Don’t miss this Q & A with the stars of Handle With Care! We sat down with Anna Slate and Ben Mackel to discuss their favorite moments in the show, what it’s like to become their characters, holiday traditions, and more!
Prefer to read? See the transcript below.
Taylor Beyrer: Hi there! My name is Taylor Beyrer and I am the Audience Relations Manager here at NC Stage. I’m sitting down with Anna Slate and Ben Mackel, stars of our current production, Handle WIth Care. Thank you all for being here, it’s really going to be a pleasure. So first off, in the show Anna, who plays Ayelet, has to speak Hebrew throughout most of the production. So I guess the biggest question is: do you speak Hebrew?
Anna Slate: Great question – I do now. A month ago I did not. I do have an interesting relationship to Hebrew. I did grow up, from kindergarten through 8th grade, going to a Jewish private school and Jewish studies were part of our curriculum- religiously, the language as well – so I have a very baseline understanding of how to read Hebrew letters and very basic Hebrew vocabulary. Zero grammatical understanding and very small vocab as well. But it was just enough to be able to draw enough correlations between words that recur throughout the Hebrew text for me to begin to understand it. So I just kind of worked it up to a place where I know what I’m saying and if someone were to respond to me in Hebrew, I probably would not. Except my israeli friend did come see the show and he started speaking to me in Hebrew and I was understanding way more. It was pretty cool. But it’s funny, I know random words. Like I know how to say “shabbat is beautiful in its simplicity” You know, that’s not Hebrew 101.
That’s kind of the long and short of it.
TB: I’m going to throw this question at you all: do you have a favorite moment in the show?
Ben Mackel: That’s a good question. I definitely like the moment when – the only time that I’m on stage with Barbara – when she comes back at the end. I don’t know if I should divulge this for you listeners who haven’t seen it, but there’s a moment there at the end that Ayelet speaks to her Grandmother and it’s really quite touching. I’m glad that I’m on stage and get to hear it every time. That’s one of the good ones.
TB: So Barbara Blombrg plays Edna, who is Ayelet’s Grandmother in the production, so you’ll get to see – there are 4 actors total – we also have Aaron Brakefield who plays Terrance. And they couldn’t make it for this podcast but they are also really wonderful and they support the production as well. Do you have a favorite moment, Anna?
AS: I also don’t want to give anything away but there is this very beautiful Jewish tradition that happens in this that kind of feels like a really big breath in the middle of the show that I really love. It’s a really sweet moment. I don’t think it gives too much away, but if and when you all come see it, it is a really beautiful moment that is very heartfelt.
BM: I myself was not raised too religiously, if at all, and it really shows me and the character – our parallels are very similar – just the beauty if the traditions that religion and spirituality can hold. It’s very beautiful and touching.
TB: Speaking of traditions: do you all personally have any fun holiday traditions that you do this time of year?
BM: Yes, I do! Traditions are funny in my family, especially with my sister and I – we’re a little OCD, if you will, about certain things. It has to be white Christmas lights on the Christmas tree and, you know, a certain amount of tinsel if any. But for myself, being an actor sometimes – frequently within the past decade – I haven’t been able to go home. I’ve had shows before and after Christmas. Now that I live in Asheville and I’m doing this show here I can spend it with family and it’s great. But times that I’ve been in Florida, I couldn’t get back and so you spend Christmas alone and you get yourself some rituals to get yourself through it and feel comforting like your family’s there. One of them, surprisingly, is watching Muppet Christmas Carol. I save it for the right amount of time where I’m just starting to feel a little bit lonely and I’m not around anybody on Christmas and I watch that and it always just brings my sister and my mom and it makes it just feel like they’re there and it’s really nice.
TB: That’s awesome. What about you?
AS: That’s actually interesting. This is my first year not going home for the holidays actually – for any of them – Thanksgiving I was here, largely just to be here for the show. My family is on the further east coast – northeast – so that will be interesting. I think I’ll really miss the food of being with my family. I grew up Jewish but my step parents both celebrate Christmas so I always did both growing up. I will say this- I love Christmas music. It wasn’t a huge part of me growing up except when I did choir and I love it and I always blast it when it comes on and everyone I’ve ever lived with – roomates, whoever – gets very annoyed with me. I don’t know why I love it so much. I love the Mariah Carey Christmas music, love O Holy Night – I sing it on the daily – like truly it’s one of my go-tos when I’m just putzing around the house I sing O Holy Night.
BM: I’m there with you, I blast it too.
AS: I love it
BM: I mean this year we blasted it on Thanksgiving. We started then, we put up the tree and we love it, I love it
AS: That’s so funny. I guess I have one more tradition that I just thought of. On New Years I always watch the Twilight Zone marathon. There’s always a Twilight Zone marathon. The old school one on the SciFi network, I think it’s still happening. It’s like 48 hours of Twilight Zone. It’s amazing.
TB: What a wonderful holiday tradition!
AS: It’s often by myself cause everyone else is ike “ALRIGHT I’m doing something else.”
TB: Alright so a little bit back towards the show: What does this show mean to you and what do you take away from being a part of this production?
BM: This show hits really close to home with me. Like I said earlier, the parallels between Josh and myself – Josh is who I play – are very close and it’s getting to be therapeutic, which I find so much theatre is. I find acting in shows, you find stuff that’s so similar to you and you get to live through it in a safe space. It’s a really cool way to do theatre, thinking of it as a therapeutic form. So for this particular show – moving on is not the right word – acceptance of tragedy and going forward with life is huge for this. And it’s wonderful to go through every night. It’s heartbreaking and hard and difficult but always rewarding. And I think the audience takes that from the show as well. That’s the goal I guess.
TB: What about you?
AS: That’s beautiful you see it as a safe space. I think for me a big part of my takeaway from the show is how to take risks, too. And that really hits home for me – just allowing myself to push myself further than I think I can go or do something regardless of the outcome – that’s near and dear to my heart. Really putting oneself out there to live more fully and inheriting that, generationally, and what that means to embrace life and the path ahead of you, and right in front of you, and to be present, and put your heart on the line. It’s big and sweet.
TB: So what do you like most about your characters? What’s the most interesting or fun part of getting to become these people each night?
BM: I love how bumbling nervous Josh is.
AS: You do it so well.
BM: I love that I get to portray that nightly. It came really naturally. Cause I am frequently that way and I think it’s – I don’t know – it’s charming and goofy and it’s just good to know that other people are like that I guess and that I get to um… yeah… you can see I’m doing it right now. “Yeah”-ing and “um”-ing and getting embarrassed easily. That’s what I like about Josh.
AS: It’s very becoming.
BM: I hope it’s charming.
AS: I guess on the other spectrum – I think Ayelet’s quite bold. That was challenging and also great to get to scream at people. I rarely do that. I rarely find myself in a circumstance where I want to do that. And she is legitimately upset and has every right to be. And yeah, she’s just really unafraid to express herself. I think that’s amazing in so many ways. I think a lot of Isrealis tend to be like that too which is cool and I think it’s written in that where she’s just kind of out there and she’s bold and it’s really nice to play that. Even kind of like flirting, she’s just way bolder than I would ever be.
TB: Wrapping up: do you have any other thoughts on this show, on being a part of NC Stage? Any final words?
BM: I don’t think so it’s just a real joy to do every night and I hope that everybody comes and gets as much enjoyment it as we do.
AS: The whole cast is fabulous, it’s such a treat to work with everyone here.
BM: Yeah we really clicked really quickly – it was a real joy. It doesn’t always happen that way. It was really nice
AS: Yeah, good group.
TB: Well you can see this wonderful group for an extra week – we have extended so you can see the show now through December 29th here at NC Stage. You can call the box office or order your tickets online and we’ll see you soon!