The Folger Spotlight

What's On at the Folger

Long Runs, Mixing it Up, & Joltin’ Joe

Drew Cortese as Richard III. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Drew Cortese as Richard III. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

A play is a living, breathing organism. It grows, changes, adapts. The story becomes richer as our time inhabiting these imagined lives increases and our understanding of the created world deepens. Show after show, the challenge is to keep making those discoveries that keep things fresh and immediate, while always maintaining the integrity of the piece. A month into our run here at the Folger Theatre (we close March 16), I think we’re in great shape – the show’s really found its stride, we’re much more adept at plugging into our audience’s energy, and there’s a healthy sense of play among the cast.

Despite all of that, every time I take the stage, I’m struck by how much more work there is to be done. What can I do differently to make this moment work? What would happen if I pitched this one word up instead of down? Should I turn on this line or the next, and how will that change the audience’s perception of the story I’m trying to tell? There’s no such thing as a perfect show. The actors that I admire – and there are many – are rarely, if ever, satisfied. They attack the work every single day, desperate to find more nuance, more connection, more honesty. They are ruthless with themselves, always looking to make the next discovery, and they temper that with a supreme generosity on stage, sharing that new-found knowledge with their scene partners to better serve the storytelling.

Drew Cortese as King Richard. Photo by Jeff Malet.
Drew Cortese as King Richard. Photo by Jeff Malet.

There’s a story about Joe DiMaggio that I like to tell my students when they ask me what I think it takes to do this job. Surrounded by a group of reporters, one of them asks DiMaggio why he never seems to take a play off, always running hard even on what looks to be a routine ground-out to short. He tells them, “Because there’s always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best.”  I think the actors that have inspired me approach the theatre the same exact way. They find a way to get geared up for every performance. They fight through the physical pain and emotional exhaustion that a long run generates. They always know that there’s someone sitting in the audience that’s never seen their work before…that they’ve opened their wallet to come and see them, and they deserve their very best.


I’ll leave you with a video about getting ready for an 8-show week:Drew_Video5


  • Nicely done Drew! For your students following, I think it is important to share that much of what you are doing in your prep is to ensure you stay healthy during the run and that the role doesn’t impact your life or work negatively after it’s over. The Epsom salt soaks, ankle wraps, and heat wraps are all part of the strategy we’ve devised based on the grueling physicality of this particular role and the things you’ve discovered (about your patterns in particular) as you continuously learn about and train your instrument.

    The Joe DiMaggio story is terrific in relationship to how you play each game, but that isn’t where the comparison between athlete and actor ends. Each is using his/her body to do their jobs and must train and maintain it properly in order to have a healthy career. What you didn’t share is that you have an entire routine (including more physical work) after each performance, or that your teachers expect at least as much of you as you do of any of your students!

  • Fantastic post – thank you so much for sharing! I did wonder if you would be willing to share your pre-show vocal warm-up routine. I’m gearing up for a long run in a few weeks myself, and any advice would be much appreciated!! 🙂

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