How Juliana Canfield Went From ‘Succession’ to Broadway’s ‘Stereophonic’

Juliana Canfield didn’t mean to lie when she was auditioning for the play “Stereophonic” — it just accidentally happened.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

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The actor, whose breakout role came as Jess in HBO Emmy darling “Succession,” had been asked by the “Stereophonic” producers if she should could play the piano. The skill would be an important one for her character, who is a member of a 1970s rock band struggling to record a new album. “I said, ‘Oh, I played until I was 18, so I feel pretty confident that I’ll be able to handle whatever the music is,'” Canfield (“The Calling,” “Y The Last Man”) said on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “And then I was talking to my mom later that day and I told her how the conversation went, and she said, ‘Juliana, you quit the piano when you were in the sixth grade. You were 12!'”

It all worked out, though, and the Off Broadway premiere of “Stereophonic” became a critically acclaimed hit. Now it’s about to open on Broadway with Canfield reprising her role in David Adjmi’s play, featuring music by former Arcade Fire member Will Butler.

Set in a recording studio, “Stereophonic” recreates the casual, overlapping rhythms of everyday life. But there’s nothing laid-back about the show, which has an extraordinarily detailed script that dictates every overlap and movement with unusual precision.

“It’s engineered that way it is because it feels like a piece of music, and of course the play is about a piece of music, so it’s really scored,” Canfield explains. “The end result is something that can feel quite off-the-cuff or improvisational, but to get there, that structure is really instrumental. … When we hit the rhythms perfectly, you can feel the whole scene sort of fill with air, like a kite that catches the wind, and suddenly it’s moving in this beautiful way that feels so natural. But getting there requires a lot of repetition.”

Also on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Canfield recalled the process of the becoming an onstage band with her castmates — including their one-night-only appearance as a real-life band that opened for Butler in Brooklyn. She also revealed what it’s been like to get a taste of the rockstar lifestyle.

“There’s all the boozing and all the smoking of cigarettes, and that feels kind of rockstar and glamorous,” she admits. “But I don’t understand how any of these people ever got any work done. I mean, I smoke little sips of an herbal cigarette onstage, and I need to steam my throat, I need three cups of tea, and I can’t talk for twelve hours!”

To hear the entire conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and the Broadway Podcast NetworkNew episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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