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Profile: Actor Gary Sloan on The Long Run

Gary Sloan | Actor / Writer | Stated Magazine Profile Interview



By Paden FallisPerforming Arts Contributing Editor

It’s a safe bet that had Romeo and Juliet muscled through their family strife and made it to, say, their 40th anniversary, that some of that youthful passion would have diminished. Just like the tread on your tires wears down or the fillings in your teeth that over time must be replaced. Wine omitted, few things get better with age.

Actors, however, cannot accept this truth. On stage, the actor goes into a contract with the audience that no matter how long the run, no matter how many performances, he must commit to being just as alive, connected, and intense as he was when he very first picked up that script. It’s a commitment that involves body, mind and soul.

But how does this happen? Is it realistic to expect Grizabella from Cats to be just as connected in performance #1,274 as she was on #3?

Actor Gary Sloan has written a new, revelatory book on how to approach rehearsal entitled In Rehearsal: In the world, in the room, and on your own. He takes a few minutes of his time to give his insight on how the actor lives up to his contract in the long run.


stated: I think we accept that for the actor, theatre is the ultimate tightrope, because unlike film, you don’t get multiple takes and you’re not expected to deliver that same performance up to eight times a week. So, without diminishing the great work we see in films, might we say—acting’s not doing it, acting’s doing it again?

GARY SLOAN: That reminds me of something Al Pacino said in an interview for Playboy back in the 80s—something like, “repetition keeps me green.” Which I took to mean fresh, alive, ready and on top of it…even though the opposite is the fear. I also believe that in rehearsal and in performance, the more you stay open and humble about the great gift of being able to actually step into somebody else’s skin and experience places in yourself that you don’t often get to experience…over and over…you begin to really and truthfully behave or inhabit the situation.

stated: What was your longest run of a show?

GARY SLOAN: I will never forget playing Edgar in King Lear eight times a week for the Shakespeare Theatre at the Folger in the late eighties… We did it for eleven weeks… All that mud in the mad scene… Exhausting, but kept me in shape.
It was actually my third Lear that year…but a different role… Two as Oswald with Hal Holbrook as Lear and then the 11-week marathon as Edgar with Fritz Weaver.  
I guess the other examples are repertory—I played Faust for two years in rep at the Classic Stage Company in New York and also several shows over the course of six to eight months at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival…including Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

        (As Mercutio with Derek Smith as Romeo, The Shakespeare Theatre,1986)  

stated: Without giving away the secrets to the store, how do you not just safeguard a performance but connect fully each time out?

GARY SLOAN: I have accepted that this is my life’s work—call it my super objective—to become the best player I can be, which means that every time at bat goes on my stats! It’s me and that pitcher, or in this case, me and this role—I want to get the better of him and the best out of him every time. That and I know the other actors are depending on me…as you said, it’s a high wire act…don’t want to drop anyone out there or leave them hanging. 

        (As Walter with Andy Prosky as Victor in Arthur Miller’s The Price at Vienna’s English Theatre, Austria, 2009.)  

stated: Most acting teachers instruct the actor to always go back to the script. Read it once a day. Never stop going back to the words on the page. However I find, once I’m on my feet, that I have difficulty doing that. I gloss over the words. I can’t take that step back. Once the show opens, do you sit down with the script anew? How does this work? Even if you’re playing Lear, do you have issues with boredom?

GARY SLOAN: Without sounding pretentious (I hope), Polonius approaches Hamlet and asks him what he’s reading, to which he replies… “words, words, words.”

Words are strange and living symbols that we are often blind to because of a lifetime of seeing them over and over. I find that once I’ve learned the role and even performed it many times—returning to the script in a casual way will often illuminate new phrases and character intentions that I missed in the way up the mountain to opening night. It’s re-rehearsal in a way.

As I get older, I also have to refresh my memory on a daily basis and use the words to get into the zone of the part before entering it full speed. It’s also role to role—where with one role, out of the circumstances of my life, I may be distracted and need to look at the script on a daily basis, if only glancing, whereas other roles seem to deeply bury themselves and I can trust they will become alive when the light hits and the costume is on.

stated: Turning this on its ear, what advantages do long runs offer you as a performer? How does repetition feed you?

GARY SLOAN: Long runs can become a life unto themselves—creating history and an evolving life experience between you and the character, you and the company and having the solid income over a longer period, which allows for more time to work on home projects during the day.

stated: Finally, so far as your resume states, you have never actually played Grizabella in Cats and therefore can’t speak with certainty about year #8 of a performance. But kicking the can down road, how do you think you would approach this?

GARY SLOAN: Year after year, I can only assume that the performance itself would ebb and flow alongside the entire company’s discoveries and continued exploration of the play’s circumstances, but this may be idealized depending on the emotional and physical toll of the job…that’s a cave that I just haven’t explored. But I know from observing the experience of my best friend, Gregg Mitchell, often a Broadway regular in long-running shows…his nightly gig was a badge of honor and he approached it like a factory worker and an artist at the same time…punching his clock but reveling in the dance.


Gary Sloan has been a professional actor for thirty years and has performed leading roles in New York, Los Angeles, and the most prestigious regional theatres in the United States. He recently authored the book, In Rehearsal, published by Routledge, 2011. In Rehearsal can be purchased through Drama Bookshop or Amazon.

Find Gary on the web at

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