We recently had the opportunity to chat with Mike Iveson about his role in the Broadway play What the Constition Means to Me—here are the highlights:
QV: How’d you get involved with What the Constitution Means to Me?
Mike Iveson: Heidi asked me to replace the wonderful Danny Wolohan, who had done one of the earlier versions of the show with Heidi at a festival in NYC and in Berkeley. He wasn’t available because he got a job playing Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird, which currently still running in the theater literally across the street from the theater where Constitution finally wound up. I love this. Danny can actually peep into our green room and wave to us from across the street.
QV: Taking out the aspect of it being “Broadway”—what’s been your favorite aspect of the production either at the New York Theater Workshop or at the Helen Hayes Theatre?
MI: I love pretty much everything about this production, but I feel pretty lucky that I am working in a show that actively engages the audience to find the personal in their politics every night during such a dubious phase of American history.
QV: What do you enjoy doing during your downtime here in the city?
MI: What is this “downtime” you speak of?
QV: How do you cope with two-show days? What do you do between the matinee and evening performances?
MI: Honestly my favorite food spots in the neighborhood are relatively far away, so I usually take the time to get a stroll in and buy some takeout. (My Havaianas broke on one of these jaunts and I had to replace them on the spot with some slides from the Rainbow on 39th and 9th, so yeah sometimes I get a little shopping done as well.) Also we like to sample sodas from other countries and post Instagram stories about it, and apologies in advance if you stumble across that.
QV: Without disclosing too much here, you had a pretty emotional [mostly] monologue towards the end of the play there. What can you tell us about how that feels?
MI: Like many things in the show it is different on different nights. Some nights there’s lots of uncomfortable laughter from the audience, some nights there’s active listening. I always have to negotiate the sort of instantaneous feedback I am getting about it night to night, and I love it.
QV: Not to be too cheesy (while admitting it is), how would you answer the question that is the title? What does the Constitution mean to you?
MI: It’s like a photograph of an event you really enjoyed; over time, your memories of the event match the photograph, not the original thing itself the way you initially remembered it. We need to remind ourselves about the radical spirit with which the thing was created.
QV: In contrast to some of your other roles, how is acting alongside the playwright? Does it present any more challenges than normal or does it give a bit more freedom?
MI: I freaking love being onstage with Heidi. She is always slipping in some new mini tweak to the text because she can, and I have to just deal with it in real time. Not to be too ridiculous but it keeps the play as alive as I wish the Constitution was.
QV: The show is quite inspiring and sends a strong message promoting involvement and critical thinking. That said, if you had to distill it to one key takeaway point, what do you suppose that would be?
MI: If you run into your teenage self on the road someday, put her in a play.