In Part One of a series of interviews with the cast of Proof at 1st Stage, meet Sam Ludwig.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform before on our local stages.
Sam: Hi, my name is Sam Ludwig and most DC audiences will probably be familiar with my work in musicals at places like Signature Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, and most recently in Monsters of the Villa Diodati at Creative Cauldron.
Why did you want to become a member of the cast of Proof?
I suppose I’ve always wanted to play this part. Proof is a play I’ve admired for a long time. I’d also always loved everything I’ve seen at 1st Stage so I knew they’d do a good job with it.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to this character?
I play “Hal” who is an ambitious former grad student of the main character’s father, currently searching through his old mentor’s writings for any revelatory work he might have done late in life after succumbing to mental illness. Not incidentally, I also have a crush on his daughter Catherine. Hal is struggling with being over the hill at 28-mathematicians traditionally have shorter careers than dancers-and sort of trying to figure out how to define his life outside of his work. I don’t know how much I relate to his particular struggle, but there are certainly moments (usually when he’s being a jerk if I’m being honest) that draw inspiration from moments in my own life.
What were some of the challenges you faced while learning your role and how did Director Alex Levy help you with these challenges?
Well, Alex was tremendously instrumental with helping me realize what the show is actually about beneath the surface plot. This was not the easiest role for me to bite into, and Alex really did a good job of keeping the scenes active and keeping us all playing objectives rather than just falling into the trap of letting the intrigue and reveals of the script work on autopilot.
What does Proof have to say to today’s audiences?
I mean I love the show for its feminist leanings but I don’t think it’s a very message-y piece. It’s got some interesting things to say about perhaps being more accepting of mentally ill loved ones. Sort of a “Who’s to say what’s healthy and unhealthy” perspective which I can definitely get behind.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members’ performances?
job of highlighting the “real person-ness” of their character without sacrificing being interesting and evocative. It’s a play without villains and even at their worst moments you can usually see everybody’s side.
Which character is most like you and why and how?
I guess if I were to relate to anyone in this show about mathematical geniuses it would be Catherine. I think she has some tendencies towards self-sabotage and insularity that I can certainly see in my own life.
What are your favorite lines that you recite and your favorite lines that other characters recite in Proof?
No spoilers Joel! Just come see the show. There’s a lot of great lines.
Where are you appearing next on the stage after Proof ends its run?
My next job is actually not until next season, I’ll be doing a few shows at Signature.
What do you want audiences members to take away with them after seeing you perform in Proof?
I hope that we effectively portray the emotional story being told and that people grasp what we’re saying about what intelligence can accomplish versus what empathy and understanding can get us.
Sam Ludwig (Hal) is excited to make his 1st Stage debut. Credits include: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Helen Hayes Award, Lead Actor in a Musical), Avenue Q, Big River, 1776 (Olney Theatre Center); The Hollow, [title of show], Sweeney Todd, Show Boat, Partial Eclipse, Les Miserables, Saturday Night In Concert (Signature Theater); 1776 (Ford’s Theatre); Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Glimpses of the Moon (Metrostage); Speech and Debate (Rep Stage); Sons of the Prophet, The Playdoh Golem (Reading) (Theater J); Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred) (The Kennedy Center TYA); Big Nate (Adventure Theatre MTC); The King of Pizza, Monsters of the Villa Diodati (Creative Cauldron); Titanic, La Cage Aux Folles (Toby’s Dinner Theatre); Super Claudio Bros (Capital Fringe Festival).
Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Michael Poandl’s review of Proof on DCMetroTheaterArts.