In Time Stands Still at the Guthrie, actor Sarah Agnew has plenty of physical ways to get into the character, from the temporary scar tattoos she applies for each performance to the equipment she has to wear for her role.
"I have never been so sedate in a part," Agnew says. "My whole right side is messed up. I have my leg in a brace that makes me immobile, and it is painful. My right arm is in a sling. It does make it a lot easier to remember my blocking. My character is very headstrong, and I can understand her frustration after just sitting in a rehearsal room for four weeks. Just the restrictions made me cranky and a little short."
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
In Donald Margulies's new play, Agnew plays Sarah Goodwin, a photojournalist in Iraq. A roadside bomb causes severe injuries, forcing her back to the United States. As she rehabilitates, she and her partner, James (Bill McCallum), are at loggerheads over what the next step should be. He is a war journalist searching for a more conventional life, while Sarah wants to keep up the fight. The cast also includes Mark Benninghofen and Valeri Mudek.
"The beauty of what we do is that every production, every story, lets you delve into areas that you didn't know about. The pleasure of this piece is to be inspired by the print- and photojournalists who have to be close to the action," she says.
Agnew sees these war-zone journalists as fulfilling a vital role in a free society. "We are all citizens of the world, and we have to have the information about what is happening in every corner of the world. Someone has to be out gathering evidence so tyrants are brought down and that injustice doesn't occur."
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
How powerful can these images be? When a pair of Iraq War veterans talked to the cast about their experiences, one of them brought along photographs that had been taken -- frank, graphic ones. "Some of them were so gruesome and horrific that I don't think we would be at war now if people were allowed to see some of these images," Agnew says.
Along with the war and journalism research, Agnew met with a physical therapist from a veterans' hospital to get a deeper view of how to act. And there's always YouTube. "There are videos on how to use a crutch or a cane," she says.
Apart from the physical discomfort, Agnew has been thrilled with the work that the four actors and director Joe Dowling have done over the last month. "This piece is a real quartet, and as everyone has gotten their sea legs, you can feel the rhythms in the room," she says. "Joe's ability to dig in and get under the text to really look for the dynamic and a tension has been so helpful. He is also just fun to be in the room with."
IF YOU GO
Times Stands Still
Friday through May 20
Guthrie Theater 818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online