Theater archives

Amy Ryan’s Cough Drops (And Other Performance Rituals)

Obie winners reveal their pre- and post-show routines


Amy Ryan
Amy Ryan

Paula Vogel (playwright, Indecent)

My pre-preview ritual: Eat light. Drink water. A small pad for notes. Cellphone charged.

My ritual when press comes in: Eat more substantially. Order a double vodka martini, slightly dirty, straight up. Walk around the block until fifteen minutes to curtain. Stand in the lobby in animated discussion, with the vodka running through my veins.

J.T. Rogers (director, Oslo)

Whenever I’m at a play of mine, I like to drift around backstage starting at half hour, quietly watching the cast and crew going about their pre-show business. It’s during this “magic time,” when everyone is collectively preparing, doing the secret work that only those of us in the tribe know about, that I feel most connected to the theater. And the most happy to be a part of it.

Jack Cummings III (director, Picnic)

During previews, I don’t allow myself to walk into the theater without a medium coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts — whether I want the coffee or not. I sit in the exact same seat every time. In fairness, I sit in every imaginable seat during rehearsals and tech so I know what it looks like from all sides. Also, I choose the seat where I can safely give notes to my assistant without driving audience members crazy. I am known to be a bit of a neat freak, so often, as my nerves escalate, I can be found anywhere from the theater to the lobby to the hallway to the bathrooms, cleaning, straightening, and picking things up off the ground.

Angela Pierce (cast, Oslo)

My pre-show ritual for Oslo has become: At the five-minute call to “places” I go backstage and listen to the audience, go check my props (I make sure I’ve touched every one of them), give a quick nod and a “good show!” to Jefferson Mays as he’s on his way to “places” for his start of show and I’m on the way back to my dressing room to finish getting ready for the show. What’s become my fave food while working on Oslo — I don’t do it all the time because it’s more of a special treat for me — is the gluten-free turkey sandwich with an additional side of pesto at Indie Food and Wine next door to Lincoln Center. It is absolutely scrumptious! And the staff knows me by name now. Big bonus!

Mia Barron (cast, The Wolves)

Actors I really admire always say that they can barely eat anything before going onstage, but I’m a hungry person and if I don’t eat a meal, I’ll be too distracted thinking about food. So, I eat a good meal. But I don’t tell anybody for fear of sounding like a hack.

Jenna Dioguardi (cast, The Wolves)

My absolute favorite part of doing eight shows a week is how much I focus on taking care of my body. I often describe my body as that of a ninety-year-old man trapped inside a twentysomething woman, so my pre- and post-show rituals are centered around transforming from that old man into a much more limber, younger person. I have a duffel bag full of physical-therapy gadgets that lives in my dressing room when I’m working. I’ll crack that open and begin my warm-up, which is very ritualistic. It’s about 45 minutes and has been the same for years. And I always make a playlist tailored to the character I’m playing, which I’ll listen to very loudly while I warm up. After the show, I cover my body in ice packs and eat popcorn while watching The West Wing or Parks and Recreation. Sometimes I’ll even put on an episode of Friends that I’ve seen three thousand times and just stare at the wall. You know, to unwind.

Heather MacRae (cast, Come Back, Little Sheba)

I would say that like many actors I like to be at the theater early — about an hour and a half before curtain. I do like to have a cup of English Breakfast tea, from whatever deli is nearby. I like it quite strong with half-and-half and two Splendas. I did have a particular craving after playing Lola in Transport Group’s production of Come Back, Little Sheba: I had to have a Coke; not diet, the real thing. It was the only thing that quenched my thirst after doing the play. And I am a potato chip junkie. So Coke and chips is usually a must for me. I know, so healthy, right? And, occasionally, Cheetos!

Lizzy Jutila (cast, The Wolves)

Yes, before a performance I drink bone broth daily. When I don’t have time to grab some from home, I’ll go to Springbone or Brodo in the West Village. They also make a powder form where you can just add hot water. Bone broth is so good for your joints and tummy. I am always active so I have to make sure my body is running smoothly to prevent injury. Also, I love to work out before a show. It gives me more energy. When I was in The Wolves this last year I would usually take a kickboxing class prior to the performance to get my blood racing and my endorphins going. Post-shows, I will drink magnesium to help me sleep and replenish my muscles so that I can keep going the next day!

Amy Ryan (cast, Love, Love, Love)

Before the first entrance, I put one hand on my heart and one on my stomach. I find that’s the only way to calm my nerves. If there’s not enough time for a full vocal warm-up, a Fisherman’s Friend does the trick.

Matthew Broderick (cast, Evening at the Talk House and Shining City)

I usually bring a soup to the theater to eat before a performance. Sometimes half a sandwich. It might come from Green Symphony or somewhere else, depending where the theater is. What I liked most of all was the Edison café, but it’s been closed for two years. I still miss it terribly.