As stages begin to reopen around the globe, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Alma Cuervo, whose Broadway credits include On Your Feet!, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Beauty and the Beast, Cabaret, Titanic, The Heidi Chronicles, Quilters, Once in a Lifetime, A Month of Sundays, Ghetto, Is There Life After High School?, Censored Scenes from King Kong, and Bedroom Farce. The Florida native toured nationally in Wicked, My Fair Lady, Cabaret, M. Butterfly, and Dancing at Lughnasa, and her Off-Broadway credits include Allegro, Far From Heaven, and Road Show. Cuervo received an Obie Award for her performance in Uncommon Women and Others and Philadelphia’s Barrymore Award for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and her screen credits include The Goldfinch, Bull, Lisey’s Story, City On a Hill, Instinct, The Slap, and AKA Pablo.
Cuervo is currently playing the role of Ida in the Off-Broadway revival of Paul Osborn's Morning's at Seven, which officially opens November 4 at Theatre at St. Clement's. Directed by Obie winner Dan Wackerman, the cast of theatre veterans also includes Oscar nominee and Obie winner Lindsay Crouse, two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey, Dan Lauria, Oscar nominee Patty McCormack, two-time Tony nominee Tony Roberts, Tony winner John Rubinstein, Keri Safran, and Jonathan Spivey.
What is your typical day like now?
Right now days are full of rehearsals and evenings are full of memorization, housework, catch-up emailing, and dog-walking (my own dog, Gaby). Thrilling, no? Actually, the rehearsals with this amazing company are pretty thrilling.
How did the role in Morning's at Seven come about for you?
I got an offer through my manager Julia Berman. Pat McCorkle handled the casting for the production. I was told who many of the cast would be and was over the moon about it. I said yes immediately.
Is there any part of the role or the show that seems especially poignant following the events of the past 18 months?
I think the humor and essential good will and hopefulness of Morning's at Seven are most poignant and needed at this time. Each character has something challenging to offer. The interdependence of the people in the play is a resonant signal to our world that each action we individually take affects others and can cause chaos and pain or supportive community and wellness for all.
How do you feel about returning to live performance?
I am very excited to return to live performance. I just had a glorious time at the St. Louis Muny and Kansas City Starlight doing a new production of On Your Feet!, directed by Maggie Burrows. So many people came. Thousands! People really needed a joyous return to the theatre. It was scary. We were very careful—as we’re being now at Morning's at Seven. Hopefully we’ll be able to share our play with people who, like us, have been starved for theatre’s return.
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to a theatre?
I suppose I’d say if you’re too scared, wait a little while. Get your booster when you can. And see how you feel in a month or two. It shouldn’t be an angst-filled experience for anyone. But do know that everyone in the theatre will be vaccinated and masked, that the cast is being PCR-tested several times a week, and that the company is totally committed to keeping us safe.
Do you have a favorite Broadway experience from the shows in which you have appeared? And, if so, what made that production particularly special?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite Broadway experience. I suppose I’d probably pick singing the song "Still" with Larry Keith in Titanic. It was exhilarating every night. (Off-Broadway would probably be singing Sondheim’s beautiful "Isn't He Something" in Road Show, directed by the amazing John Doyle.)
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
As a Latina, I am very grateful that I have personally been afforded a wide range of roles over my career. I am aware that that was influenced by my coloring, training, and neutral accent. For so many others, it’s been a much more restricted field. We are getting wider opportunities, but I have hope that the theatre will be ever-expanding in its view of whose and how human lives should be depicted. There are so many ways to tell a story and so many stories to tell. I hope that we will all become more open to new possibilities and more trusting to the history, passion, and perspective that the mixing and expansion of cultures can bring to theatre and to our world.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
Advice. Wow. All I can say is that it helps to stay in close contact by whatever means with people you love and trust. It can help to reach out to help others in this time—if you’re healthy enough and able. Reading good stuff. Art. Music. Spirituality. All these things keep us inspired and alive. We will get through this. And please get your shots! For all our sakes.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past year-and-a-half that you didn't already know?
I guess I learned that I could get through more loneliness than I had thought would be bearable. I did love the extra time to think and be quiet and to figure out what I was most grateful for. But at what a cost to our world. I do hope that we will be moving past this pandemic soon. The loss of life makes all the achievements seem rather trivial to mention.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
People should contribute to whatever organizations touch their heart. There are so many—including smaller ones with very specific objectives—that would be blessed by our particular attention in these hard times. You know who they are.