Off Script: Andrea Martin Says "I Honestly Do Not Know How I Survived" Broadway's 'Noises Off'

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Andrea Martin

The Tony nominee, who was shooting Hulu's 'Difficult People' while starring in the intricate farce, admitted to always having her script open backstage for the first time.

Andrea Martin currently holds the Tony Awards record for the most nominations in the featured-actress-in-a-musical category (five!). This season, the two-time Tony winner received her first nomination as a featured actress in a play, thanks to her performance in Jeremy Herrin’s revival of the intricate farce Noises Off. THR's review calls her “marvelous” as she “nails the amusingly bad working-class accent of Dotty's charwoman character” and says she gets “great comic mileage out of the thespian's confusion when required to manage more than one prop at a time — primarily sardines, telephone receiver and newspaper.”

Though Martin doesn’t sing in this show, it’s pushed her to work harder than ever before, even six months prior to opening night. “I already knew all my lines for the first day of rehearsal, and that’s the only way you can really do a farce justice, because so much of it is physical,” the Emmy-winning comedienne, who shot Hulu’s Difficult People during the limited run, tells THR. “You can’t be holding a script and a plate of sardines at the same time.”

Martin, 69, goes Off Script to talk physical comedy, juggling British accents and switching between acting gigs every evening: “I honestly do not know how I survived.”

What did you admire most about your main character?

Her love of the theater and determination to remember all her lines, in the midst of her memory going.

What was your favorite part of the play’s unique structure?

Working with each actor. The play is a maze of collaboration and timing. Without the precision of each actor onstage, it’s impossible to play a farce up to speed and with the high stakes needed to make it funny and truly soar.

What’s something special in your dressing room?

Framed photos of 1940s actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Irene Handl. I based my two characters in the show on them.

Andrea Martin in 'Noises Off.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus

What time do you wake up on a show day?

Between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and that's late for me. I usually like getting up at 6 every morning.

Do you eat dinner before or after a performance?

Snacks and my Starbucks French roast grande cup of coffee before every performance.   

What do you do on your day off?

I was shooting Difficult People for Hulu. I honestly do not know how I survived two months. It sharpened my compartmentalization skills. I never would’ve thought that I could shoot a very contemporary, edgy pop culture show during the day, and throw myself into an ‘80s farce about a 1970s bad acting troupe in which I had to a cockney accent and a standard British accent at night.

Any pre-show rituals?

Before every performance, I’d look at YouTube videos to get into the rhythm: Maggie Smith for a standard British accent, Julie Walters for British sketch comedy and Irene Handl. I’d try to hear a whole different culture before I went on.

What do you do when you’re not onstage during the show?

If I was off for a minute, I’d run back and look at my script. It’s the first time I ever had it open backstage, all the time, and the stage managers would turn the pages as the play went on. The combination of props, doors, two characters and two accents, and at that speed, it kept me on my toes, and I needed the comfort of the script. I knew what I was doing after a while, but it became habit.

What’s your toughest sequence?

At the beginning of the third act, I’m already winded, but I come in at my most disheveled: limping, wig out of place, carrying one place of sardines. I had to wrap myself in the phone cord, drop the newspaper on the floor, drop the sardines on the floor, pick up the newspaper, leave the plate on the floor and pull the phone out the door while I was leaving for the entrance of Megan Hilty and David Furr. That was very choreographed, and at the same time, I had to act, which was the most challenging.

Favorite backstage guest?

Anyone who says my performance transformed their lives. I'm still waiting for that person to show up.

Best stage-door reactions so far?

“Were you in the play?”

The cast of 'Noises Off.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus