If I could interview Patrick Stewart, I’d ask about this...

Despite many efforts on multiple fronts, I have yet to hear back from his people, so I think that it’s safe to assume I will not be interviewing Sir Patrick Stewart, who is the news because he and Ian McKellan are starring in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land on Broadway. It makes me sad, but I’m not a very big deal, and well, he is. So here are some thoughts on what I would ask the man if I could. (And it should go without saying that if we did the interview, I’d prefer we did it over cups of earl grey tea).

First, his one man A Christmas Carol, which I had the chance to see in the early nineties. I say without hyperbole, that it is one of my favorite theatrical experiences and that the show changed my life. I saw the production at that stage of life where the right piece of art can shatter your brain and reassemble it in new ways, and that’s exactly what Stewart did. I still remember the theater, sitting in the second to last row in the mezzanine, and Stewart came out and with his voice and just a few props, managed to tell a story and capture the pathos and darkness of a story that I so often–before and since–have found a bit twee. He did it with language and the skill of a master thespian and that ability to conjure a world in an empty theater is something that doesn’t always happen and it was incredible. How he thought about that production and what went into thinking about a production where there are no crutches and it’s solely about him.

Stewart grew up in Northern England in the forties and fifties and I’m curious about what it was about the theater that made such an influence on him. The books and plays and films and radio shows that played a role in shaping his own aesthetic and ideas when he was growing up. What the theater meant to him as a young man.

Stewart has said that he saw a production of Godot when he was 17 which starred a then-unknown actor named Peter O’Toole which made a huge impression on him. I’m curious what he made of the play as a young man and how his understanding of the play has changed over time.

Stewart was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for many years and he worked with Sir Peter Brook a few times, including Brook’s legendary production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, (which in the minds of some is one of the most important and influential theatrical productions of the Twentieth Century). I’m curious because I can’t help but think of Brooks’ thinking about theater as being key to Stewart’s A Christmas Carol and the way that Brook worked and how Brook has shaped his work going forward.

After all, Brook tried to get away from realism and naturalism and find a new way to get at the heart of the material–and dressing up in awkward uncomfortable costumes, working with green screens and speaking a lot of meaningless technobabble–as happened all too often in Star Trek, having been taught by and worked with Brook sounds like great preparation.

The theatrical roles he has yet to perform. He’s doing Beckett and Pinter in repertory this fall, but what else is he interested in exploring. I’d love to see him perform more Beckett, but I’d love to see him tackle Anton Chekhov (he'd make a great Vanya) and Eugene O’Neill (Long Day's Journey Into Night?) as well. I’m also curious what Stewart would make of Sam Shepard, who we think of as such a quintessentially American playwright. I’d also love to see him tackle comedy–maybe The Man Who Came to Dinner? But more than just listing great plays, what is it about a play and a role that makes him interested in spending months with it.

Working with Ian McKellan and how different it is working together on these plays than the previous time they co-starred in a play, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and how it differs from working together on a film.

Last question: how does it feel to have done more for educating Americans about tea than probably anyone since 1776? “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

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