Maybe it's the way the holidays bring people back to town. Maybe it's the fact that the New York production of "War Horse" has entered the home stretch and actors yearn for a homecoming. (And bloggers find themselves reverting to hackneyed horse-racing metaphors like "home stretch.") Whatever the reason, I've been bumping into former "War Horse" cast members backstage lately. Some of them, it must be said, are there not just to chat but to act.
Zach Appelman, for example. This young actor, a member of the original LCT "War Horse" company, left the show in January. Yet when I encountered him backstage before an evening performance on Tuesday this week, and asked him what he was up to, he replied, "I'm back." Appelman will be in the production through December 16, playing his original roles of Fine and Schnabel. "Tonight, I'll watch from the audience," he said. "I'll trail the performance tomorrow, have a put-in rehearsal Thursday afternoon, and go on Thursday night."
Appelman isn't the first actor to return. In fact, one of the others who has come back for a stint, Cat Walleck, was backstage on Tuesday night to pick up her wedding dress. She had stored it deep in the "War Horse" stable to prevent her fiancé from seeing it, prior to their upcoming May nuptials. Walleck told me that another "War Horse" alum, Matt Doyle, was that very night doing his first performance as Elder Price, one of the leads in the hit Broadway production "The Book of Mormon."
Lest this posting devolve into an alum-magazine class-notes section, let me return to Appelman. What has he been doing since departing Devon in January? "I appeared in my first feature film. It's called 'Kill Your Darlings.' Daniel Radcliffe" - Harry Potter to the cave-dwelling among you - "stars as Allen Ginsberg. It's his first year as an undergraduate at Columbia, in 1944. I play his roommate, who's named Luke." Appelman said the movie isn't a standard Ginsberg biopic. "It's about Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs and a murder - the event that brought them together."
In early October, Appelman had a more contemporary assignment. "I did an episode of 'Homeland.' I have two scenes with Damian Lewis, which was great. I've admired him for years, since he was in 'Band of Brothers.'" (That episode will air this Sunday, December 2.)
As soon as he exits his "War Horse" return engagement, Appelman will dive once more unto the breach of Shakespeare, in which he had plenty of experience as an MFA acting student at Yale, to play the title role in Shakespeare's "Henry V" at the Folger Theatre, in Washington, DC.
"I can't seem to get away from British military history," Appelman said. "Especially as it plays out in France. The Battle of Agincourt, the trenches during the First World War. Don't casting directors know I'm American?"
As we wound down our backstage catch-up, Appelman acknowledged to me that his film with Radcliffe had been selected for the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, in late January. The next day the news was announced officially. Will Appelman, a California native, be buying snow boots for the premiere? "I think Shakespeare will take priority then," he answered. "I'll need my snow boots for Washington."
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.