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October 1, 2010

Dining with the Greats – Ari Cohen

Ari Cohen

Ari Cohen. Photo: Sandy Nicholson.

No stranger to the Toronto stage scene, Ari Cohen is an accomplished actor for theatre, television and film. He has appeared in productions for Canadian Stage, Tarragon, Factory, National Arts Centre, Mirvish Productions, and The Citadel Theatre. Ari has also had roles in many popular programs including The Border, Rookie Blue, Stargate: Atlantis, Smallville and The L Word. He previously appeared in Soulpepper’s production of Awake and Sing! and plays Biff in our upcoming run of Death of a Salesman.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune, when I was asked to play Biff in this production of Death of A Salesman. Four weeks into rehearsal, and I still can’t. Working with Joe, Nancy, Tim and the entire cast has served as a daily reminder of why of I love actors and acting. Albert has been guiding us all with a steady hand and a huge open heart. As you are about to see, Death of A Salesman is not only structurally daring and brilliantly complex, but it is also an intensely impassioned work of art. Joe summed it up best the other day when he said, after rehearsal, “I can’t believe I get to be in this play.” I think, for all of us, the real superstar in the room is the great Arthur Miller.

Miller initially titled Salesman, “The Inside of His Head.” This is exactly where we attempt to delve throughout the rehearsal process. We are constantly searching the text for clues to his intentions for any given moment in a scene. We continue to be in awe of Miller’s artistry and of the extraordinary heart of this play, on a daily basis.

I had lunch with him once.

Ok, not really.

As a boy, my parents would make the occasional pilgrimage from Winnipeg to the Stratford and Shaw festivals. For some reason this memory has endured. As we were leaving a restaurant in Stratford, my dad, pointing to an elderly gentleman at a nearby table, said, “That’s Arthur Miller. He’s a very famous playwright who was once married to Marilyn Monroe.” It is remarkable to me that I recall an event that would have held absolutely no interest to me as a young boy. I now consider it somewhat prescient and am beyond thrilled that my own father will once again make the pilgrimage to Ontario, for this production of Miller’s master work. Enjoy the show, pop. Thanks for coming.

As both a son and a father, this play holds a special place in my heart. I hope your experience of this production is as thrilling for you, as exploring it these weeks has been for us. And perhaps, if you are moved to, you’ll go home and hug your kids a little tighter, or tell your parents that you love them. They’re doing their best.

Enjoy the show.