Clea Alsip discusses making her Broadway debut in M. Butterfly

Clea Aslip

Clea Alsip

Making a Broadway debut opposite a Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated actor is enough to intimidate anyone but Clea Alsip, who appeared opposite Clive Owen in the most recent revival of M. Butterfly, said working with the prominent Hollywood actor was a dream come true.

Alsip played Renee in the production that opened on October 26 and shutters on Broadway today, December 17. Just days before the final curtain, Alsip spoke with Stage Door Dish about making her Broadway debut in the Julie Taymor production and the memories she made during the production’s limited run.

What surprised you most about the experience of working on M. Butterfly?

For me, booking my first Broadway play, there’s a sense of its grandiosity, of now working in the ‘Big Leagues’. But what was a beautiful surprise as soon as I got into the rehearsal room, was that working on this show was just like working on any other play. And that’s something I was confident I knew how to do. While the room was full of unbelievable talent and genius, it was just minds and ideas combining to make something beautiful on stage. So, I was surprised by how immediately I felt comfortable, a part of the team, and confident that I definitely knew how to do this, even among such incredible humans and artists.

Your biggest scene involves you on stage, alone, with Clive Owen. Can you discuss the process of working with such a notable actor in your Broadway debut in an intimate scene?

I just have to say that Clive Owen is a dream to work with. He brought a level of professionalism to the process from day one when he came in completely off book (and he basically doesn’t stop talking through the entire piece). It was impressive. And that led everyone else to get off book immediately as well. But he also would joke and tell stories all the time. He was an exemplary leader for us all. And then getting to be alone with him several times and really go toe to toe with him in my scenes, it has been such a gift!

There is an ease about Clive that I find so inspirational. As an actor, I can let my anxiety get the better of me at times and feel I’m ‘pushing’ or whatever when that fear takes hold. But with Clive, things would go wrong on stage, someone would forget to do something that needed to be done, and he would always just relax into it, find the humor in the live theater aspect of it, and not let it phase him in the least. That level of comfort and ease in his acting and just being on stage in general is something I absolutely grew from. I felt it infect my scenes with him, it helped ground me in these women, really helped me to remember to just breathe and listen and be, and I’m proud of the work that’s come out of practicing that and playing alongside him nightly.

What do you hope audiences took away from this revival?

I hope people leave yearning to talk with each other about their own unique experiences of what they just witnessed on the stage. There is so much to take away from this play and I think the story, and the ending in particular, leave people feeling a myriad of feelings that are uniquely individual. Through listening to many of my friends and family discuss the themes and emotions of the play, I see that through discussion, even more poignant thought-provoking ideas spring forth. And it’s more important than ever right now to be talking with each other, to be having opinions and voicing them, and to be making up your own mind about how something made you feel, instead of simply regurgitating the notions of others. That’s what excites me most about this play and what brings me the most joy in being a part of it and hearing all the discussions afterwards. (And what makes me the saddest about closing this Sunday; that more people won’t be engaged in a very important and meaningful dialogue right now.)

What did you learn about yourself through doing the 8-show per week Broadway schedule?

Staying healthy and eating right is key! I’ve done eight show weeks before, but there is a level of intensity about the Broadway stage that I haven’t experienced. And with this show in particular, constantly changing costumes and wigs, it takes a lot! For me, sleep and eating well kept me feeling at my best. And that was especially important on this show since I show a lot of myself up there.

What will you remember most about the experience of working on this show?

The people. Hands down this is one of the best, kindest, most talented groups of people that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. In fact, let’s be honest, it is the best. I was so inspired by every person’s enormous talent but also their enormous hearts. This was absolutely the case in the rehearsal room, working intimately with Julie and David and their incredible assistants, alongside the whole cast. But it also was the case when we arrived at the theater and the whole crew was added to the mix. The crew is incredible! And kind and funny, so many inside jokes shared behind those panels (lots of dancing happening on that stage that you never get to see as we’re hidden behind the beautiful panels). I will miss every one of them tremendously. And am honored I got to surround myself with such a great great great group of people. I’m leaving feeling immense gratitude.

About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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