Countdown to Curtain:
Talking with F. MURRAY ABRAHAM (Hermocrates)
Whereas the creators of Triumph Of Love are new to the Great White Way, star F. Murray Abraham is an experienced hand; he's done more than 60 plays on, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway, including stints in Angels In America and a recent Month In The Country opposite Helen Mirren.
Nevertheless, Abraham hasn't really had a musical role since The Fantasticks, decades ago. "It's turning out to be a challenge," Abraham said of singing on Broadway. "I'm taking voice lessons every single day. It's like starting all over. In a way that's good, cause I was getting a little bit smug about my work. I was feeling there was nothing I couldn't do as an actor. But this is like starting all over again. And I'll never laugh at singers again for the care they take of their voices. You can't play games with it. You've got to have rest, be ready. You really have to warm up 20 minutes before each performance, and you can't go out and party a lot."
On leave of absence at Brooklyn College where he teaches theatre (he still gives occasional master classes), Abraham told Playbill On-Line the most useful piece of advice he offers his students is very relevant to the Triumph experience: "Don't be afraid." Said Abraham, "That's my first piece of advice, always. After that -- if you can get that far -- I don't think there's anything that can stop you. Go out and give it all you've got, and the work will be sufficient."
On opening nights, Abraham said, "I pray. And I think I'm superstitious, so I avoid walking under ladders, but other than that. . . I will say, there's nothing like an opening night. It's like all the stuff you've been working for is suddenly on the line. I love people coming all dressed up. I always get to the theatre very early, opening night or not." Abraham laughs and adds, "I'm what is known as a serious actor." Serious or not, Abraham enjoys the lighthearted fun he has with the Academy Award he won for playing Salieri in the Milos Forman film, Amadeus. "It's appeared in every play since I've won it," Abraham said of the Oscar statuette. "I give it to the crew or the prop chief, who dresses it up and hides it on the set where only the cast can see it. In Waiting For Godot, it was sticking up out of the sand. In Angels In America, the prop chief put it in the garbage can. When I did Lear in Boston, they dressed him up, one time like a Hawaiian, with a lei and flowers. It's become a personal tradition, and the choices are always a complete a surprise to me. The very first night of Triumph, there's a scene where my character, Hermocrates, is loading up on weapons for this big fight. So he pulls out a javelin, an axe. . . and the Oscar."
Asked if he saw any parallels between himself as a person and Hermocrates, Abraham chose two similarities: "Dedication, the journey he takes. Plus he becomes a man deeply smitten with love. And I deeply believe in the power and, yes, the triumph of love. It's a wonderful, legitimate title. And love may be the only way out of these terrible times we're in. We've tried politics, we've tried other things. Why not try something like love?"