I was 6'3" and 195lbs. I had promised the director I'd lose the bulk so I pretty much didn't eat anything from Halloween to New Year's; the flu shrank me down further. John told me later that when he saw me bundled in layers at the first rehearsal he thought "Oh, he's one of those people who always looks sick." I suppose that's a compliment, considering. 

We opened Last Gas the weekend of a major snowstorm called "Nemo," that ravaged the northeast. It dumped 37 inches of snow in two days, I think... I remember being morose, thinking no one would come see the show. I lived in a house above the theatre and John appeared the morning of opening at my door covered in snow and so cold he couldn't quite speak for awhile...we had coffee and then he explained that we needed to shovel out the theatre before the elderly artistic director showed up to do it herself. It wasn't until we got outside that I realized he'd probably spent a solid hour shoveling his way up my sidewalk and deck to reach my door. That night, as the winds howled and snow continued to pile up, a full house audience arrived by snowmobile and Humvee, to see a play about themselves, set in their beloved state, and I have never been more grateful to or for a group of people in my life. Shout out to Katie Cunningham, who brilliantly played love interest "Lurene" in the show; there was no indoor crossover and we have fond memories of clinging to each other in the middle of 70mph winds and blinding snow as we made our way from one entrance to another. The wind was so strong at one point that it truly took both our hurled bodily strength to shut the side door against the storm (which provoked a special, knowing laugh from the audience).


"That night, as the winds howled and snow continued to pile up, a full house audience arrived by snowmobile and Humvee, to see a play about themselves, set in their beloved state..."


What strikes you as particularly interesting or unusual about John's characters and his writing -- the "John Cariani World" ?

John absolutely writes what he knows. And he knows human beings. He pays attention to people in a way most of us don't, he hears both the ridiculous and the sublime in our mundane daily desperation and he can reproduce it on paper in such a way as to elevate and honor "regular" folks -- who are always and inevitably the most bizarre.

Tell us about your character in cul-de-sac. What are you discovering, and thinking about, and wondering, as you prepare for this role? 

We meet my character at the end of a year he has spent basically comatose with grief and regret, unable to speak or function or leave the house. This morning, he has had a revelation that he can't wait to share with his wife.

What surprised you about the play? What issues, topics, concerns does it make you think about. . .and/or what do you think it may bring up for our audiences?

The dramatic tautness and the dark themes surprised me equally. This one is both utterly in John's wheelhouse of people struggling to be good and also a new leap into a cavern of very human ugliness of which there's a taste both in Last Gas and Love/Sick. 

CUL-DE-SAC runs April 29 - May 14. LEARN MORE or BUY TICKETS.