Some Words from Reb Saunders…

…er, make that a blog posting, at long last, from our Associate Artist in Residence for this season, the inimitable Rick Foucheux, so brilliant for us this season as Gene Biddle in SOMETHING YOU DID, and as Oscar Madison in THE ODD COUPLE. This week, Rick enters his last week with us in THE CHOSEN, the smash hit Theater J production running at Arena Stage through March 27. Here Rick reflects on the meaning of silence; on being a Hasidic Rabbi; on being the heart and soul of the Theater J season…

For the actor, any length of run with a hit show seems too short. If everyone’s having a good time why not let it go on forever? But The Chosen’s pre-arranged closing is already on us at week’s end — after only 3 weeks — and our heads are spinning becasuse of it. I predict stunned looks and dropped jaws in the greenroom on closing night. Was it all just a dream?

The rehearsal effort put forth on this project matches any I’ve ever been a part of for its caring, detail and examination of the world we’ve tried to create. As those who’ve seen it have been saying (and I know this because good word of mouth travels, and Arena’s Fichandler Theatre has been mostly full), Aaron Posner’s direction was rigorous and completely in keeping with his brilliant adaptation from Chaim Potok’s beautfiul novel. The old adage in the adapting business is that “a book is a book and a play is a play,” and this has never been more evident than in this production.

 

 

 

Even those of us on the inside (onstage) looking out are aware of the stunning images created for the audience. We talked about it during technical rehearsals, and I fairly had to pump up my concentration so I wouldn’t be mesmerized and carried away by the stage pictures. Our work has been a continuing education in the rising and falling elemental tension that the drama requires and provides for an audience. It has been an honor to tell this story in this way, and a sheer joy to see the audience appreciate in a different way a story that many of them obviously have loved for a long time.

And, too, it is fitting that The Chosen is the project that concludes my three-play tenure as this season’s Associate Artist in Residence here at Theater J. It has been a meaningful and memorable endeavor and one of which I am intensely proud. The cool political drama Something You Did at season’s start and the great humor and heart of The Odd Couple will always ring bells for me as reminders of the great fortune-of-casting that my career has been blessed with. And now to play the deeply complex and spiritually fulsome role of Reb Saunders has my cup running over yet again.

It has been an abundance of artistic fulfillment, a journey, and a blessing for me for many years at Theater J. My friendships and associations here are among the most meaningful in my life. My Jewish family here is large and loving: filled with thinkers and artists and leaders and producing staff and JCC team members and audiences and Dupont Circle neighbors and blog readers — all of you playing a part in the story of a Catholic boy who has discovered that he is himself at his heart a Jew. Each time I act and interact with my Theater J family I learn more and have deeper love for the faith and character of the Jews, and I think for humanity. The word “community” is often and naturally used in my discourse about Theater J. That’s because my friends and colleagues and acquaintances and fans here define community. At Theater J and the JCC, the community is family and the family is all. Perhaps it is only a different shade of similar feelings in other communities, but it’s one that I have felt embraced by in a way that I can’t describe in other places, and for which I will ever be grateful.

Admittedly, there is no reason why Reb Saunders shouldn’t have the same effect on me as my other characters, but I find it easy to live in his shoes, now that I (think) I understand him. And I thank him — whoever and wherever he is — for giving me some realizations about love and life and our place in the world. How could anything have served a better capper to this year-long experience than The Chosen?

To all the supporters of Theater J, thank you for supporting me in this residency.

And to my great friend, Ari Roth, I’m glad we met. You inspire me.