Facing Your Demons

In David Gow’s Cherry Docs,  Mike, a neo-Nazi skinhead, is charged with a racially motivated murder and Legal Aid assigns him a Jewish lawyer, Danny. Over the course of developing a defense for Mike, Danny is forced to examine the limits of his own liberalism and its underlying demons. This drama is an unblinking exploration of the roots of hatred, and examines how its growth can be stopped. In FST’s production of Cherry Docs, Drew Hirshfield plays Daniel Dunkelman (aka Danny), an open-minded Jewish lawyer who must battle his own biases as he develops a defense for Mike.

We met with Drew to talk about his connection to his character, Danny, how he prepares for this dramatic two hander, and the relevancy of Cherry Docs in the modern world.

Cherry Docs plays in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre through March 17. For tickets and more information, click here.

In Cherry Docs, you play Danny, who is assigned to defend a neo-Nazi skinhead who at one point says, “In an ideal world, I’d see you eliminated.” What was your process like preparing for this challenging role?

We were lucky enough to have a wonderful director – Kate Alexander – who put together terrific, real-time research: a trip to a jail, as well as conversations with a local public defender and rabbi. Otherwise to prepare a play, I make sure to rehearse in a thoughtful, curious way, and really pay close, detailed attention to the play you’re working on and the playwriting. How obvious is that? Obvious, but true.

How are you and your character, Danny, similar? How are you different?

Well, I’m not a lawyer, but I can, when I’m at my best, be sympathetic towards people who have views I disagree with.

Over the course of the play, Mike and Danny begin to rub off on one another. What does your character Danny teach Mike?

I, as Danny, wish to get Mike to change much of his worldview, both for the sake of his prison sentence, but also because I believe his views cause needless suffering.

Drew Hirshfield in FST’s Cherry Docs. Photo by Matthew Holler.

This play was written over 20 years ago by a Canadian playwright. How has the world changed since then?

Cherry Docs does seem to be all too relevant right now, with a new rise of or increased visibility of some far-right racist views being given space to be expressed in a fairly public way.

Do you have any pre-show rituals to help you get in the right mindset or head space to play Danny?

If it’s possible, I get coffee. It’s also great to joke with Tom, who plays Mike. Finally, I put on my costume.

What is the most touching moment in the play for you? The most challenging?

It’s always changing. That’s the magic of live theatre!

As a newcomer to FST, what do you love most about Sarasota and Sarasota audiences?

I love the weather right now, come on! I love the involvement of the audiences – you can sense the commitment they have for what FST brings the this community. It’s a real pleasure to be a small part of it all.

Cherry Docs plays in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre through March 17. For tickets and more information, click here.