Still Alive: A Mayakovsky & Stalin Wrap-Up

Photo courtesy of Ed Krieger.

Photo courtesy of Ed Krieger.

We closed the world premiere of Mayakovsky and Stalin a couple of weeks ago and I feel very lucky to have worked with this lovely cast and creative team.

The primary reason I was drawn to the project was because I met Alexis Sterling many years ago in the web series community, but still hadn’t worked with her. The idea of getting to see her lovely face during rehearsal every day and playing the unstable wife to her own talented husband, Maury Sterling, was the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. I was thrilled when they announced the rest of the cast, and I was so happy to make new friends during our run.

The other reason I was drawn to the production was the role: Nadya Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s wife who struggled with mental illness and committed suicide at the age of 31. The role was meaty as hell and too good to turn down. I spent the first week of rehearsals with a chronic headache and some of the worse stress I’ve had to deal with. It was so hard at times that I printed out a list of ways to combat depression and affixed it to my script. I was constantly diving deep and struggling to keep my head above water. It is truly humbling as an actor to delve into the abyss of what so many people face on a daily basis.

Due to the nature of the play and the Brechtian directing that had us looking out into the audience instead of at each other, my character was particularly sheltered and frustrated. It created an interesting dynamic and made it especially powerful when I got to break the format and look directly at my scene partner. It was a difficult process, but it filled me with the desire to work with these wonderful actors again so that we can actually look at each other someday! There is something very special about experiencing the fire of looking into another actor’s eyes on stage; it’s so intense to be that present, and you don’t know what you’re missing until you have to spend a whole play looking away from them!

Aside from the good reviews included above, we did some press too. In case you missed it, I appeared as a special guest on the Good Nerd Bad Nerd podcast to talk about the play, my love for Dune, and how sci-fi led me to a career in theatre. Maury Sterling did a great little interview with KTLA, and he and Rhonda Aldrich interviewed each other for since they are both Star Trek alumni.

I’d like to thank all the amazing friends who came out to support me: Rudy Jahchan, Raya Yarbrough, Bear McCreary, Paul Whitfield, Armin Shimerman & Kitty Swink, Geoffrey Wade & Amelia White, Time & Tracy Winters, Rob Nagle, Bo Foxworth, Heather Stewart, Suzanne Keilly, Shelagh McFadden, Karianne Flaathen, Halley Kim, Guy Picot, Elena Murray, Bree Wernicke, Kelie McIver, Jacob Sidney, Graham Barnard, Meredith & Ethan Berg, William Meyer, Bonnie, Eunice Wilson, Armina LaManna, Mario Perez, and my manager Sharon King.

And thanks to new friends who came as well, especially Elizabeth Swain and Tony Amendola. There is nothing like seeing someone’s face light up with the recognition of knowing you from your work, and your faces are both ones I look up to a lot.

Since closing, I have been enjoying life on solid ground again and I finally finished a new draft of a short film I’ve been writing about depression. I look forward to sharing it with you someday in the near future.

Casey McKinnon