Other Desert Cities is making its Texas debut at Austin Playhouse after successful off-Broadway and Broadway runs. We've interviewed the cast to give our audience a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating the family of Other Desert Cities. We'll be posting new interview excerpts on a regular basis, so check back soon!
First up is Rick Roemer who plays Lyman Wyeth, the patriarch of the family. Lyman was a successful Hollywood actor who became a star of the GOP. Rick has appeared with Austin Playhouse in roles as varied as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest and Littlechap in Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. But in Other Desert Cities he's doing something he's never done on stage before...
Most of the actors have worked together before. How does knowing your fellow performers affect the rehearsal process?
Actually...the only actor I've worked with is Bernadette. We've done 5 or 6 shows together. Jacob did one week of Jacques Brel. I've never worked with Babs or Lara...although I know everybody well. But still...there is a level of trust that is inherent. It's easier to get to where we need to get to....because we all trust each other. And will give to each other on stage. We allow each other to make mistakes...without judging. That is very important to actors...so we have the freedom to fully explore. Also...we already all like each other, which is important to create the ensemble.
What was your first impression of the play? Did it change during rehearsal?
I know this world. I know these people. My parents were prominent Republicans in the Coachella Valley and lived in Indian Wells Country Club for 28 years. Their friends used to make very disparaging remaks about gay people...and my parents used to hold their tongues. Not because they were embarrassed by me...but didn't want to get "into it." But before my father passed away, they both began standing up for me...and gay people..in their conservative Republican circles.
During rehearsals I realized that Polly (Lyman's wife) just doesn't listen to Lyman. He can say..."I don't want confrontation" (with their daughter)...and immediately Polly's next line is a confrontational line. Polly wears the "pants" in the family in many ways. Lyman tends to back down. That escaped me on first reading...because he seems so patriarchal.
Lyman can be seen as stoic and diplomatic and reserved. And it is a part of him. But he also has a soft side, especially when it comes to his children. And more specifically his daughter.
I think most people would look at Lyman and assume he runs his family...and in part he does. But his wife is the out-spoken, opinionated one who, at parties, takes the lead to make sure that the impression of their family is the "correct" one. Image is everything. Polly tends to tell Lyman how to behave and what to say. Lyman tries...but Polly doesn't really listen to him.
What research have you done for your part?
Well...thinking (reliving) all of my visits to my parents in the desert...especially Christmas...and remembering their friends. I've been in this world many many times, so much of my research is my memory
What has been the easiest part of this process?
Whew...it hasn't been easy trying to learn this man in a very short period of time. The easy part has been the fact that I'm working with friends..and I have the freedom to explore...and make wrong choices. That is liberating. This is the 5th or 6th project I've done with Don Toner as director...and that makes it easier, He knows me and my and work...and I trust his eye and vision.
Are you doing anything in this play you haven't done before?
Yes...playing the father!! It's finally happened. I'm now playing the fathers. That's new to me...and it takes some getting used to!
We'll have more with Rick and the rest of the cast soon, so check back for more behind-the-scenes interviews with the artistic team of Other Desert Cities!