Special guest blog from Marin Hinkle, who plays Sara in Graceland.
I have a lot of down time in Los Angeles as I work on this sitcom I've been on for a while, so luckily that gave me the room to read and reread Gracelandover and over before we began rehearsals. The more I read the play, the more I began to feel like it would be very helpful, if at all possible, to get myself out to Chicago to spend some time in some of the locations where the play is set.
One of the places I knew I wanted to go, where a good deal of the play is set, is Graceland cemetery. I asked my brother, Mark, who lives outside Chicago, to accompany me there. This was an interesting choice, as I look at it in hindsight, because many of my character's (Sara's) scenes take place in the cemetery with her younger brother, Sam (played by Matt McGrath, an actor I have worked with before and one whom I adore.) Sam lives and works in Chicago, while my character, Sarah, has left her hometown and lives and works in New York. (She returns home in the play to join with her brother in burying her dad... sort of.)
My brother has a close friend, Tom, (whom I also know) and Mark asked if he would be interested in joining us in Graceland cemetery on our visit on a rainy Saturday afternoon the day before Easter. Tom and his wife had devastatingly lost a child last year and he had been buried in the cemetery. Suffice it to say that my trip to Graceland was quite moving. I am indebted to Tom for his generosity in sharing his story with me, and also to my brother for his care and love as we spent a few hours hanging together amongst the graves in this most peaceful place.
My cellphone camera doesn't do any justice to the beauty of Graceland cemetery. I have been in a number of cemeteries in my life, and this is perhaps the most beautiful of any I have ever seen. The rain that day added to the mystical quality of the spot and you feel like you've stepped back in time while you roam the tombs. It is set in the middle of the bustle of the city - iron gates around it - with the L subway going by right by its edge. I talked with the women who work there, and they told me about the Air and Water Show that takes place during the weekend of our play's action. (This is a two day event which has been going on for over 50 years in Chicago attracting millions of people who sit lakeside to watch the planes overhead.) The women told me that the sounds of the planes zoom by right above them as they sit working in the cemetery - and when I asked them to describe them, they said it feels and sounds frightening, yet sort of extraordinary as they sit inside their office on the grounds of the cemetery.
My weekend in Chicago was also filled with connection to family there, trips to museums and a play at Steppenwolf Theatre. Additionally, since there is a good deal of alcohol consumption in the play, I set out to experience a bit of that as well...(hence the vodka gimlet photo). I did not, however, jump the cemetery fence in the wee hours of the morning in an inebriated state as my character does in the play. That I left to my imagination.