Our world moves at an alarming rate in the 21st century. With so much happening every minute, it can be hard to argue for looking back. With its current production of Kate Fodor’s Hannah and Martin, Shattered Globe Theatre is doing exactly that. I sat down with Christina Gorman, the actress playing the titular Hannah Arendt, to discuss what it means to take on the past right now.
BTD: What’s it like playing a historical figure?
Gorman: This is definitely my first notable, famous historical figure. I’ve never played one to this extent before. I did a lot of research before we started rehearsing. There’s footage of her online, and that helped to get an idea of who she was. I also met with one of our [Shattered Globe] board members who teaches at Northwestern in the political science department who did her whole graduate thesis on Hannah Arendt.
Larry Grimm, who plays Martin, got a copy of a very rare book that collected their original letters to each other. These letters hadn’t been discovered until they both passed away. That’s been incredibly helpful for both of us.
I definitely didn’t want to make it an impersonation. I wanted to incorporate her physicalization, the way she moves, the way she talks, but I still had to make it my own and make it as truthful as possible.
BTD: What do you and Hannah have in common?
Gorman: To be honest, I don’t know. I’m very in awe of the way that her mind worked, so much so that every night I’m just trying to do that justice. I do empathize with her as a young woman going out into the world. I feel like she held fast to an outsider’s perspective, that she felt she led an independent, solitary existence. I definitely identified with that when I was a younger person. A kind of emo Hannah Arendt, maybe.
BTD: This play explores the intersection of politics and intellect when human rights are on the line. How does performing this script feel in 2019?
Gorman: There’s a reason why our director [Louis Contey] wanted to do this play now. Hannah and Martin was originally a world premiere by TimeLine in 2003, and that was a very different world. That was the Bush administration. As we were exploring the text, there were moments of eerie prescience. There are things that Martin says in this play that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people say now. We’ve had some fascinating conversations with our audiences during talkbacks. Many react like this should be an inspiration to fight totalitarianism as it remerges in the 21st century, but some think we need to explore the grey. We should try to unpack these ideas about what mercy means.
BTD: You’ve been an ensemble member with Shattered Globe since 2013. What does it mean to you to be part of this particular company for so long?
Gorman: It’s always wonderful to have an artistic home. Having a place and the opportunity to do your thing has been invaluable. We adore Sandy Shinner. She’s so inspirational and one of the hardest working people I know. It’s a really great place to be.
Hannah and Martin by Kate Fodor, directed by Louis Contey. Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave, (773) 975-8150, theaterwit.org, $15-$39. Through May 25th.