Perhaps there was no better time to give thanks than on The Thanksgiving Play red carpet. The new comedy by Larissa FastHorse opened on Broadway April 20, at Second Stage Theater's Hayes Theater. And the mood was joyful. Read the reviews here.
Considering that FastHorse is the first Native American woman to pen a work on Broadway, there was plenty to be thankful for on this red carpet. For Scott Foley, it was his first time being on Broadway since 2003. “To do it with a play written by the first Native American woman playwright on Broadway, in a comedy (I love me a comedy), with this group of people (these actors are so talented)...I'm really thankful,” he said with excitement.
D'Arcy Carden was similarly effusive, saying more simply, “I'm feeling overwhelmed with joy. I'm feeling like I'm kind of floating.”
Below, we ask the cast of The Thanksgiving Play to say yay or nay to common actor habits (like showmances). Scroll down below to read more from the cast members of the show.
With The Thanksgiving Play, FastHorse is making her Broadway debut, and the work is directed by Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin. It follows four actors who are trying to create a Thanksgiving pageant for school children, one that will be historically accurate and acknowledge the contributions of Native Americans. The only problem is all four actors are white. The play stars Foley, Carden, Chris Sullivan, and Tony winner Katie Finneran.
For opening night, FastHorse gave the entire cast a gift, a pin of The Thanksgiving Play Playbill cover surrounded by a halo of beads. Sullivan wore his pin on the red carpet and was eager to show it off: “This is from Busy Beaver Beadworks, a Native artist, it was the opening night gift from Larissa FastHorse.”
Like Foley, Sullivan is also making a return to the stage after a long absence, and he admitted it was an adjustment. “I haven’t been on stage in seven years, so getting my sea legs back was the first bit. All the while learning a brand new history of this country that I had never been taught before.”
In The Thanksgiving Play, Sullivan plays Caden, a history teacher/aspiring playwright, who is quick to tell the group that the traditional Thanksgiving story is a myth. For the cast, working on the play has taught them more about the early history of America, and about Thanksgiving.
Says Finneran, “What I've learned about myself doing this play is what I don't know about Native American history. And I'll be sure to teach my children about it. And I feel embarrassed that I had a lack of knowledge. And hopefully this play will show everybody else that what we were taught in school wasn't really the real story. And that they talk about it when they read this play and see this play.”
The cast of The Thanksgiving Play all portray people who consider themselves progressive. They identify themselves with their pronouns, they’ve taken diversity workshops, they don’t shy away from talking about their own whiteness. But the show also takes them to task for the performativity behind their inclusive gestures. And that calling out, of the characters and also the audience, was what made the play a challenge for its cast.
Carden admits that “in the weeks leading up to the first rehearsal, I had a twitch in my left eye and I was really scared and it would have been easier to not do it.” But once she started, FastHorse and Chavkin helped the team through the process and made it less overwhelming. “We had this really safe place where it wasn't about hiding your fears. It was about talking about them and getting them out and relating to each other through them. And that was really helpful.” At the end of the day, says Carden, “It's doing the scary thing that really shows you who you are, and it makes me just want to do that more even though it's scary.”
Foley was even more honest, saying that, “It took a long time for me to overcome the fears that I had when I first read this play.” In the show, Foley plays Jaxton, an actor/yoga instructor. Not to spoil the play, but he does some problematic things, even though he claims to want to hold space for other people. Says Foley, “There's a lot of tough things that I had to sort of steel myself to in regards to playing this character. So the poor Rachel Chavkin and Larissa FastHorse had to deal with a lot of Scott Foley being like, ‘I don't know! I don't like this! I'm not comfortable! And they were great and held my hand through it.”
It may have been “uncomfortable,” Foley admits, but it's been worth it: “I feel great. I'm so grateful and thankful.”
Also starring in The Thanksgiving Play are Mollie Fink, Dasan Turner, Ishan De Silva, and Atticus Scott-Williamson, who appear as High School Children in filmed scenes. And the company is rounded out by understudies Christopher Ryan Grant, Clea Alsip, and Amy Staats.
The creative team includes scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Lux Haac, lighting design by Jeanette Oui-Suk Yew, sound design by Mikaal Sulaiman, and video/projection design by David Bengali. Casting is by Telsey + Co.