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Listen: The ‘Balls-Out Theatricality’ of Sam Mendes

Gordon Cox

If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all.

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“There is a kind of balls-out theatricality to the play where you have to, as a director, at least embrace the potential chaos of it, and marshal that chaos,” Mendes explained on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. He was talking about Jez Butterworth’s latest family epic, “The Ferryman,” which is doing so well at the box office that it’s extended its Broadway run with a largely new cast.

“There’s always an element of the unknown,” he said. “The goose will s— on the stage. The baby will cry and yell. The rabbit will, as it does, piss all over the apples that are stored in the same pocket, which [an actor] then has to hand out to all the kids to eat.”

“Ferryman” is part of a busy year for the Oscar-winning director. His staging of another three-hour-plus play, “The Lehman Brothers,” starts performances at the Park Avenue Armory later this month, and all the while he’s gearing up to shoot a mysterious new movie, “1917,” for a Christmas release.

Mendes talks about all of that on the new episode of Stagecraft, dropping hints about World War I tale “1917,” explaining how his experiences in theater and film influence each other, and revealing how his work on the James Bond films helped turn him into a writer.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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