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‘Sea Wall/A Life’ Director on How the Rehearsal Room was ‘Anarchy’

June 13, 2019 by Suzy Evans
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Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge

Director Carrie Cracknell is making her Broadway debut alongside some theatrical newcomers. Just kidding. Broadway vets Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge star in “Sea Wall/A Life,” and even though the actors have three Main Stem credits each, Cracknell says the process hasn’t been intimidating at all.

The British director is a big deal across the pond, and she’s served as artistic director of the Gate Theatre and associate director at the Young Vic and the Royal Court. Gyllenhaal saw a show Cracknell directed in London and their relationship evolved from there.

“We started talking about trying to find something to work on together,” she told TodayTix. “So, we just suddenly felt like this was the perfect project for all of us to work on together.”

The two one-man shows — ”Sea Wall” is written by Simon Stephens and “A Life” is written by Nick Payne — premiered off Broadway at the Public Theater earlier this year and will be on Broadway at the Hudson Theater this summer, July 26-Sept. 29.

Check out what Cracknell had to say about directing the show below, and get tickets to see Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge in “Sea Wall/A Life.”

On the rehearsal room with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge:
“There was a kind of freedom and an anarchy in the rehearsal room because there was often just the three of us and sometimes the writers. Sometimes we’d have 20 minute stand-up sections where Jake would just do ridiculous impressions and dance around and play the piano. It was really quite hard to call it work. But there was a kind of open, joyful sense, in the way that we made the pieces, because we wanted them to feel really connected and open-hearted. So, it was really lovely, warm time.”

On how the two plays speak to each other:
The two pieces share a lot thematically. They both look at fatherhood, they both look at these really intense, beautiful ideas about what it means to be a son, what it means to suddenly take on the responsibility of becoming a parent. The themes are really universal, and I was really struck by the idea that it’s actually men talking really openly about their feelings and about their vulnerabilities, which I don’t think we really do very often. That felt really unusual to me.

On why live theater is important:
There’s something almost spiritual about being in a room with an enormous group of people. The lights go out. There’s a sort of excitement and anticipation in that moment of darkness, and then to see actors of this caliber talking really directly to you and barring their souls. It feels very communal, somehow, and I think there’s something really special about that.

On how the plays are personal for her:
The show is, oddly, one of the most personal pieces I’ve made. A lot of my big life events feel quite tied up in the stuff that’s covered in the show. So I really connect with it and it makes me reflect a lot on my relationships and the things that are important.