BWW Interview: Mike Iveson & WHAT Touring THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO Him
Already in previews, Heidi Schreck's 2019 Tony-nominated Best Play and Pulitzer Prize finalist WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME has been extended twice at the Mark Taper Forum through February 28, 2020. Maria Dizzia assumes the role of Heidi in this national tour, with original Broadway cast members Mike Iveson and Rosdely Ciprian rounding out the cast. (Jocelyn Shek will alternate the role of debater with Rosdely.) I had the opportunity to ask a few CONSTITUTIONal questions of Mike.
Thank you for taking time out for this interview, Mike!
You have been with Heidi since the beginning of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME. Do you remember the time and place Heidi first brought the concept of CONSTITUTION to you?
I ran into Heidi on 42nd Street in New York City a number of years ago. I hadn't seen her for a minute and asked her what she was up to. She said she was about to try a whole sort of one-woman show about the Constitution, of all things, at, I think, Dixon Place. I thought this was brilliant, but was out of town and could not see her first attempt, nor its first incarnation at the Wild Project. But Heidi and I talked about it again right after her Berkeley run because Danny Wolohan, the original Legionnaire, was suddenly unavailable; I had been tracking Heidi's progress with the piece from afar, but was still totally floored she asked me to come along.
You have been performing in CONSTITUTION in the two Off-Broadway runs, at the Hayes Theatre on Broadway, a special engagement at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in D.C., and now the national tour beginning at the Mark Taper. How has your role grown on/with/in you?
I always like the chance to try out a role in rooms of different sizes. It's crazy how architecture and room capacity or whatever play such a huge role in what we do. Bigger rooms call for much more ham. (That's a technical term for "schmacting.")
Do you know how many times you've played the role to date?
No idea. 250? A ridiculous amount. I never get sick of it.
What's your secret in keeping your performances fresh and exciting?
It's pretty easy here at the Taper because Maria is bringing a completely fresh perspective to the role, as would anyone stepping into Heidi's shoes. But I don't think it will take long for Maria and I to start trying to make each other laugh on stage like Heidi and I used to do at the Hayes.
You have been performing CONSTITUTION with Rosdely Ciprian since the Broadway production. Have you two developed a shorthand in communication after all your performances together?
The truth is Rosdely and I don't get to talk to each other much on stage. We talk plenty backstage. I am always the one who is going to check out her mom's Instagram page when Rosdely is afraid her mom has posted something embarrassing about her--like baby pictures.
What (and where) has been the most unexpected audience reaction you're experienced in CONSTITUTION?
Nothing was crazier than the time when Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended the show on Broadway. The whole audience knew well before I knew. There were at least two show-stopping ovations at places in the show where sometimes there's no audience reaction at all. It was tough to discern actual faces in the audience from the stage at the Hayes, but I slowwwwwwly figured it out.
What has been the most satisfying audience reaction you've received so far?
We had a lot of young fans on Broadway, and our producers have always worked really hard to ensure that our show is affordable for, and accessible to, young people; their excitement about the nuts and bolts of American democracy honestly gives me life.
And the best Mark Taper audience reaction you're hoping for?
I would definitely not complain if the audience threw a bunch of double-doubles from In-N-Out onstage.
Thank you again, Mike! I'm looking forward to relearning our Constitution through Heidi and your eyes.
For ticket availability and show schedule thru February 28, 2020; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org
For future ticket availability and national tour dates (next in Chicago,March 4 through April 12, 2020); log onto www.constitutionbroadway.com