Carrie Coon is a rising performer who's making her Broadway debut this fall in the Steppenwolf's production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Viriginia Wolf." Regionally, Carrie has lit up the stage in "Three Sisters," "The March" (Steppenwolf Theatre Company), "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Arena Stage), The Girl in the Yellow Dress" (Next Theatre Company), "The Real Thing" (Writers’ Theatre), "Magnolia" (Goodman Theatre), "Bronte" (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company), "Reasons to Be Pretty," "Blackbird" (Renaissance Theaterworks), "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Anna Christie," "Our Town" (Madison Repertory Theatre), and four seasons with the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. In addition to theatre, Carrie's television and film credits include "The Playboy Club," various commercials, and "One in a Million." A native of Copley, Ohio, Carrie received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Now in her Broadway debut, Carrie will grace the stage of the Booth Theatre along with Tony Award nominee Amy Morton and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts in the Steppenwolf's production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf". The Booth Theatre is located at 222 West 45th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? With five kids and two working parents, my family didn’t have the time or the resources to go to the theatre when I was growing up. One evening when I was about ten, though, my good friend invited me to the Akron Civic Theatre to see BABES IN TOYLAND. The Akron Civic is a landmark built in 1929, and it’s one of five remaining atmospheric theatres in the country: there’s a faux twinkling starlit sky in the ceiling with clouds rolling across. It’s absolutely magical, and although I don’t remember the play, I was struck by the fact that there were kids my age performing up on the stage. I started to peek at the audition section of the newspaper, but I didn’t get the chance to try my hand at acting until my senior year in high school.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Everyone! Certainly Tracy and Amy and Pam were all on my list. In Chicago, many young actors aspire to be on the mainstage at Steppenwolf, and I feel very fortunate to have been afforded this opportunity. As for New York, our schedule will allow me to see shows on Wednesday nights, so I can start keeping a big, long list. I love Will Eno’s writing, and I got to see THE REALISTIC JONESES directed by Sam Gold up at Yale Rep. I’d work with those guys any time. Laurie Metcalf, Michael Shannon (I’m betraying my Chicago roots). Ask me again in about two weeks.
3. What initially attracted you to this production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and what has made you want to stay with it as it comes to Broadway? I’m staying with it because they let me! Seriously, though, unlike New York, there are only a handful of Equity houses in Chicago, so when they announce their seasons, it’s pretty clear how many roles you might be suited for in any given year. So next, you try to line up those auditions and start preparing. "Honey" was one of the only Equity roles in Chicago that season for which I was realistically cast-able. In fact, I had spent the bulk of the previous year doing plays in Wisconsin. I auditioned three times: once as a screening with Erica Daniels that was put on tape for Pam, a callback with Pam and Tracy and Amy a few weeks later, and ANOTHER callback the following day. To prepare, I spent a lot of time walking around my apartment in a slip and pearls, sneaking brandy, making a grocery list, saying the lines out loud, and imitating my cousin who used to get drunk every Christmas. I had never really done that off-script kind of prep before, and when it came time to audition, I was really invested—I discovered that "Honey" isn’t just a simp, or a source of comic relief; she’s lonely and brave and she deserves compassion. It would have been really hard to watch someone else do it after that. And then building this version with Pam and Amy and Tracy and Madison was such a singular experience. They’re incredible listeners—always so present. Always! The show feels like an organism; I can’t really imagine it functioning in the same way less one of its parts.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I think what’s distinctive about this production (and, to be fair, I haven’t seen any others—only the film) is that "George" and "Martha’s" is a loving, rich, and complicated marriage. Consequently, "George’s" final act at the end of the play is an act of compassion, not brutality. It creates the possibility of salvation—for both couples. This isn’t revelatory: it’s in the text, and Pam’s production allows that to breathe and the result—I hope—is a deeply moving evening in the theater.
5. When the show opens on Broadway, it will mark 50 years to the day the play originally opened. What does it mean to you to be in this production with this milestone attached to it? I’m on Broadway playing an iconic role in a great American play by one our most renowned living playwrights on the anniversary of a very controversial and electrifying premiere. Not only that, but my entire family has rented a loft in Chinatown so they can be here with me opening weekend. I couldn’t have dreamed this—I’m much, much too practical. I can say it’s an honor and that I’m so grateful—that’s all true—but, honestly, it still feels very surreal. I’m not sure I’ll be able to express how it feels until I’m celebrating on opening alongside all of the incredible people that made it possible.
6. What do you enjoy most about performing Edward Albee's work? When you combine intelligent, robust playwriting (with humor that stands up beautifully even fifty years later) and actors like Amy, Tracy and Madison who are incredibly present, night after night, there’s always a sense of danger. Anything can happen. Mr. Albee’s architecture invites a kind of exploration, a sense of flux; when good actors are playing a play like that, the challenge of it means every night is going to be different. It may not be perceptible to the audience, but as an actor it’s really thrilling.
7. What was it like to move from Copley, OH to NYC? How do you feel your midwestern upbringing help prepare you for this moment in your life? I’m about to fulfill the expectations you have about a good, wholesome, Midwestern, upbringing. Certainly my family taught me to value hard work and fairness. More importantly, they warned me to save my money, and they’re always quick to bring me down to earth and remind me not to take myself too seriously. I’m lucky, I know, that my parents raised me to believe I could do anything I wanted (as long as I could pay for it), and I had opportunities they didn’t: I studied abroad, I’ve traveled, I went to graduate school. I even lived in Queens and worked at Best Buy the summer of my junior year in college, just for fun. I think it might have been challenging to take on New York directly from Copley, but Chicago is a great warm-up city. It’s Midwestern and manageable and it offers all of the amenities of city life without some of the challenges that New York presents.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Wow. That question deserves a long and complicated answer, but this is a blog. I’ll tell you one thing: I’ve learned that I sometimes have a difficult time being in process. I want to be really good at something right away, and if I’m not, I can get frustrated and get in my own way. Rehearsal has taught me a lot about being gentler with myself—in the room and in my life. I’ve learned to make honest appraisals of my weaknesses while simultaneously holding the reality that I won’t overcome them in a day (or a lifetime), and that either way, my inner-critic is not going to help me be brave. Developing a character is a process, so is self-awareness, so is accepting who you are on any given day and starting from there.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Other peoples’ blessings." Andre De Shields was playing the "Stage Manager" to my "Emily" in a production of OUR TOWN at Madison Repertory Theatre (my first professional show). He said that if I learn one thing, I should learn that if I don’t get the job, all it means is that it isn’t my turn. That one wasn’t mine, it was some one else’s blessing, and all that means is mine is coming, and it will be the right thing at the right time. If you believe in other peoples’ blessings, you can genuinely celebrate your colleagues’ successes and be patient for your own.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Now, now: let’s leave something to the imagination.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off in NYC? I don’t know yet.
12. Favorite way to stay in shape? I play in a co-ed soccer league (I played all through college and I miss it).
13. Favorite skin care product? Right now, it’s olive oil. I love products that serve more than one purpose: not only can you cook with it, but it’s also the best way to remove waterproof mascara.
14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would be able to “read” and absorb an entire book just by touching it.