When actors Mimi Wyche and Chip Egan take the stage on March 24 at the Warehouse Theatre as the lead roles in Arthur Miller’s dramatic 1947 play All My Sons, it will only be the second time the two have performed together since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? roared through the space on Augusta Street six years ago. Miller—who we hope is known more for his work and less for being married to Marilyn Monroe—created “a masterpiece of American drama,” says Egan of the play. No pressure there, right?
Egan, a freelance director, actor, designer, and retired dean emeritus of the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities at Clemson University, and Wyche, the Greenville native erstwhile New Yorker, sat down to banter a few weeks out from beginning rehearsals:
Take(s) Two // Mimi Wyche and Chip Egan are veteran actors who first appeared together at the Warehouse Theatre’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? six years ago. They meet once again as Kate and Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s challenging work All My Sons.
So, Mimi, you were in a Broadway play when you lived in New York City, correct? >>
Mimi wyche: Yes, it was Cats (pausing for a beat, then smiling)—back when it mattered (laughter).
What does acting fuel for you, Chip? >>
Chip Egan: It’s sort of who I am. I am a theater artist and that takes lots of forms—actor, director, sometimes designer—and that’s the way I’ve been since I was a teenager, and it’s a kind of lifeblood. I’m not very good at not doing it after awhile.
MW: I feel like it’s food for my soul. In New York there’s a thing that if you can’t get hired, make your own jobs, so that’s why I started writing these one-woman shows because it would give me something to work on while I was trying to get a “job-job.”
What were your shows about? >>
MW: Most of the shows were written to music like cabaret shows. One was on the music of Cole Porter, one was on romance, one was country/western. Then I started to write the piece about eating disorders, which I suffered from and I’d always said, ‘I’ve got to do some kind of theater piece about eating disorders,’ and my friends finally said, ‘Either write this show, or shut up about it.’ I played five different women who had some version of weight obsession, or exercise, or bulimia, anorexia, or obesity.
That is intense, to say the least. What was the show called? >>
MW: Eaten Alive. I toured colleges and did the show myself for five years, and then a friend of mine took it over, so it toured colleges for 11 years. I was just amazed. It’s not a brilliant piece of theater by any means, but to have someone going through . . . sharing the emotional terror of an eating disorder, and they’re up there and you’re able to witness it—it’s so much more powerful than having a speaker. That, to me, is the power of theater. If you can sit in the audience and share that emotional journey, it hits you in a way that watching a video or going to a movie doesn’t quite nail that energy that is shared.
So here you both are a few years after Virginia Woolf, with All My Sons now bringing you back together. What was it about these roles that attracted you?? >>
MW: I actually saw it on Broadway. My husband and I were in New York and Dianne Wiest played Kate, and she was literally in front of me. At the end of the play, my husband and I just sat there and we looked up when the guy said, ‘We are sweeping up the theater—you gotta go.’ It was just so powerful and I remember thinking, ‘Man, I would love to just have a swat at that play at some point in my life because that part . . . she’s a goddess.’
Like Joe and Kate Keller from this production, George and Martha from Virginia Woolf were intense characters to play against each other. >>
CE: It was every bit as rewarding to work together in that piece as we thought it would be.
MW: Absolutely for me. It’s up there in the top-three, all-time great experiences in theatre. I don’t know what the other two are . . . (laughing).
CE: We’ll talk (more laughing).
Are you nervous for this performance? >>
CE: This is an American classic that’s not seen all that often or produced very often. I’ve never seen it on stage. I’m going to be doing it, but I’ve never seen it. So I have a sense of debt to the work and to the importance of it, and that’s a little intimidating, but you don’t think about that while you’re rehearsing it.
What about you, Mimi? >>
MW: I get incredibly nervous about any kind of performance. I recently did a solo in church here locally, which I’ve done for 35 years, and I almost threw up. It’s just sort of a given.
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
March 24–April 15
Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St, Greenville.
(864) 235-6948, warehousetheatre.com