THEATERMANIA: How are you building off the Cyrano you previously created at the Pioneer Theatre Company?
PP: The production of Cyrano I did at Pioneer was very lyrical and captured Cyrano's gentility and civility. This time, we are using a translation by Anthony Burgess, which captures Cyrano's rougher side -- his humor, his brashness, and his anger. Each translation feeds the other. I also think having played the part before helps me to trust the play. I know the magic it can work upon an audience.
TM: You recently played King Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons. How did your work in that piece affect this performance?
PP: The two time periods are quite different, but the characters share a striking similarity in that they are both second sons of important men. Both have had to work harder because their older brothers were favored. Cyrano is a member of the Gacony Cadets, which means he was the second son of an important family and not entitled to the lands and privileges afforded to his older brother. In the case of both Henry and Cyrano, it gives them a kind of chip on the shoulder; a need to prove oneself the best at everything; and a deep-seated anger at the world.
TM: Do you dedicate yourself to voice training? If so, what training has been the most beneficial to you?
PP: My dad has a great voice, so most of it is genetic. I do feel that inflection is an underused tool by American actors, and I train as a singer as well as warm up thoroughly before every performance.
TM: What is the approach you are taking with Cyrano's nose?
PP: I am working with Scott Ramp, an old friend from Oregon, who is now a major prosthetics designer in Los Angeles. We want it to be aquiline, giving a sense of nobility from some angles and absurdity from others. We would also like it to be credible and astonishing at the same time. And, of course, it has to read on stage.
TM: To what degree is your Cyrano informed by research on the real man upon which the character is based?
PP: Rostand used the historical Cyrano as a model, so research into the actual man is very helpful. He had a bitter, adversarial relationship with his father, which helps explain his pugnacity. He was a spiritual seeker who could not accept the hypocrisy and easy explanations of the church.
TM: How would you describe your relationship to the character Le Bret, who is Cyrano's confidant, and who is your confidant?
PP: The actual Cyrano had a deep, but competitive friendship with LeBret. LeBret's action throughout the play seems to be to save Cyrano from himself. In my own case, my wife, Paige Davis, comes closest to this dynamic of someone who knows you so well they know when you are selling yourself short or spiraling into depression or going to get yourself into trouble.
TM: Cyrano is one of the largest roles in theater in terms of number of words, how do you approach the task of learning the text?
PP: It's getting harder as I get older! When I was in my twenties, I had a pretty amazing memory and could basically read something through once and then do it. Not any more! In this case, I played Cyrano in a different translation six years ago, so my brain still wants to hold on to some of those lines. Basically, I drill the lines until they begin to make sense -- until each word is necessary, and no other form of expression would do. That's when I know I know them.