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Integrity in the Time of Post-Truth

An Actor Wonders How to Be in a Culture Devoid of Honest Self-Assessment

It’s Tuesday, November 15th, so how long is that after the presidential election?  And that’s how long it’s taken for me to realize this most absurd of things has actually occurred.  In fact, the level of absurdity is such that it cannot bear rational commentary.  The only truth to be gleaned from the morass of sound that generated it, and that it is generating, is that it HAS occurred.  We can try to put our brains around that fact if we like—it’s taken me a week—and take action from there.  But I can leave the talking to the pundits of the entertainment news networks, who are wholly culpable in helping to bring this absurdity about.  While I haven’t watched any television news since election night, I’m quite sure they are readily embarked upon the lucrative endeavors of talking about the absurdity that their talking about promulgated in the first place.  They got you comin’ and goin’…  It’s a helluva business…  But I don’t have to invest.  I don’t think any of it was my fault, and know that I wouldn’t be able to fix it if I tried.   That doesn’t mean I won’t try.  There’s much to do, but I don’t think there’s much to say at this point unless you’re selling something.  It’s fucked in numberless ways, but there it is.  And here we are…

If I’m going to talk, I want to talk about theatre.  This is something I know.  I’m an actor.  I can impact this, a little bit with my talent, but that’s the cheapest of commodities.  I can impact it more, much more, with something far more scarce, integrity, and the simple, but not easy act of showing up with all 110% of the artist in me ready to play, or fight, however you wanna bring it.  Discussions of American theatre are important to me.  We must have them because Read More →

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Romeo and Juliet at The Shakespeare Theatre Company

Romeo and Juliet at The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, D.C., August – November, 2016

This was a long summer into autumn with many talented people and a company that has been in the Shakespeare business for a long time.  An extended run, I mean it is Romeo and Juliet after all.  I think you might draw a few more if you did West Side Story, but not many…

Lord Capulet is another one of those supporting roles that needs to be fleshed out. Because you can’t add text, and, in many cases, as in this one, text is removed to shorten the play, there is some work to be done to make him anything like a human being.  The things that motivate his behavior have to be firmly rooted internally for them to appear to an audience without the text that might otherwise accompany them.  There is also a process of nurturing each of the characters on stage to the point where they are able to assist in the telling of one another’s stories.

This Capulet was interesting, struggling clearly with his urges towards love and hate, and navigating the space between, if not wholly there.

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Photo: Scott Suchman From left: Rafael Sebastian, Elan Zafir, James Konicek, Jasmine Alexis

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Photo: Scott Suchman From Left: Jasmine Alexis, Judith Lightfoot Clarke as Lady Capulet

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Photo: Scott Suchman Background: Inga Ballard as The Nurse

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Photo: Scott Suchman With Ayanna Workman as Juliet

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Photo: Scott Suchman With Ayanna Workman as Juliet

 

 

 

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One Night Only

September 30, 2015.  We do an evening hosted by the students at Rider University

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In the business, they’re called “one-offs.”  It means you’re gonna do the show once… no next night… no re-do…  If you’re lucky, you get to come into the space the day before and set things up with some competent professionals, focus lights, configure speakers for sound…  But one way or the other, come the evening of performance, you’re going to go out there and do a show.  Don’t trip over the furniture, and you’ll be alright.  It may not be your best performance.  How could it be, when half of your attention is on whether or not the voiced over sound of the second character is going to play on cue?  Regardless, people asked to be shown this play.  And, for all the downside to one-night-only road shows, honoring the growing interest in this work is far more important.  Besides, American Moor has no furniture…

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The Student Entertainment Council of Rider University hosted this evening’s event.  As such, I don’t know whether they reached out to the theatre, English, and diversity departments specifically, or just billed the evening as a general entertainment to anyone who might be interested.  I mention these three departments above, because to date, while engaging with universities, they have been the areas of discipline most immediately interested in what American Moor is.

In any case, there was a sizable house.  The event was free to the public, and so there were quite a few attendees from off-campus as well.

In performance, Rider University, September 30, 2015

In performance, Rider University, September 30, 2015

I never know how this thing is received in a one-off…  I am far too distracted to be that in-touch with the audience’s energy.  And it was the first collegiate audience since the very first public performance of the play at Westchester Community College back in November of 2013.  The feedback has been positive, and, as is often the case, I got some immediate post-performance responses from people who I would have never thought would be in the room.  This is all good.   The play continues to surprise me.

As per usual, we did a post-performance discussion facilitated by the assistant director of campus activities, Nicholas Barbati.  It was a small but diverse group that stayed behind to take part.  And it’s the unusual make-up of these groups that always gets me.  They range widely in age, ethnicity, and gender.  And while I was busy wondering if I gave a credible performance, I end up being reminded that the text itself is really doing most of the work.  They get it, and perhaps I need to take it easier on myself, and thus everyone else.

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I’ve been saying that the show needs a venue all its own for a few months… To settle into a rehearsal process replete with all the bells and whistles, all the production elements that will allow us to find whatever it is in this piece that we haven’t found yet.  I’m not sure, therefore, how this college circuit one-off thing will work.  But I can’t deny that connecting with the young men and women on their home turf is a thrill unto itself…  It’s just so nerve-racking as a performer…

It wasn’t a Shakespeare crowd, by and large…  Most of the classical references registered no energy of recognition.  Even the most common of them, like Juliet’s “Gallop apace” left the room silent.  Of course, it could have been my shitty performance, no doubt.  But I just think that the students today, unless English is their discipline, are not nearly as read in Shakespeare as I was at their age…  Or was I, even??  Who can remember?  And is that a problem?  How much better to see theatre, any theatre than to read it…

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In this case, it really didn’t seem to matter, and this is the more relevant point.  Even though Shakespeare, his plays, and the playing of them is a predominant theme that is laced throughout American Moor, it is becoming more and more obvious that one need not be versed in any of it in order to be impacted by this work. There seem to be myriad themes and ideas that recur in the arc of the play such that anyone with a reasonably open mind will, if he/she just listens, find something with which they identify.  I can’t lie and say that I planned it all that way.  But how remarkable, and for me delightful, to watch audience members sound off in unpredictable ways because they were struck by some aspect of the character’s journey that had occurred to no one else!

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As I began this post, I was saying that the interaction with the intellectually acute youth trumps my discomfort at the rough-shod vicissitudes of theatre on the fly.  Sometimes, it may not trump it by much.  But this experience at Rider, I think, was extraordinary, giving me to understand that I may just need to get used to taking the play to where the people are.

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Returning to Luna Stage in February!!

This is a return engagement to the venue where “American Moor” played to an over-sold house in August of 2014.  I’m excited to be returning to Luna Stage for three dates in February/March.  The play has undergone some slight evolutions since the August staging, and we are expected the numbers to come out and lend their minds to its continuing growth.

There are also a couple of other new creative experiments we’ll be launching at this engagement, and I hope all those in the trip-state area who have not yet experienced this important piece of theatre will come out and be a part of this newest exploration.

COME PLAY WITH US!!

Click below to be taken to the calendar and box office for Luna Stage.

LUNA STAGE: 555 VALLEY ROAD, WEST ORANGE, NJ

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Video Promo

 

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