PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Actor Martin Moran, Who's Getting in Touch With His Rage

By Robert Simonson
02 Feb 2013

Moran in All the Rage.
Photo by Joan Marcus

I must say you have an interesting problem. Most of us, at least here in New York, have too much access to our anger.
MM: Well, that's true. We live at such a pitch here. There's a lot about winning, there's a lot about who's on top. And the sense of being separate, competitive individuals, separate egos, struggling for survival, is keen in New York. It's keen in Western Civilization in general. But in New York it's extremely true. I've done a fair amount of traveling, and I've felt that in South Africa, and India, and even in Europe — you meet people who say, "I'm a cashier in a grocery store. I do the laundry." And there's not that hyper, edgy sense of needing to be on the top. I think it adds to our edge in this area.

You said in the play that after The Tricky Part, you became the "go-to person" on the subject of forgiveness. Aside from that South African panel you appeared on, were there other invitations?
MM: Yes! Yes, a lot, actually. Robert Morganthau's office, the Manhattan prosecutor, they asked me to come down and do the play in a conference room, and discuss with prosecutors and lawyers who work with domestic and sexual abuse about forgiveness and the complexity of the subject. With an abused person, it's so not black and white. It's a complex relationship sometimes. And then there were half a dozen conferences with doctors and therapists across the country. I was invited to Warsaw and did the play there and sat on a panel and talked about it.

There was a wild one where I got a phone call from the Department of Homeland Security, and they were prosecuting a guy who had been seducing kids from eastern Europe, in the rural area of Romania. But he was being tried in Philadelphia. It turned out he had my book on his shelf. As part of their investigation, they called me. At first, I was terrified. "Department of Homeland Security calling."

Yeah, you don't really want them calling you, do you?
MM: No! And I'm playing Sir Robin in Spamalot and they were calling from Philadelphia. Anyway, I met them for lunch at the Edison Cafe between performances. There were four prosecutors. We ended up becoming friends. They were so intrigued by the book and the play. They wanted to talk to me about how to act with the boys they were flying over from Romania.

Moran in The Tricky Part.
photo by Joan Marcus

I liked the way you kept bringing props and visual aids into the storytelling of All the Rage: the globe, the map, the slides. Were you a teacher once?
MM: I have been, but not in any big formal way. Director Anne Bogart invited me and my partner to become company members the years she took over Trinity Rep. This was some years ago. As part of the deal, she asked if I would teach in the conservatory. I taught movement for actors. And I have taught often as a substitute teacher at Julliard and NYU, teaching voice.

In the new play, there's quite a bit of death. You tell of three significant deaths, two of them within your family. Did you intend this to be a theme, or did it just write itself that way?
MM: You know, Robert, gosh, you ask good questions. It's interesting what you say, because — I have to say — the way the subconscious works is so mysterious. I did not set out to write about death per se, at all. I set out to answer a question, and I tried to follow it wherever it led. My book literally came out three days before my father's funeral. It was so weird. It all happened at the time dad died. So the play begins recounting a story on the day of my father's funeral eight years ago. It didn't occur to me that the play was about death, but then it occurred to me that I'm over 50 and somehow mortality was playing a part. And then my brother, at age 43, suddenly died. I couldn't feel whether that part about my brother belonged in the play or not. I'd put it in and take it out. And then there was that conscious decision all of a sudden, that realization of, "Oh, we're gone. Poof. We're gone in an instant." The play began moving toward the transcendent. "Why am I gripped by these questions? Just be here right now. Do you see? Do you see?" You know, if you're really writing about deep stuff, you're in a way always writing about death.

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David Costabile, Martin Moran and Brian d’Arcy James
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN