What Do You Say As You’re Dying?

By Laura Hedli

Welcome to Building Character, TDF’s ongoing series about actors and how they create their roles

Kate Mulgrew is lying on the floor, her upper body propped against a chair. She’s rehearsing a death scene. Hers.

Instead of gravitas, though, her death is received with lively curiosity. Everyone in the rehearsal room, Mulgrew included, is debating four words in the script: “Dios Mio. Mrs. Armstrong.” Or should the line be, “Mrs. Armstrong. Dios Mio?”

Playwright Jenny Schwartz trusts her ear, and she needs to hear actors speak her words to decide what she wants to say. At this particular rehearsal, she asks Mulgrew (pictured above right), as well as actresses Kathleen Chalfant and Maria Elena Ramirez, if they can run the scene twice so that she can hear the line both ways. Once she’s made her choice, she asks them to run it a third time, just to be sure.

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