Everyman Theatre’s latest production, The Book of Joseph, explores themes of love, war, survival, and decades-long family secrets. The play, by Karen Hartman and directed by Noah Himmelstein, is making its East Coast premiere in Baltimore this week, which marks a homecoming of sorts. It’s adapted from the nonfiction book Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence From Poland, edited by Baltimore-based Richard Hollander after he discovered a suitcase of Swastika-stamped letters in his parents’ home after they’d died, revealing a piece of his family’s history he hadn’t ever known about.
Opening night is May 11, and the play continues its run through June 10. Additional events coincide with the production, including the Giving Voice to the Hollander Family Exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, which displays original Hollander family letters and artifacts.
Because the play deals with some pretty heavy-hitting subject matter, we thought we’d take this moment to lighten the mood a bit and show another side of the actors and the real-life people they portray by asking them each the same five questions. Consider this your comic relief.
(Note: The actors were not in character when responding to the following questions.)
How do you decompress after a long day?
Bruce Randolph Nelson (who plays Richard Hollander): At the beginning of the year, I started meditating—after a long time avoiding sitting in silence. Now it’s become routine, and is a great way to calm an anxious mind.
The Actual Richard Hollander: Actually, I decompress at the very beginning of the day, at the gym. That way, I can face the day knowing that I at least accomplished something.
Elliott Kashner (who plays Craig Hollander): My absolute favorite thing to do at the end of a long day is to cook dinner with my wife. We've been experimenting with all kinds of different recipes, so it has been a lot of fun trying to cook new things that we normally would never try and to make a list of our tried-and-true favorites.
The Actual Craig Hollander: I scour my DVR for something mind-numbing. Depending on how long the day, I might also scour my liquor cabinet for the same thing.
What’s your favorite pizza topping?
Bruce Randolph Nelson: Anything but pineapple. If forced to go there I would probably eat it anyway. Love to eat just about anything.
Richard Hollander: I enjoy pizza without toppings. That is probably a reflection of my personality: pedestrian.
Elliott Kashner: Bacon and banana peppers. It sounds really bizarre, but the saltiness of the bacon with the tanginess of the peppers . . . You've gotta try it.
Craig Hollander: Pepperoni. And anyone who answers “cheese” or “plain” doesn't understand the definition of “topping.”
If you could travel back to any time of your life, where would you go and why?
Bruce Randolph Nelson: Early Rome, to see how it all started. Although, a close second would be Renaissance Florence—for the culture.
Richard Hollander: I would probably go back to age 8 or 9, when I still believed I could play in the major leagues.
Elliott Kashner: Our honeymoon. My wife and I went to St. Croix in April 2013. It was off-season there, but the weather was still perfect. We enjoyed personal tours of the rum distilleries, had the beaches to ourselves, and the complex where we stayed bumped us up to a cabin right on the beach (since no one else was there). We went kayaking at night, and the kayaks were clear and had lights on the bottom, so you could paddle around and look at all the fish (and octopi!) swimming under you. I'd love to go back and do all of that again.
Craig Hollander: I would travel back to the early 1980s because I don't remember those years from the first time around.
Do you collect anything?
Bruce Randolph Nelson: The tears of my regrets. Seriously, love the occasional well-placed antique.
Richard Hollander: To the great dismay of my wife, I collect everything and rarely throw out anything.
Elliott Kashner: Not anymore. We live in a small studio, so we just don't have room to collect much, other than a library of plays. I used to play tabletop strategy games when I was younger, and I loved collecting the miniatures and painting them. They are still sitting in my parents’ basement, I think. If we ever move into an apartment with more space, I think that's something I might like to start collecting again.
Craig Hollander: I always seem to have a lot of near-empty pens on my desk.
Who—real or fictional—made the greatest impression on you growing up?
Bruce Randolph Nelson: The whole psychological-horror genre of books. Lot’s of Stephen King. I like it dark.
Richard Hollander: As a kid, Hank Aaron made the greatest impression. Is there anything else worth achieving if one can hit for average, hit for power, run, field, and throw? From a kid’s perspective, that is about as perfect as it gets.
Elliott Kashner: Atticus Finch. My mom was an English teacher, and her favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird; Harper Lee had even signed and personalized a copy for her. In high school, I really wanted to be a lawyer, and Atticus was the model of what I thought a lawyer should be: someone who always stood up for what was right. He was decent, modest, and resolute, and I used to imagine that when I became a lawyer, I would be like him. I ended up not studying law, but I still think of the character from time to time, and ask myself what Atticus might do in a given situation.
Craig Hollander: Homer Simpson.