Quarantine Quiz – Alexandra Silber: 'I am allowing myself the permission to not "achieve" a thing'
The actor reflects on lockdown life
It's a rubbish time for those locked down and theatres shut. But we wanted to find out what stars, producers and creatives are getting up to while cooped up in their own homes!
Our next interviewee is Alexandra Silber, who was starring in Indecent at the Menier Chocolate Factory when theatres closed.
1) Who are you locked down with?
My extremely fabulous and famous cat— Tatiana Angela Lansbury Romanov, who is a "great teacher " in this time of self-isolation. She leads by example, you see, for Tati has been practicing social-distancing and excessive amount of permissive self-love, every day of her fabulous life.
Tati is not a "doing" she is a "being". In times of anxiety I will gaze over at Tati and ask: "Tati, what would YOU do? " And her forthright little face will silently say "Why yes Hooman, you MAY take a fifth nap. Now scratch my cheeks and give me a treat, if you please."
Like I said: she is my teacher. She's basically The Buddha. Or Miss Piggy. Or a divine mixture of both.
Oh and right right right: Alec — my lovely partner (also an actor, of the classical variety). He's here too.
2) What are you missing most during lockdown?
I miss the gratification of a firm handshakes, warm embraces, pub quizzes, dinner parties, the holy coming-together experienced in a theatre, sitting without anxiety beside a stranger, lipstick that doesn't get smudged by a protective mask, a stranger's smile across the full view of their face, sharing a meal at a bustling restaurant.
I am missing the cast and production of Indecent at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It was special.
Ya know: life itself.
3) What's your default Pick-Me-Up show tune?
Oh this one is easy: "Run Freedom, Run".
Now. It is very important that I tell you how I do NOT regularly have musical theatre or showtunes on my playlists (it kind of feels like "work" now that it is, well, my work.)
The point is this: ONE SONG ALWAYS REMAINS EASILY ACCESSIBLE… and that, my friends, is "Run Freedom, Run"...
In the original Broadway cast recording Hunter Foster sings the main thrust of the song as protagonist Bobby Strong, with epic contributions from the entire cast.
A few years ago I shared a dressing room "area" with Hunter Foster (we bonded doing "Extremely Downtown New York Artsy Theatre"). I felt a bit sheepish because I didn't know how to accurately express to him JUST how often "Run Freedom, Run " had gotten me out of bed in the morning, or how many times it had turned a bad day around. Oh! The status it held on my mid-Naughties iPod! The glory of it!
Has it made an appearance or five throughout pandemic? Naturally.
4) Favourite box-set binge?
This is the easiest answer in all the world for you see, I am Dame Angela Lansbury's biggest fan. She is my only idol. And thus, I own the entire 12 season box set of Murder, She Wrote and it has gotten EXTENSIVE use during this pandemic.
Murder, She Wrote is camp, yes and dated, sure sure. But it is also soothing, calming, non-violent, and excuse me: the entire premise is very definition of a strong, independent woman, who happens to be in the third act of her life, kicking ass and taking names across the globe, in glamorous 90s attire, while answering to no one but her own values and New England horse sense.
I love this show.
I can name the episodes by actual title and recall their season and episode number. I WILL beat you at a trivia contest about it for my love for "The Lans " and this iconic television program is the Iconic Comfort TV hill I will die on.
5) What's the When-I-Get-Some-Time project that you are hoping to tackle during lockdown?
- I am journaling, embracing quiet, and writingwritingwriting more for myself (and less for the publishers) than ever.
- I am also taking such luxurious, indulgent stretches of time writing some very exciting things, for publishers.
- And I've installed a shelf
- …and maybe I'll re-paint the foyer.
But listen: productivity does not a "better " Pandemic experience make. Don't compare and despair your Quarantine with someone else's projection of their quarantine on social media. The world is aching. It's okay to just be.
I am allowing myself the permission to not "achieve" a thing, to truly face and embrace The Quiet, and I am trying to learn from it.
I cook nourishing things.
I care for Tatiana and my lovely house plants (and taking great joy in caring for living things within the walls of my apartment).
I contact friends
and teach online.
I think a lot about what this all "means " for humanity and our planet…
All this to say, dear readers: in times like these, your best, is more than enough.
6) What are you currently reading?
I am reading voraciously (one of my very favourite activities!)
I'd be remiss to not humbly suggest reading one of my books After Anatevka or White Hot Grief Parade (or, perhaps you'd like me to read them to you, on Audible?)
But I love getting lost in a book, and here are some of my suggestions for Quarantine books:
Part 1. Books about Plague!
Part 2. Books for The Quiet
7) Have your cleaned out your kitchen cupboards? If so, what's the oldest thing you found?
Oh man: you don't wanna know. But trust me when I tell you it was akin to unearthing that crayon I ate in kindergarten.
8) If you could take a virtual tour of any building in the world which one would it be?
Well luckily we all already got a Twitter tour of Patti Lupone's house.
So. There's that.
But truthfully: if I could spend my entire life, on or offline, in the Tate Modern, I would.
9) How many loo rolls do you really have in your house?
Before the crisis I had a pretty nice stash!
10) If you decided to learn a new language during lockdown, which one would it be and why?
I actually spent the last year learning and becoming more familiar with Hebrew because I had an adult Bat Mitzvah in December! (Here is a little more about that experience should anyone be interested!) I've been getting more and more in touch with the historical, ancestral and spiritual side of my experience of Judaism in the last few years, the Bat Mitzvah experience really marking that "officially", so why not extend it linguistically as well?
I thought this would be an ideal time to take that learning to the next level and try to improve my modern conversational Hebrew (seeing as Biblical Hebrew is a lot like the difference between modern English and Shakespeare, for example—technically the "same " but syntactically very different). It's been a joy and a great mental challenge.
It's going well. Shalom all!
11) Which board game would you choose to while away an evening?
So my partner Alec is so into board games it is a *thing* in our household. He watches YouTube channels of these complex games with live action game play. He reports back.
I'll enter a room and he'll be on a video call with his best friend in Chicago saying things like
"Well, as the leader of the Hills and Plains, I declare war on thee!"
"If we can take Irkutsk we can take the East!"
"Lords, ladies, we must face the ogre and steal back our MEAD! "
And other such profoundly committed, intensely nerdy things about cards or trolls… or espionage. I dunno. It'a lot. But adorable enough to be in a committed relationship with.
Before COVID-19 my favourite game was, if you can believe it, called Pandemic. "Pandemic" is "one of the best cooperative board games out there " says Alec, emphatically (and also, I guess… the gaming internet?) It's about coming together to stop a Global Pandemic. Needless to say, we have NOT indulged in it, ya know: recently.
We've enjoyed "Ticket to Ride," "Arboretum" and good old fashioned gin rummy. Alec wins almost all the games (to his great delight, for he is a Capricorn, and though a good sport, quite competitive) except gin rummy for which I am undefeated thankyouverymuch.
12) What time is Wine-O'Clock in your house?
It's noon *somewhere* you guys.