To prepare the actors for their roles, Edelstein took them on a tour of Hasidic Crown Heights, including a matzoh factory. "It was a tour I had taken in eighth grade," says Brand, who as Asher plays both the narrator and himself, ages six to 22 years old. But Brand at first struggled to understand what Asher was going through. "I've always been supported in my art," he says. It wasn't until the play was in previews at the Long Wharf that he realized his own father, Natan Brand — who died when Ari was a young child — had a remarkably similar story: Natan had been a piano prodigy in Jerusalem, a gift unappreciated by Ari's heart-surgeon grandfather.
Suddenly, Brand says, it all clicked. "As working, and sometimes non-working, actors, we're focused on paying the bills," Brand says. "It's only in the rehearsal room and on the stage that we can remember why we do all this. Because of the art. Because of the thrill of creation."
(This feature appears in the November 2012 Off-Broadway issue of Playbill magazine.)
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