Yes, I play a bunch of zany characters, but what might surprise the audience is how there are some moments in the show that are completely straightforward and grounded. My goal is to get you to fall in love with these characters so you cheer their successes and mourn their failings.
Henrik: How did you manage to learn over 20 different roles?
Luke: Practice. Muscle memory. Practice. Practice. Muscle memory. Practice. Practice. Muscle memory. Practice.
Perhaps surprisingly, the actual switching between characters vocally and physically isn’t the challenge. That’s the fun part! I could do that all day! I just get to let my imagination run wild.
The hard part?—all the minutiae that go along with it. Remembering if I put the cigarette holder in the front right pocket the last time I did the character, or if three scenes ago I moved the second cell phone to the front left shirt pocket during the scene change. Did I remember to preset the walkie-talkie in the jacket pocket for the last scene after I stashed it in the onstage bin during a change during the first scene?
Dan: I’m not sure I’ve ever truly learned a role. If I’m being any good, at least to my mind and according to my own process—such as it is—I’ll be learning about my character throughout the entire process. If I didn’t approach both acting and directing from that angle, I’m afraid I’d bore not only myself, but very likely others, to tears.
Henrik: Which are your three favorite lines from this play?
Luke: I’ll try not to pick any lines that give anything away! Here we go:
“Hello.” . . . Simple line. But it’s delightful in context. It comes at a certain moment, and it marks the end of a particularly challenging sequence of character and prop shifts.
“Let dead dogs lie, Mr. Trundle. Let dead dogs lie!” . . . I have favorite characters. One of them is Floyd, the one-armed lumberyard owner, and I have a particularly fun time with him. While reading the script, I kept imagining the voice of the obscure character Monkey John from the Western series Lonesome Dove, played by Matthew Cowles. So Floyd is my best impersonation of that character, and I love doing it.
“One week. If there’s no play in exactly seven days, and let’s see . . . it’s 7:59 . . . I’ll even throw in a minute! You have until eight PM one week from tonight to put on your play, or I will see to it that you rot in jail.” . . . This is not an interesting line, but it was hard to memorize, and I am happy when it comes out easily.
“I hit traffic, got stuck behind a parked car.”
“I’m so tired, I just want to sleep.” Actually that last one is probably reflective of the way I’m feeling right now, at the end of week 3.
Henrik: Tell us something about you as a person that only some of your best friends know about you.
Luke: I was stuck on this question, so I asked my fiancée, Nicole, and she says that I’m a terrible liar, so I’ll go with that. [He laughs] I can’t get away with anything!
Dan: My director, Ellie Mooney, is also my boss at home. She’s done an extraordinary job with Popcorn Falls, imbuing it with humor and poignancy. She and I met in 2010 during rehearsals for Amadeus at the Walnut Street Theatre. I played Salieri and she played Mozart’s wife Constanza. So Salieri finally wins! [he laughs] I had the extraordinary opportunity to direct her a few years back in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, here at the Independence Studio. She and the rest of the cast were beyond wonderful; and now with Popcorn Falls, she finally got her chance to get revenge and direct me!
I’m only kidding: of course, she and I have a unique relationship where we collaborate artistically on almost all our projects.
Luke: I’m petrified of missing an entrance. When I did Brigadoon in high school, I completely blew an entrance. It has haunted me ever since. I usually wait in the wings long before I’m supposed to enter, because I don’t want to space out and fail to hear my cue to get into place—sometimes, as far as two scenes in advance, if I won’t get in the way of anyone else trying to do their job.
Luckily in this show, I enter—and then I don’t exit. So I’m only nervous about that once!
Ellie has kidnapped her to Florida for the moment, so I am missing them both very much; and even though I am loving the theatrical romp that is Popcorn Falls, I’m very much looking forward to the death by a thousand licks that I’ll receive when we are reunited—to be clear, I’ll be receiving those from Bisou, not Ellie
The drama teacher developed gray hair and made me stay up most of the night and rehearse non-stop till the curtain went up again the next evening. Unfortunately, by then, I was so exhausted and nervous that I lost all my lines again. While I learned to improvise in front of a whole hall of theatergoers, none of whom knew the script and quite a few of whom told me afterwards how much they enjoyed my performance—alas, I was never invited to perform in any play anywhere since.
To this day, I don’t know why!
Instead, I write plays in both English and German and became a theater reviewer and interviewer. In short, I have the greatest respect for actors, not only for their acting skills, but for their capacity to learn whole scripts by heart—as witnessed by muscle memory masters Luke Bradt and Dan Olmstead, acting over 20 different roles non-stop at the Walnut.