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Ari Graynor on Why She Loves the Theater, Even When It Scares Her

Ari Graynor on Why She Loves the Theater, Even When It Scares Her
Photo Source: Blake Gardner

Returning to Broadway this fall in “The Performers,” Ari Graynor is consciously fighting her recent state of apprehension regarding stage work.

“I love being onstage. As I’ve gotten older it terrifies me more and more, which is interesting,” Graynor says. “Onstage was where I felt the most confident and in control and free, and as I’ve gotten older it’s gotten more and more daunting. And I think that’s also part of my desire to keep confronting that and pushing through to find that childlike or youthful ignorance against fear and keep at it.

“I was a highly sensitive kid, sort of an old soul, and I felt like a lot of people in my peer group didn’t fully understand me or I couldn’t fully be myself. I just wasn’t engaged in a way that was fulfilling me. And so being onstage so much growing up and even in my early 20s was the mode of self-expression for me. That was the place I got to fully be myself in whatever character I was playing. And maybe now I feel more comfortable with my life and more daunted by my own mind. Learning how to requiet the mind and just let whatever comes through you go onstage just makes it that much more invigorating and humbling.

“The worst thing you can have as an actor is too big an ego. It just kills creativity. In a situation like this, where it’s like, ‘Oh yes, I’m staying in beautiful hotels and my face is on lots of posters,’ whatever that sense is is false and I never want to fall into that trap. There’s something about being on stage where there’s nothing to hide behind except the truth you’re bringing. And it only exists in that moment and it’s some of the purest work you can do. And just like animals can smell fear, people in the audience can smell when someone’s uncomfortable. All we can do in life is push through the things that make us afraid and uncomfortable and try to be better. And doing theater just confronts so many of those inner dynamics [for me].”

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