PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: My Name Is Asher Lev Star Ari Brand

By Matthew Blank
15 Jan 2013

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: I've always been a performer, but I wasn't positive I wanted to actually pursue a career until my junior year of college, doing a production of Thornton Wilder's A Long Christmas Dinner. I worked so hard but it felt amazing, and the experience ended up paying me back more than I could've ever dreamed.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: I'll often buy a large salad at the deli on the corner… eat half before the show and half after.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Bourbon Manhattan, or a good IPA
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I do a whole verse of one or two hip-hop songs with my tongue sticking out of my mouth, enunciating as much as possible.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: While playing Claudio in the Much Ado "gulling scene," a button spontaneously flew off of my Leonato's jacket. I watched it fall to the ground, and as I contemplated how to pick it up seamlessly, I looked up to find my two co-actors staring at me, waiting for me to speak. I had no idea where we were. Luckily Claudio is kind of an idiot, so I don't think anyone noticed.
Worst job you ever had: For a month, as my first job out of college, I worked at a Russian Tea-Room Pan-Asian Cuisine Vodka-Infusion Bar/Restaurant with Moroccan decor and Edith Piaf and ABBA playing on repeat.

I was the sole bartender/waiter/host, and I spent my 12-hour shifts killing cockroaches and listening to my vampire-like boss tell me stories about when he was young and didn't need Botox (he was 40). I'm still pretty positive it was a front for the Russian mob. One day I'll write a screenplay.

What drew you to this project? Asher Lev was a part that I was right for in a beautiful adaptation of an important novel. I'm privileged to be a part of it.
Were you familiar with the material/history before taking on this project? I'd never read the book, but I was raised Jewish, and in New York. The similarities end there, but I guess I had a one-second head start.
How did you research for this performance? We took a tour of the Lubavich section of Crown Heights, saw the movement's headquarters, danced in the synagogue, ate matzo in the matzo factory. I also had to do a fair amount of art history research... went to museums and spoke to painter friends.
Most challenging role you have played onstage: Asher Lev, for sure. I'm on stage for the duration of the play, alternating between addressing the audience and playing scenes with Mark and Jenny, and I play Asher from a 6 year-old to my early 20's. It can be pretty draining, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about? There are some exciting things coming up, but mum's the word... stay tuned.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: I'd love to play Hamlet some day.
Leading lady role you wish you could play: Could someone please produce a revival of Gilda Radner's 1979 one-woman show? I wouldn't need a rehearsal.
Career you would want if not a performer: Psychotherapist
Three things you can't live without: Playing music, hummus and my partner Cait
"I'll never understand why…" … investment bankers make so much more money than teachers.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: In the words of the great poet, Axl Rose, "Just a little patience. Yeeeeaaaahhh." Actually you need a lot of it. But good things come to those who stick with it.