by Brendan Leonard. @brennylen.
The unsung hero of Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen doesn’t fit into any Tony category - but that doesn’t mean their work isn’t just as challenging or integral to the show’s success.
Sammy “The Splitter” Sizemore is the official Arm Breaker backstage at the Music Box Theatre, cleanly and firmly beaking he arm of the actor playing Evan Hansen for each performance to bring a sense of realism to their portrayal. Mr. Sizemore worked for many years as a fight choreographer before coming to the realization that his true talent lies not in preventing pain, but inflicting it, artistically.
We sat down with him to discuss the fine art of breaking a young man’s arm eight times a week.
How did you train to become the Dear Evan Hansen Arm Breaker?
“Breaking bones for the stage is a physical, but also mental challenge. I use a lot of Meisner techniques to get in touch with my intentions before going to town on the actor’s twerpy bones. I’m so grateful that the Yale School of Drama decided to keep their Muscle and Intimidation Division because if you can believe it, they were thinking of suspending it a number of years ago. That would have been a major loss in the community.”
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
“You have to keep things fresh. Sure, I could make a clean break every night with a mallet, but that’s not going to inspire me or the actor playing Evan. Ben [Platt] and I researched medieval torture techniques and I would use a different one before each show to keep him on his toes.”
How did that kind of extreme, seemingly unnecessary injury influence his performance?
“He needed that new, exciting rush of pain as part of his pre-show ritual. Also, the bone gets stronger every time you break it, so there really is a need to be constantly trying to outsmart the human body.”
But couldn’t he just… pretend?
Did Stanislavski pretend?
Check the medical records and think again. Dude had a broken foot during every performance, even one’s he directed.
Do you have any pre-show rituals yourself?
“It’s changed with each actor. I’m really grateful that the producers have listened to my request that the Evans they cast be feebler and feebler, which makes my job even more of an artistic challenge.
With certain smaller actors, it’s about being delicate. If I’m not careful, I’ll rip that kid’s arm out of the socket, and then the prop cast, which in this case is a real cast, won’t fit at all. So before The Break these days, I practice on the bones from a 12-piece buffalo wings and fries combo. The process is the process.”
Mr. Sizemore will next work on the upcoming production of Six, the musical about the wives of King Henry VIII. He’ll work the guillotine.