Marin Ireland first appeared on our radar back in 2007 when she charmed audiences in The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, a warmhearted stage adaptation of Ann Bannon’s 1950s lesbian pulp novels. But theatergoers with longer memories may also recall her searing performance in Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis at St. Ann's Warehouse in 2004, or any of her other varied and numerous Off Broadway appearances over the past several years.
More recently, Ireland went directly from the smash hit production of Kane's play Blasted (at Soho Rep) to her Broadway debut, in Neil LaBute's surprisingly moving play reasons to be pretty. And Ireland isn't the only good reason to see this funny and stirring production—the four actor ensemble does uniformly excellent work telling LaBute's tale of a relationship's shocking disintegration. Tickets to all performances are going for as low as $31.50, and $26.50 student rush tickets are available two hours prior to the curtain (subject to availability).
You're so talented and lovely, so it takes some suspension of disbelief to go along with reasons to be pretty, because one of the characters in the play refers to your face as "regular." When you were cast in the role did that stir up anything for you about your own self-perception or anything? It's interesting. I usually play characters who don't wear makeup onstage or characters like in Blasted who are not anywhere near the typical ingenue role. And the few times that I have played an ingenue part those always felt like much more of a stretch for me. And it's something that I kind of love because it's so challenging and each character is so different and there are so many things to explore. But it wasn't until right before audiences started coming that I sort of realized, "Oh, this is a topic that's up for debate in the play; what my face is like." And I realized everyone in the audience might be thinking at some point, "Do I think her face is regular or do I think she's pretty?"
So I realized that would be happening and that really threw me for a loop. I had this moment when I had to make peace with myself because this play definitely sneaks up on you in so many ways. Even as an audience member, the way it's structured is it sort of sneaks up on you.
And for me, working on it, it took a few weeks before I realized that it had gotten under my skin, so to speak. You do find yourself thinking about those things and remembering things people have said to you. And this is so crazy, especially for actresses; people say all sorts of crazy stuff and I am no exception. I've had my share of random casting people and industry people say all kinds of crazy stuff about what I look like and what type I am and those kinds of things stay with you.
Can you share one of those experiences? I remember I auditioned for something once, a TV thing. I finished the audition and the casting director asked, "Can I say something to you, just woman to woman?" And I reluctantly replied, "I guess so." And she said, "You need to get a makeover." And she was trying to be generous and kind in saying, you know, you just don't look right for TV. And I remember kind of feeling like, "Whoa, okay." Sort of the last thing I expected. I expected some notes, or for her to say, "You need to take an acting class." But she was talking very specifically then about what I should do with my hair and what kind of makeup I should be wearing and it sort of threw me for a loop. It's a weird thing suddenly when you're walking around and you feel like, whatever you look like, it's not quite right.
Robert J. Saferstein
Have you had any interesting responses from audience members after the show? Yeah, this is sort of hilarious to me. Most of the time it's people I don't know, strangers who come up to me. People have even said this to me at the gym or after the show on the street, people will say, "I like your face!" It's so hilarious to me, it's not like, "You're so pretty," it's, "I like your face."
That is hilarious. One of the ushers, though, did say something nice to me recently. He walked right up to me and said, "You know, you're totally miscast in this part." I'll take that as a compliment. He said, "You walk out there and it's like, 'She's hot, what is he talking about?'"
Is this your first time performing on Broadway? It is, yeah.
How's the experience of doing Broadway, compared to Off-Broadway? You know, in a funny way the real difference was just the number of people involved. From the first day of rehearsal, to when we're in the theater and all that stuff, it literally just quadrupled the number of people whose input and opinions are involved and who were literally and emotionally and psychologically invested in the production. That's honestly been hard for me to wrap my head around, coming from a background with just a few of us trying to get something together in a limited amount of time with limited resources. And suddenly there's an army of people trying to get this thing the best it can be!
Having done Blasted right before this, how are you holding up? Both shows are very intense in different ways, and require you to be extremely emotionally vulnerable night after night. Yeah it's something that, honestly, really crept up on me, because when you're doing the work it's so exploratory. I try not to approach it with any preconceived ideas of how it will feel to do it or how each thing goes, especially with this play. In both cases it really did sneak up on me and suddenly I would be like, "Wow, I'm exhausted! Okay, maybe I need to figure out how to take care of myself through this in a different way." And you end up feeling a little bit of a combination of a monk and an athlete or something. You can't go out really late, you can't really drink and you know it ends up feeling like nothing is ever quite the same as you think it's going to be. It's like here I am, my first time on Broadway but it's not like I can go out and party all night. It's a different kind of experience. After the show every day I have to do a sort of cool down that includes a lot of stretching to sort of release some of it. Because it accumulates over the week. And I can only imagine what it must be like for people doing August: Osage County, because it's a good hour and a half longer than our show.
Robert J. Saferstein
In watching your performances, you come off as really emotionally open. Are you that way in real life or is it something you have to work at? In off-hours I do my best not to carry that around with me, but I'm sure my friends would say that I'm a pretty open person in that way. People have mentioned to me before that they feel like I've been drawn to particularly dark or intense material, and for me it's just about the most exciting writing.
How did you come to be cast in the show? It was a pretty old-fashioned thing. I didn't know Terry [Kinney, director] personally or Neil personally at all. I knew Tommy Sadoski; we did a play together like five years ago. During the last few weeks of Blasted I got a call about the audition and I remember thinking at the time, "Oh, there's no way. Because I had never been on Broadway and it's only a four person show and I'm sure they are trying to get someone fancy." And I remember thinking that but I was excited because of Tommy. I loved working with him so much, so I met up with him and we read a few times and talked about it and I remember saying to him, "I know it's a long shot but It would be fun to do with you." And he said, "Don't speak so soon about that." He said Terry and the producers had approached this production since the beginning trying to get the best people they can and they want it to feel like a true ensemble. So I remember feeling like well, maybe there is some bit of a chance but it never really felt like it was something that could happen. But I went in, read a couple of the scenes and Terry called me three or four hours later when I was at [Blasted]. It happened so fast.
He told you you were cast three hours later? Yeah.
Wow. Usually you have to agonize for weeks. I know, I know. I remember when I left the audition I was wondering about what else I would have to do if I managed to get a call back, because we did the first scene and the restaurant scene, both in their entirety. I read with Tommy and it was a blast, frankly; there was a lot of ease to the experience.
I really loved this show, I felt so absorbed in it, it was so engrossing and emotionally resonant for me. Congratulations. Thank you, I really feel proud to be a part of something that does feel different to me than a lot of stuff I've seen on Broadway over the years. I feel like it's extremely resonant, it's very open and honest and there's so much truth in it. And I feel like all of us are really committed to continuing to further the work every show and none of us sort of feel like we've come anywhere near finishing our work on it. We're sort of pushing it and trying to find new stuff and take it deeper.
And I loved your performance in Beebo Brinker Chronicles. It's been so great to see you get bigger and bigger roles. Thank you! "Beebo" is one of those things... When people say I only do dark stuff, I'm like, "Dude! I did the lesbian pulp play!"