Peter Quilter’s play 4000 Days is having its premiere in the United States at the Fulton Theatre. The show is a play about Michael who is in a coma for three weeks due to a blood clot in his brain. By his side in the hospital are his mother, Carol, and his partner, Paul. Carol and Paul have a deep dislike of each other, but they stay by Michael’s side hoping he wakes up. However, when Michael does wake up, he has no memory of the last eleven years of his life, which includes his entire relationship with Paul. The cast of 4000 Days are incredible and passionate and it is a show that will have audience members pondering their own life altering choices long after the play is over.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jeffrey Coon who plays Michael and Logan James Hall who portrays Paul. We had a great discussion about the show as we talked about why audiences should come out and see the play as well as what it is like for them to perform in the Tell Studio theatre at the Fulton Theatre. I recommend seeing this play as it is a well written play that will have audiences asking questions of themselves.
Kelli Curtin: In your own words could you tell me about 4000 Days?
Jeffrey Coon: 4000 Days is about three people who are connected by this one particular situation, which is that my character, Michael, had a head injury that places him into a coma for three weeks. He wakes up having forgotten the last eleven years of his life and that includes his relationship with Paul. The play basically is about the drama that ensues from that particular event.
Logan James Hall: The sum of the story is basically the question of love and happiness, and whether the person you are with is making you the best you can be or are they not. Because of Michael’s head injury and everything that happens that questions gets to be asked and answered. In a greater sense the play asks the question for the characters and the audience, are we happy in our lives? It makes the audience consider, what actual happiness is to you.
Jeffrey: In addition, it really discusses what does being happy mean. What does being happy actually constitute? As well as the show discusses what does happiness in day to day life look like and is it different from what you thought it would be.
Kelli: Why should audiences come out to the Fulton and see 4000 Days?
Jeffrey: First and foremost is because it is a new piece of theatre. I feel with live art forms that anytime I have a chance to support new work I take advantage of that. Live theatre is important to me, so I try to support new works as often as I can. And, 4000 Days is a really great play.
Logan: I totally agree with that. If we do not support the new art forms and we do not see the new plays and bring them around for people to see the new shows then we are just going to end up with the same ten musicals people are already familiar with. That is not to say I do not love singing in classical musicals, it is just that if we do not foster new pieces of work then there will not be anything fresh for people to grow into.
Jeffrey: I also think that new work is where we re-envision productions. The way to push new art forms forward is by encouraging pieces that are brand new. For example, look at Hamilton. That show revolutionized musical theatre, and it is an entirely new piece of theatre. I think we will all see the shockwaves of Hamilton for many years. I think 4000 Days is a great new play and besides being cast really well it is also a pleasant night out at the theatre that is thought provoking and moving.
Logan: Marc [Robin] said something when we started rehearsals. He said the reason he picked this play and why I fell in love with it was because it really made him go home and ask himself if he was really happy. 4000 Days really asks the questions of ourselves, what is life? what is success? what can I hang my hat on to really show myself? This show really makes all of us, as actors and as audience members, ask these questions of ourselves. I have always believed that if an audience can leave with a question they want to ask themselves or someone else then we have done our job as actors. 4000 Days is a very well written piece and there are funny moments that will make the audience laugh, and it is juxtaposed with moments with a lot of emotion and heart.
Kelli: Is there anything you are hoping that audiences take away from the show?
Jeffrey: Aside from having them ask questions about themselves, I think I would want the audience to consider what it means to be alive in their day to day life. I would like audiences to think about if they are really living in the moment as they live their day to day life. I think if people could put aside what they are absorbed in or worrying about, such as things that will happen at work tomorrow, and instead be present and live for today then it may allow them to achieve the best version of themselves. Part of the conundrum that Paul and Michael find themselves in is trying to figure out how they reached the point they are at with one another and as to whether or not they are living up to the best versions of themselves. By making tiny little decisions in their day-to-day life takes these two off course in their relationship, and at some point they stop living in the now. Essentially, I hope people go home asking themselves if they are living in the moment and that they try to move forward by focusing on today and not what could happen in the future.
Logan: The hope is that the audience members will look at themselves and try to live in the moment and be present. For example, if someone wakes up the next day and tells themselves that they are not going to put off that art project that they have really been wanting to do and the one they keep telling themselves they do not have time for then they begin to live in the moment. People can always find time to sit on the couch and unwind and watch television, but that hour could be better spent on something a person loves like painting or crocheting or cooking or whatever it is that can make a person a little happier. If people come away learning to make the choice that will make them the best self they can be then we have achieved this hope.
Jeffrey: My character, Michael, has a line in the play, “It is only a second chance if you take it.” I think this pertains to everyone in that every new day is a second chance. Even if you mess up today the next day is the opportunity to start over and live to be your best self.
Kelli: Since 4000 Days is such an emotional show, how do you prepare for each of your roles?
Logan: Personally, I find it is really important to take care of myself the rest of the day. The show is emotional, and at the end of the day I make sure I go home and relax and do meditation to cleanse all the emotions that come with the show because it is not something that I want to carry with me. I think on a whole, it is just really important to take care of myself.
Jeffrey: I agree with Logan, and I think it is about finding whatever personal connection works for you individually with the piece. In addition, because Logan and Jane [Ridley who plays Carol, Michael’s mother] are really good actors, and in general, really good people who are awesome off stage; the personal interactions onstage are easier because they are genuine and generous people. So it makes it easy to allow yourself to connect yourself to them as a human being and as a performer. As an actor, when I can be open and vulnerable among other people in the cast it allows me to open up to whatever happens onstage. When I listen to the first four or five scenes onstage and listen to Logan and Jane’s lines it is terrifying to hear that I as Michael forgot the last eleven years of my life. Logan and Jane really make me feel comfortable, so I do not have any qualms about being vulnerable onstage with them.
Kelli: How do you feel the intimate space of the Tell Studio Theatre at the Fulton affects your performance? Are there benefits and challenges to working in a space like this?
Logan: This is my third show in the studio and I love working in that space. I love being in an audiences lap. I love the intimacy of people not being able to escape and thinking that they can just sit back and watch like they can in the mainstage theatre. The audience is right there and they have to be right there with us due to how close the audience is to the action of the play. That intimacy brings a level of trust with both the audience and the performer. It takes the studio audience a little bit to trust us in the show, and once they trust us they go on the journey with us. I feel the studio space is more rewarding because the audience is right there, and we can feel the energy of the audience and we are all taking the journey of the show together. The fourth wall does not really exist in the studio.
Jeffrey: I agree 100% with what Logan said. The only thing I would add is that in doing this more and more I would much rather be in the studio space than a mainstage, unless it is a larger scale show. The studio lends itself to an intimate connection with the audience in that we are all breathing the same air, in the same space with the audience. A smaller room allows you to make that physical connection more strongly because it is a smaller space and you are all closer together, so you can hear and feel and sense others’ reactions in a way that is not possible in a larger space.
Kelli: Without giving too much away, what is your favorite part of the show?
Jeffrey: My favorite part of the show is the first scene because it is a treat. I am in a hospital bed lying down since I am in a coma still. I have the opportunity to listen to Logan and Jane work and at the same time I get a sense of the audience before I say my first line. It really is lovely to be onstage and just get to listen to others because if you are backstage you do not listen to what is being said onstage because you are usually talking to other people. The fact I am onstage during the first scene is a better experience.
Logan: I really have many favorite parts of the show. I love the first scene because it is just fun to play with Jane. I would say my favorite part is the scene I have with Jeff where I bring him hot chocolate. It is the first scene where you have the chance to see our characters have a relationship without everything else on top of it. Both of our characters are happy in that scene, and it is a fun scene to have a good time.
Kelli: Why, in your opinion, is live theatre important?
Jeffrey: I really believe live theatre is like an act of communion. You are in the same room with a select group of people who are experiencing one thing and that particular performance will only happen one time. It does not matter if you are in the room with five people or five thousand people that event will never happen again with the same people in the same exact way again. There is something very special and important about maintaining some kind of connection with our fellow humans. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do that in this terribly polarized world we live in in which we are constantly on our phones and losing true human interaction. To sit in a room for ninety minutes with a select group of people is a rarity and live theatre is the one place you can do that.
Logan: I totally agree with everything Jeff just said. The other night I was speaking with my mom and talking with her about the audience and explaining the audience is like adding the last cast member in the show. No matter what show you are doing whether it is a comedy or a drama or a big musical the audience is the last cast member and their energy and humanity change the way that we as actors do what we do. Just as Jeff was saying, sharing a moment, sharing energy and sharing an experience is so needed for us as humans. We slowly have gotten away from sharing an experience because most of the time we are in front of a screen whether it is a television or a movie screen or a phone screen and we have forgotten how to fundamentally connect with others and pay attention. In theatre the audience has to be engaged and actors are pulling the focus of the audience to them. We are all creating a moment together that will not ever happen again.
Logan James Hall and Jeffrey Coon can be seen in 4000 Days through June 4, 2017. For more information and tickets please visit their website at www.thefulton.org or call the box office at 717-397-7425.
Photos courtesy of Fulton Theatre; Photo Credit: Kinectiv
Photo 1: Logan James Hall and Jeffrey Coon in 4000 Days. Photo Credit: Kinectiv
Photo 2: Jeffrey Coon courtesy of Fulton Theatre
Photo 3: Logan James Hall courtesy of Fulton Theatre
Photo 4: Logan James Hall and Jeffrey Coon in 4000 Days. Photo Credit: Kinectiv
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.