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Recently appointed Associate Artistic Director David New talks with ensemble member Austin Pendleton, who appears in Cormac McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited in the Merle Reskin Garage Theatre, May 18 - June 25, 2006. DN: Austin, you appeared in Valparaiso by Don DeLillo here at Steppenwolf, and now you will be acting in The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy. Interestingly, both of these plays were authored by men who are primarily known as novelists. AP: Yes, and it happens that they are two of my favorite novelists. DN: Is there some thematic correlation between their novels and plays that resonates with you? AP: Actually, interestingly enough, each of their plays doesn’t really remind me that much of each of their novels. That’s even truer with the Cormac McCarthy play. I’ve read four or fi ve of his novels, and The Sunset Limited doesn’t remind me at all of any of them. Valparaiso reminds me somewhat more of the novels of Don DeLillo, but this play by Cormac McCarthy…I wouldn’t ever have known it was the same writer who wrote Blood Meridian and Suttree and All the Pretty Horses and all the other things of his that I’ve read. I never would have guessed it, except that it’s passionate and beautifully written and it’s about issues of life and death. DN: And those issues are explored through a kind of interrogation and storytelling. AP: Yes. Particularly, I’ve noted, the other character in the play tells a lot of stories. I’ve counted up the lines, and I’ve agreed to do it anyway. (laughter) DN: The other man tells stories of his personal history, but he also references the stories of the Bible as sort of moral touchstone. AP: Indeed he does. DN: And he seems to have a philosophy that implies that your life is the story that you tell and that you have control over the story. It seems your character has a different point of view. AP: Yes, he feels maneuvered by his life. That’s the kind of thought that, if the characters were not real and alive to me, I wouldn’t cross the street to listen to them. But to me, these two men are so real and so alive that all that stuff pertains to them. It pertains to actual people. It doesn’t pertain to some abstract idea. This is what I always respond to in a play, and the matter of the play could be anything: The characters are either convincing and urgent and alive to me, or they’re not. If they’re not, I don’t care about anything else. And if they are, I don’t care about anything else. DN: Right…not even the number of lines? AP: Even that! (laughter) And that is a much more urgent question than anything thematic—let’s face it! (laughter)