This is Part One of a series of interviews with the talented cast of Round House Theatre’s How to Write a New Book for the Bible. Today, meet Mitchell Hébert.
Joel: Why did you want to be involved in this production?
Mitchell: Several reasons: I have been an admirer of Bill Cain’s plays and wanted to act in one. In addition, I was excited to be asked to be in Ryan’s first production at RHT.
Introduce us to your characters.
Pete Cain is the main character I play (I play 7 total). He’s the father of the family. He is modeled very closely to Bill Cain’s own father: a father who bought and read every book his sons were assigned in high school. He read them and he and the boys “discussed” them late into the night. I also play three women.
How do you relate to Peter?
He’s a little like an uncle of mine.
What personal experiences did you bring to your performance?
It’s a bit of a mosaic. Hard to point to anyone thing.
Did you base your performance on someone else?
Since I play several people I had to look for things that I could use by observing those around me. e.g. one guy I play has the walk of the RHT Tech Director David Whitney, one of the women has my daughter’s way of writing and so on…
Are you a religious person? Did the show challenge and/or change any of your religious beliefs or views?
I am a spiritual person. It didn’t change any of my views, just deepened them I think.
How does religion play an important role in the play and in your character’s life?
I think it does. At a moment when he and his wife Mary are very worried about their son Paul’s well being in Vietnam, they both instinctively pray.
Bill Cain puts you through the ‘emotional wringer.’ How would you describe his writing here?
Honest. Direct. Unflinching. Damn funny.
What impresses you most about how about the lines he wrote for your character?
He can capture a person with two lines. His writing is spare yet filled with life.
What is/are your favorite line or lines that your character recites and what is your favorite line that someone else in the play recites, and why?
I like Pete’s, “No one walks out on a fight a fight until the fight is over.” I like hearing Ray Ficca say, “Me, I’d love a CAT scan but does anyone offer?” Just the way he says it.
What has surprised you most about the audience reaction to the show? And what has been the most ‘interesting’ or ‘surprising’ response you have heard from an audience member after the show?
I can’t say that I was entirely surprised by the cathartic nature of this play. But I was taken aback by the depth of feelings that audience members have expressed. But as I write that last sentence I realize that’s what we all went through in rehearsal.
You have some amazing designers working on this production. How does the design enhance the story or atmosphere? Is there a scene where you say, “WOW! – the design is so effective and/or stunning here.’
Listening to Eric Shimelonis’ music every night. It’s so simple and spot on. This is a very difficult play to score… you could easily go overboard with it. He has the “right” touch. Dan Conway, Colin Bills, Dre Moore, and Rosemary Pardee do superb work as well.
What does How to Write a New Book for the Bible have to say about and to families?
We all have one. Learn to love it.
Which character besides the one you play reminds you most about yourself?
Bill Cain’s hypochondria rings a familiar note…..
What has been the most fun working with your fellow actors in this production?
What impresses you most about their performances?
This is Ryan Rilette’s directorial debut at Round House Theatre. How would you describe his directing style?
He’s direct. He’ll tell you right away if something your doing is “working.” He is extremely collaborative; there was such a fun, sometimes irreverent, back and forth in rehearsals.
How has he helped you mold your performance, and what has been the most beneficial advice or suggestion(s) he gave you about portraying your character(s?
Hmmm… he told me Melanie was way more attractive than me (and way more younger) so that gave me sense of where I had to go with her ;)
How has this experience made you a better actor and what did you learn about yourself as an actor being in this production?
I had to create a character out of one or two lines in some cases. So I had to have a clear back-story for each so that they didn’t become a cartoon pop up. I also had to learn to edit. If you get one sentence for a character, it needs to be alive and move the story forward.
What’s next for you on the stage?
The Laramie Project at Ford’s and then Gypsy at Signature.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing How to Write a New Book for the Bible?
I hope that they will give someone they love a call and tell them that.
How to Write a New Book for the Bible plays through May 5, 2013 at Round House Theatre – 4545 East West Highway, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at by phone at (240) 644-1100, or in person at the box office, or purchase them online.
Read Rick Westerkamp’s review of How to Write A New Book for the Bible on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Here is the cast and Artistic Team of Round House Theatre’s How to Write a New Book for the Bible.