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shaken & stirred

I never expected to play Martini and was pleasantly surprised when the role was offered to me. He is a character everyone seems to remember, and I was excited for the opportunity to bring Martini to life.

Then I reread the script.

Very little is revealed about Martini other than he's a "little Italian, eager and bright-eyed." There is no discussion as to why he's institutionalized. No concrete indication of what he suffers from.

I had questions. What is his diagnosis? Is he a chronic (can't be "cured") or an acute (can be "cured")? Is he self-committed with the freedom to leave whenever he wants or is he committed by the state and can only be released when permitted? The script was ambiguous. Hoping for more character context, I read the book. Within its pages, there was even less information.

There was also Richard's first day of rehearsal advice to those of us playing the patients. "Be crazy," he said. He'd seen too many productions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest where the patients were "too normal" and it was hard to understand why they would be institutionalized in a state mental hospital.

Through the script (and book) I decided:

Martini is not voluntarily committed. Martini is an acute. Martini is a war veteran. Martini suffers from PTSD. Martini is childlike. Martini has psychotic episodes. Martini hallucinates. Martini has terrifying flashbacks. Martini is shaken.

But this wasn't enough. I had to get out of my head and into Martini's body.

Through the physicality of rehearsals I've discovered:

Martini bursts onto the stage. Martini can't sit still. Martini is up. Martini is down. Martini is on the floor. Martini is excitable. Martini is always on. Martini is rarely mentally present. Yet, when emotions are intense, Martini is stirred.

I sense I'm becoming Martini when I've stopped thinking and am present listening and physically reacting to what is going on around me. Every run-through I clear my mind and discover something new. By the end of rehearsal, my heart is racing and I am dripping with sweat.

Through these explorations, I've come to an unexpected realization. Unlike the other patients, Martini needs the institution. There he can hallucinate his way to his freedom without harming others or himself. He needs the structure and the safety of the cuckoo's nest to be free. This sets him apart, making him the one relatively happy person in the ward. Playing this "happiness" is key to making Martini memorable.

Mark Brewer plays Martini

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