Backstage at Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Amy Morton (“Martha”) and Tracy Letts (“George”)

Before they hit the stage, Broadway actors can often be found cocooned in their makeup rooms. What I’ve wondered is, what exactly do they do in there?

The other day I headed to the Booth Theatre and met Amy Morton, who plays Martha in "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf." It was just about an hour before showtime.

Morton says that like all superstitious performers, she avoids EVER mentioning "that Scottish play" by name. Morton also tends to work on crossword puzzles in her makeup room to pass the time, but there’s one thing she really obsesses over.

"I will not go on stage unless I have clean teeth. I have to have clean teeth to do a show. Otherwise I feel I can’t even talk. I feel like I can’t get my mouth around the words. That’s just a thing with me."

Morton’s co-star, Tracy Letts plays the part of George — he also wrote the excellent “August: Osage County.”  He’d just woken up from a nap in his makeup room and was in a subdued if still-articulate state of mind. Letts says he likes to rehearse certain passages of the script before he goes on stage — especially those dealing with science. And he wonders whether the role is starting to burrow its way into his real-world self.

"I lost my temper here in the hallway the other night," he said. "We had a malfunction on stage, and I rather childishly lost my temper backstage. I’m not really a tantrum-thrower by nature, but I did find myself hurling a vacuum cleaner sort of through the red mist, in front of my eyes. So I’d like to blame George for that more than I’d like to take the blame for it myself."

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    A glimpse at the pros
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