(Editor’s Note: The performance of “The Band’s Visit” at the Hippdrome Theatre has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.)

Sara Kapner has been around. She began her professional acting career at the tender age of 11, appearing in commercials, TV, films and Off-Broadway. She made her Great White Way debut at 12 in Carol Burnett’s autobiographical play “Hollywood Arms,” directed by the legendary theatrical producer and director Hal Prince.

But nothing really prepared Kapner, now 30, for her role as Julia in the national touring company of the 10-time Tony Award-winning musical “The Band’s Visit,” which will be presented Mar. 17-22 at the Hippodrome Theatre.

“This has really been a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she says of the show, which tells the story of an Egyptian ceremonial police orchestra that accidentally winds up stranded in a small Israeli desert town.

Jmore recently caught up with Kapner during the show’s run in St. Louis, during which it was praised as “funny, poignant and exhilarating” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jmore: You’re in the midst of a nine-month tour. How do you like the traveling life?

Kapner: Are you kidding? [Laughs] It’s the best! I love traveling. And I love that no matter where we are, the show is always the same – one set and stage, no matter the city. It’s almost like a meditation. It’s just so nice to get around the country and explore new places that I would probably never visit normally.

This is my first tour, and it’s been great. We’ve been all over – Providence, Rhode Island, the Kennedy Center in D.C., Dallas, Charlotte, Chicago, Greenville, South Carolina, Louisville and Toronto. I particularly loved Toronto. It felt like New York, and we were there the perfect time of year. We were there for five weeks, so we got to live in another country and be part of another culture for a little while. It was a special experience.

New York-based actress Sara Kapner describes “The Band’s Visit” as being “character-driven. There are 14 of us in the show and we all get to tell our stories. It’s fleshed out very well.” (Provided photo)
New York-based actress Sara Kapner describes “The Band’s Visit” as being “character-driven. There are 14 of us in the show and we all get to tell our stories. It’s fleshed out very well.” (Provided photo)

You’re a New Yorker, right?

Yes, I grew up on Long Island as a kid and I was on Broadway at the age of 12, and it was just too much so we moved into the city. New York is home. I miss it. I know it’s not for everyone. The pace is hard, but it’s home for me. I have so many memories and opportunities there, and my family is there. I try to go back whenever I can, just to check in and see if my cat is still alive.

Are you having fun being part of this show?

This show is so unique and special. The audiences are so surprised by it. We’re a small play with music, not a ‘42nd Street,’ and people are just loving this show.

How would you describe ‘The Band’s Visit’?

Like I said, it’s a play with music. The plot line is an Egyptian police band is playing a concert in Israel, and as a result of a mix-up, they wind up in a very small Israeli desert town. It’s really about love and people.

Does politics figure into the narrative?

There’s an undertone about politics, but it’s really not a trans-political statement. People will be surprised. It’s about love and people. That’s what I love about it. It’s character-driven. There are 14 of us in the show and we all get to tell our stories. It’s fleshed out very well.

But does the Arab-Israeli conflict play any role?

Well, we speak three different languages onstage, but that doesn’t really matter. It is two different cultures, and it wouldn’t work as well if it was set in America. The heat and expansiveness of the desert plays a role. It’s lonely and boring in the desert.

How would you describe your character, Julia?

She’s a lonely young lady who lives in [the fictitious Israeli desert town of] Bet Hatikvah. She hasn’t really figured out life yet. She’s looking for something. Her cousin drags her out on a blind date, and she doesn’t really want to go. They have an awkward romantic evening, and she realizes that maybe she’s not really alone in the world.

How did you research this role?

We’ve all felt that feeling of loneliness at times. I’m a solitary person and I love being alone, but solitude and loneliness are different. It’s easy for me to play Julia because we all have felt lonely.

Also, I know a lot of people who’ve come to New York from one-stop towns or who grew up on a farm somewhere in the middle of America. I don’t know if could ever do that myself, but everything with that way of life just seems more simple and grounded. Like our show itself.

What kind of responses have you received about the show so far?

People are deeply moved by it, and some have event told me they can’t stop crying. People love the music and are blown away by it – jazz, Middle Eastern, Broadway. It’s very unique to the Broadway stage. I think people have also been very inspired by it.

Have you personally ever visited Israel?

I went on a Birthright trip when I graduated from college. I wish I could’ve extended it, but I had to come back and work. I’ve made so many Israeli friends from this show, so I really want to go back. It’s a very special, interesting place.

What’s your cast like? It must be a melting pot.

We have lot of different people — four Israelis, someone from France, a Palestinian, people from Lebanon and Egypt. It’s a nice diversity of people, a great group. This show doesn’t breed selfish people because it’s an open, interesting show. You have to have an open heart and mind, and come from a certain angle.

We’re a tight, little family. We do Shabbat dinners together. In fact, a Palestinian member of the cast usually hosts our Shabbat dinners. We celebrate our cultures together. It’s very universal. We’re already organizing a Passover seder. We just want everyone to feel at home, no matter their culture.

How has this show informed you as a Jewish person?

I’ve never been in a show with this many Jews before [Laughs]. But I feel very at home here. There’s a commonality here, and I really like that Julia is Jewish but she doesn’t scream that she’s Jewish. You just know it. That’s very liberating as a Jewish person.

Has the show informed your views on the Middle East?

No, but I’m pretty liberal. I don’t have particularly strong views either way. Those conversations don’t really come up [among cast members]. The Israelis and Arabs here are like best friends. So they seem to be on the same page.

Would you describe this show as a career highlight so far?

Yes, this has definitely been one of the highlights of my career so far. I’ve spent time on Broadway, so coming back to this feels like such an accomplishment. This show is very special to me.

What was it like to be a child actor?

It’s tough. Sometimes, kid actors get into the business for the wrong reasons, like their parents push them into it. I was very lucky. I was having a great time [in theater] and my parents never put pressure on me to do it. I just never stopped having fun or wanting to do it. Even when I studied communications and Spanish [at Fordham University], I always knew I only wanted to be an actor.

A lot of the kids I acted with stopped, and that’s great. It’s hard to make that transition to adult actor. Usually, you have to really prove yourself to casting directors, so you have to show you’ve honed your skills and are no longer a kid.

Do child actors get a bad rap?

Well, I’m lucky I didn’t get so involved with TV. Theater teaches you to communicate with people and to take direction and be a team player. It’s just a different professionalism that’s required at an early age.

When you were 20, you played Jenna Fischer’s niece in the film “A Little Help.” What was that like?

It was awesome. She’s great, the most lovely person. It was a very different role for her from “The Office,” and it was great to see her use her dramatic muscles. She’s great, a very normal person.

You also worked as a youngster with the legendary Hal Prince.

He was so nice to us. There were five kids in the show. We all called him ‘Uncle Hal,’ and he really took care of us. I was just a fly on the wall, but I remember watching him work with Linda Lavin and Carol Burnett. He was amazing.

And did you get to meet Carol Burnett?

Yes, it was insane! She was the best, nicest person. It might’ve been more exciting for my parents than it was for me at that time. I didn’t totally understand. I’m just glad it happened when I was a kid. I don’t know how it would affect me today.

Any future plans?

Well, I’m getting married. We got engaged over the holidays and we’re planning to get married in June of 2021. So there’s a lot of planning to do. My fiancé is an actor, too, and he visits me every three weeks. …

I’m just excited to see what’s next in my career. Our show has made me a better actor and listener, and I can’t wait to apply to that to my next role in the future.

For information about “The Band’s Visit” at the Hippodrome Theatre, click here.

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