Yes But Why ep 219 Terence MacSweeny is an artist to the core and his creativity will weather the storm.
This week on Yes But Why, I talk to fellow University of Dallas Drama alum, Terence MacSweeny.
Terence MacSweeny is an actor and a stay-at-home-dad in New Jersey. Terence LOVES Shakespeare; he can turn literally any subject into a discussion on the Bard and I am tickled by his dedication. (Seriously. If you’re interested in Shakespeare and want to talk to Terence, he says you can email him at Shakespearecult@gmail.com . )
Listen in as we talk about using auditioning opportunities as tiny acting classes. Terence talks about the need for actors to develop their own techniques. Terence stresses the importance of being able to pivot your interpretation if the audience doesn’t dig what you’re doing.
In our conversation, Terence prophesies the reformation of theater after covid and I like it. Terence is an artist to the core and his creativity will weather the storm.
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(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 6/4/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to episode 219 with actor, Terence MacSweeny. But first, a bit about our sponsor. This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible. You can get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. My guest this week, Terence MacSweeny absolutely LOVES Shakespeare; he can turn literally any subject into a discussion on the Bard. Let’s see what Audible has to say about Shakespeare. There’s plays you can listen to. There are entire courses to teach you how to understand Shakespeare like Terence does. Oh and there’s this bit of historical fiction here – William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. The George Lucas story we know in iambic pentameter. NICE. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android, or Kindle. Download your free audiobook today at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. This week on Yes But Why, I talk to fellow University of Dallas Drama alum, Terence MacSweeny. Terence is an actor and a stay-at-home-dad in New Jersey. In our conversation, Terence prophesies the reformation of theater after covid and I like his ideas. I now present to you: Yes But Why ep 219 Terence MacSweeny is an artist to the core and his creativity will weather the storm. I’m Amy Jordan and this is yes but why podcast yeah
I mean, when I was young, like I said, I used to consume inside the Actor’s Studio, like, you know, like mad. But again, it wasn’t even on YouTube. I mean, there wasn’t YouTube. Now, though it was only when I went to my grandmother’s house when she had cable. He doesn’t I could watch it.
Here. It was on Bravo or A&E or something like that.
Exactly. Yeah, totally. Yeah. And that’s, yeah, it’s like, I mean, I would I would have killed for a podcasting world where I could learn everything about you know, or hear everything about, you know, what it’s like to be an actor or what it’s like to be a performer or a creative or, or whatever, you know. So yeah, I think I think it’s,
you know what, though, I’m not trying to get people to give out their secrets. So don’t worry. You don’t have to, like reveal any of your acting secret. If you’re like, I figured out that oh,
I want to ask everybody
laughs do I’m just saying, like, if you want to keep that part if you want to, you know, I respect you to hug and keep that. For me. It’s more about, like, how it makes you feel and like, why that keeps your interest? You know, I mean, we could all I actually really believe that we could all do anything. Like, people are like, Oh, you’re you’re meant to do this. No, this is what I’m doing. Because there was a person in my life who showed me that this was an option. And it went well for them. So I went for it, right? It didn’t like it’s not like if everybody in my family was a trash collector, maybe that’s what I do. Because I’d be like, Hey, man, good job, solid benefits. Like I get weekends off like I’m in right, who knows who knows what kind of lifestyle but I could probably do, whatever because to a certain extent, creativity is found everywhere. Right. So if I’m dying to be creative, I could do any number of things, right? I can still be doing karaoke on the weekends with my friends or like hosting the bowling night. Hey, everybody was excited to bowl you know, those people, every single person who is in a presentational mode, like the people who do the announcements at high school football games, like they’re all doing a show. They’re all using the same talent that we have to put this out to present stuff to like, make everybody else’s life a little bit more fun for this moment, right. So I don’t know. That’s why I say this is hard. There’s a lot of things set telling you to say no. Why do you keep doing it? Right? But let’s do this. Let’s start. Let’s start with we tiny tyrants. Okay? We are we’re at any child, because I’m going to assume and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m going to assume that you were like a born actor. That you were like a tiny little child holding a skull doing monologues right? That’s what I imagine. For you. Unfortunately. Yes, yes. Yes. So my first question is, what was the performance or, you know, play or event that you did where you performed? That? That was the one that you knew? Yeah, this is my thing. I’m gonna do this.
Well, so I think it was well, I guess I would say there was two, two thresholds. And they were both, I maybe, I don’t know, maybe I’m different. They were both very, very, or they were both pretty early. Well, one was high school. So I’ll get to that in a second. But the first one was in fourth grade. There was a you know, they were doing a school play, it was being done through our music class. And it was the revolt of the foolish molar. And it was all about the importance of Brushing your teeth, and not eating sweets. And the foolish molar Of course, was, was the was the sweet tooth, and he wanted to eat a lot of sweets. And then he ended up developing a cavity. And you know, and these are all the teeth. The play was all the teeth in Johnny’s head. So Johnny was the boy. And you know, brushy Amelia hits, adversity, and I remember specifically. I mean, so I kind of come from a family of actors. I mean, my dad was an actor, my mom was an actor, they both met at an audition in their undergrad, you know, program. And so and my dad you know, ended up getting tired of acting and so he sort of gave it up. And then he you know, went and taught Latin for a while and then he became a lawyer for the city where I grew up Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is blowing up in the last few years and and he could continue to teach as a you know, humanities teacher for you know, do until just recently, he just recently retired and my mother also became a professor. And I always, you know, theorized that that was maybe how they they got their acting bug out. But everyone in my family, I think this is safe to say I think this is true yet. Everyone in my family has has acted at some point or another yet school plays, debate, tournaments, forensics, all that kind of stuff. And now, most, I think, I think all of my siblings, they all either write or speak for a living, you know, their lawyers or their teachers or they do my brother is an event organizer. He sort of fell into that he was a writer for a while he also was an actor. I mean, they all kind of do that. Anyway. So that was kind of the background I came from. And I but I remember when I was at the audition for that fourth grade play the revolt of the Louis Moeller and I remember that the I know, right? No, no, that was how it worked. We were all like in fourth grade, and we’re all just sitting there in class. It was like when we were at UD, you know, everyone auditions in front of each other, you know. And the, the, the, the teacher, the music teacher was getting outside. We literally had the slides there. And I remember that the coolest little speech was it was after the coolest Moeller, you know, realizes the error of his ways. So he’s having like a bellyache. I mean, he’s a tooth, but he’s having a bellyache. And it was like, the lines were something like, you know, Oh, I’m so sick. You know, I shouldn’t have eaten all that candy. Oh, I wish I hadn’t made that. That bad decision, you know, something like that. And all these kids got there, and they auditioned for it. And they’re all going Oh, I feel so sick. I should never have eaten all that candy. Oh, I never should have made that decision. I was just like, what is going on you guys like you know how it’s supposed to go. So then when I got there to audition, I go, Oh, I’m so sick then like doing all this kind of stuff. You know? I just thought that was just kind of the way it’s supposed to go. I didn’t really think I was gonna get the part or anything. I was just sort of kind of showing everybody like, guide you know, cut loose. Go for it, you know, don’t, man
once you’re not downhill from here. Exactly.
Exactly, exactly. And I remember like, you know, our music teacher was really sweet. She used to let us bring in contemporary music and dance the way you know, you know, the way the modern kids dance, you know, that kind of stuff. And so I would get up there and I imitate. Yeah, and imitate MC Hammer and stuff like that. Making a complete fool of myself. And I got some serious laughs at me like he was nuts. But I there’s something about that has stuck with me that Yeah, you can sort of you can you can show up your competition by just you know, going one step farther than them, you know, and it was even an audition that I had just a few years ago. It was actually like the probably the biggest contract I’ve had at like a regional theater. It was for Macduff in Macbeth. And I’d already played mech up at the time. And I knew what the traps were with Macduff. And one of the traps is, you know, in the play Macbeth, neck and Duff is the one who discovers Duncan dead body, the king’s dead body after, you know, Macbeth has killed him. And he comes out, you know, after seeing the body and you’ve got the speech, like where he’s freaking out saying, The king is dead, you know, and I saw the blood is crazy, you know. And I remember sitting outside the audition. And in the room, I heard every actor before me go in there and make the same mistakes that I had made when I had previously played Macduff, which was, you know, just going crazy and like screaming and everything and it’s never very believable and you’re going against the text. The text isn’t really like that. And so I remember thinking like Lena, what I’ve already played this role under Going to be thumbs up, I want to be, I want to contrast myself with every other actor. So I instead did it just completely different way, you know, I and I knew that I at least did it differently than the previous three or four actors that went ahead of me while I was sitting out there. And I just did it, you know, much more quietly and sort of the electing was shell shocked, like you mumbling like you didn’t really know what to say, and you had blood on his hands and things like that. And I ended up getting the part, you know, I think somebody else was cast ahead of me, and then that actor dropped out. And then they called being offered the part. So it wasn’t like, you know, it wasn’t like a sweep. It wasn’t like a major coup, where I got the part, but either way it works. You know, I got through to the director and he saw what I was capable of. And something about that first fourth grade audition, and then that Macduff audition that I was telling you about. It all has to do with there’s something about competition, which works really well with me like if I be I mean, I feel like I know pretty well like Okay, this actor is acting in this style in this play that I’m in, and they’re acting opposite me on stage. If I want to distinguish myself, there are choices I can make that will stand out, you know, if one person doing all the handy stuff or or they’re really going for the emotion or something, maybe you should hold back, maybe you should be a little bit more, you know, articulate and clear and cerebral or something. And then on, you know, conversely, if somebody’s being really cerebral, maybe you should go for it a little bit, you know, kind of like this fourth grade, you know, students, you know, my fellow students who were kind of playing it a little safe when they were reading, you know, as the two. So, in a weird way, like, how
do you do that? And I call your auditions. Do you like set your audition time like later in the day and then just go and sit and listen to how everybody else does it? And then go in something like different just to like, you know, they’re like, six cup of coffees in and they’re like, And then you do something different. And I like this guy. Now this guy is get something is that you’re saying? Well, no,
I mean, not not. Not strategically, but, but I, I did it that one time and honestly like no you can’t use it again you know like to start like that isn’t Hey, try it again wasn’t I was just gonna say like you can’t usually choose like when exactly in the day you’ll go but I know you’re talking about because I did you do forensics in high school?
No, we didn’t have those things in Boston.
Gotcha. Well, I did I did do the speech in debate competitions. And they’re an incredible, incredible training ground for actors. And that was my technique, when I would do you know, the competitive acting in forensics competitions. I always wanted to, I would love to pretend that I had a conflict with another round, maybe another event that they would put in the last, you know, I’d go and do that. event and then come back for the event, the performance that I really cared about, because I wanted to go laughs because if you, you know, be watching potato you like 10 actors in a row, the last one, you know, just by, you know, if you’re good, you’re good. But if you’re the last one, you’re also the first one is really, really good. But, you know, they saw that an hour ago and then there was no yeah, so that was that what that was a conscious strategy that I made in high school when I was doing competitive acting, but I wouldn’t necessarily employ that when I was auditioning. But I do think that I don’t know there’s something about learning from your your fellow actors, but also giving and taking with them, you know, it’s important for you to know like, okay, that guy’s the lead that has got all the important lines, you know, don’t upstage them, but also, you know, you can be distinctive if you underplay it, or you can be distinctive if you overplay it, or you can be distinct that, you know, it was things like that. I don’t know something about that. Kind of a competition. I mean, I guess I always felt like it was a it was a competition for, you know, we’ve all got a really serious job to do. And that’s keeping the audience’s attention. So, you know, being hyper focused on that. I don’t know whether it served me well or not, but this is what I care about. I just care about making sure I’m getting through to the audience. is the thing that
drives you through the whole thing. Is it the competitiveness, I mean, because it is a very competitive profession, you know, for you Yeah. roles at all is? You have to be pretty impressive, right. So yeah. Use your
creativity. Well, yes, but but but, but only in the creative sense. It has nothing to do with depression. Like I’m not good at playing the game professionally at all. It’s the way I sort of imply it is, is do sort of like you said to me, as far as what keeps me competitive, it’s for Sorry, excuse me creative It is, yeah, you’re making sure I’m getting through the audience. That’s really all I care about. I mean, I would do this for free if there was some other way I could support, you know, I could have money coming in. And I could just do this for free. I would just do it for free. I just care about, you know, how can I be a better actor? That’s all I care about. And you know, so much theater, unfortunately, is boring. It’s just boring. I mean, I hate to say it, because I love theater. And I love actors. But I feel like if we don’t admit that to ourselves, we’re never gonna improve it. And so that was always that that’s more of my drive, I would say, I mean, the competitive thing is real. But there’s too much of a See, there’s no way you’re going to be able to be, you know, to let your competitiveness help you dominate or something in this profession, because there’s just too much other talent and it’s all good. That’s the thing. People are really, really good. American actors are really, really good. It’s astonishing. And so when please are that Good, because again, that’s sort of my focus on me. I’m just not interested in movies and television, I bought auditioned for them, I’ve done them. And I just don’t care if the audience isn’t there, or we’re not getting ready for when the audience is there. It’s very hard for me to stay focused. And that’s, that’s a weakness. I don’t think there’s a lot of strength, but it’s just who I am. You know, I just I care about live actors
more into the experience in the room with the people, you know, me than they are about there being some sort of finished product that other people could see later. And I appreciate that my experience in improv is always such that I it’s like one of those things where, you know, like, after an improv show, if somebody is like, oh, did somebody tape it? It’s like, no, it’s not, you know, you’re not watching it later. Like, you’re in the room where you weren’t, you know, you were at the party or you weren’t. And that’s what, that’s what theater is like. It’s like, it’s like you got FOMO we’ll get in there. Like you want. You’re wondering What’s happening? Go see it, you know? And well, I mean, as far as things being boring, I think a long time ago, somebody decided that like, anything made after like 1900 was the worst thing that ever happened. And then like, they were just going to be like, let’s just go for everything old. And the problem is, is that like, a lot of the references are tools for people to get or the idea of, not everything flies as well as Shakespeare that was made that it is that is it’s contemporary and whatnot, you know, and Plus, there’s a ton of stuff that literally was plays are often written not to make you have a great time but also to make you think or make you mad or elicit any number of reactions from you. I’ve worked on a lot of plays where I’m like, wow, this is just everyone sad all the time. There’s a gas about that. Right.
Right, right. And those are the masterpieces. Yeah,
people love them.
And I and I have a hunch I have a little you know, I mean, I consider myself you know, tongue in cheek, but I do consider myself to Shakespeare evangelists, you know, as I’ve talked to you about before, and I do, and I really mean this, I do and I have had visions of a theatrical Apocalypse, and then the frickin Coronavirus came along and I was like, God Damn, that was white. And now I have a hunch. I have a real hunches that prediction. When when theater comes back, there are going to be, I think naturally there’s going to be some reformations that are going to be made. And I think that the classical literature is going to make a little bit of a resurgence because I mean, I just know from my for myself, once the Coronavirus head and I’m stuck at home and I’ve got all the time in the world now to watch all the Netflix shows but I wanted to see and everything. It’s weird how instantly out of date everything seems because of the Coronavirus. Yeah, and I and I would Doesn’t seem that an out of date is, you know, the great stories of the past. You know, in great classical theater, I really think I have a friend, a good friend who’s a director that I’ve worked with. He’s cast me many times. He’s a great director, but he hasn’t done any Shakespeare, you know, that was never part of his wheelhouse. It was never part of his training. And he was telling me that, you know, now, he doesn’t really want to do anything other than the Greeks, you know, and Shakespeare and things like that. Because there’s something feels weird and sort of hollow and not relevant about a lot of contemporary theater. You know, and I so I wonder, I think that the great stories are going to come back.
I think, going back to like original stories, were like going back to the stories that are the tropes to figure out why they’re the tropes all of a sudden, because I noticed a lot of like, a lot of people are You know, getting into old school like, oh, let me read these kinds of fairy tales or like, let me you know, get into Greek mythology or worries gods or whatnot this mythology situation, like I was what are we watching? We were watching some, some Greek mythology show, you know, I’m a UD grad like you are we that’s what we do sometimes there was a thing. And there was a thing about, you know, it was just a Greek myth. And we watched it, and it was this beautiful, like 70s 1970s film of it. And it was really nice. And it was like, themes that made sense and like that had universality. And I was like, this is just like what we’re doing right now. Or, you know, like, because a lot of those a lot of the Greek stories are born out of war. And so when when we are in our roughest spots. That’s when they seem like they make the most sense. Like, yeah. Yeah,
totally, totally. And, and they’re connected. I mean, it’s remarkable, you know, Yogi Yogi, and you know, archetypes, you know, tap into this a lot. But, you know, whether it’s, you know, Indian mythology, or whether it’s Greek mythology, or whether it’s, you know, you know, some of the ancient Chinese folk tales. I mean, they’re all they’re all so similar. It’s amazing. Yeah, it can feel I think, that that’s what connects us. That’s what connects all of us. And that’s what you know. Yeah, I think so. I think they’re great stories for a reason.
I would put the fact that movies of the future like in the next year or two, that a lot of movies are gonna have, like old stories redone.
I completely agree. I completely agree. I think I think it’s coming. And I think part of it also is a lot of the things in those roles. Stories, which seemed very shocking, and very un-pc is something which just clicked with me just recently. It’s usually because you’re not viewing them symbolically. Once you view them symbolically, then you understand like, Oh, this isn’t about the sodomy, or this isn’t about, you know, some sort of, you know, outdated mode of parenting or something like that. This is about, you know, this character is a symbol for something they represent, they represent something which we still see in in, you know, in our society nowadays, I mean, the basic sort of, I think, I think, the basic Psychological Types, you know, the basic personalities haven’t changed, really, you know, maybe, you know, the, the period that I study a lot, because I’m obsessed with Shakespeare is, of course, Shakespeare’s era, that sort of 100 year period in England, which Shakespeare was right in the middle of, and those are the Puritans, you know, the Puritans were the ones who ended up taking over England and you know, just just completely wiping English culture clean and sort of starting over. And it didn’t last very long. And then there was the restoration of the monarchy, and they wouldn’t try to sort of figure out who they were after that and everything. But those Puritans, I think still exist. You know that and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we need all types of psychological types in society to have dialogue with each other people who want to defend tradition, and the people who say that we need change, they want to criticize, you know, our culture or our society. We need all of it. We need all of it. And so when
diversity is like when people are trying to get diversity, diversity is a bunch of different people with different point of views that came from different backgrounds and lived different kinds of lives and have different kind of education so that their experience from their life can be beneficial. Together with everybody else’s, right it’s like, we always think about this Well, I think this i think that i think this this is my experience, this is my experience. That’s what diversity is good for actually finding out what a real solution or what a real story is or what like how people really think about stuff in a larger setting, like in the most communicative setting, right?
Yeah. Totally, totally. And yeah. And that’s, and you find them, the more you study your history, in any other societies, you still find those people, they’re all there’s a great book, actually, that was sort of that sort of the basis of a lot of my thinking about Shakespeare. It’s by Ted Hughes, the poet. It’s called Shakespeare and the goddess of complete being. And that’s sort of one of the points that he brings up is, you know, you know, that there’s the certain sort of images and notions that have been passed down through the theology that found themselves in English culture. They’re there, they’re still around. And that’s what Yeah, yeah, we need that guy. Between all the different points of view that’s that’s I mean, that’s that’s what logos is really, in the West, you know from the Greek, that maybe it means word or idea or something. But I think what it means to me is when you have dialogue with other people, and you say like, I see reality this way, and they say, Well, I see reality this way. You in dialog, you find a compromise between them. And you build reality between the two of you, or the four of you, or the thousands of you with a 330 million of you and whatever it is, but only through dialogue. You have to keep those channels open. And that’s why I think either can save us they really can I mean it Well, except we’re in the time of Coronavirus, this incredibly bizarre, you know, disease which nobody saw coming, which was, you know, I mean, I always said to myself, you know, you know, certain traditions of theater might die out the theater itself can never die out, because theater is just It’s exactly, but at the same time, it’s fascinating. living through a time like this where it’s like you can’t get together with other people you are not allowed is dangerous.
Plus, the other thing about like, a lot of people are like, oh, certain theaters gonna die out. It’s like realistically, the unfortunate part is, what’s going to happen is we’re going to find out which theaters had a better business model than the others, like savings and or a board that could really float them for a couple months.
Well, what do you know? Well, yeah, I just said to you when I said, you know, the big problem that I see is that most theaters boring, I actually see it as a two fold problem in theater. And I think that the Coronavirus, the Reformation that’s going to come after the Coronavirus I think Thank you, thank you. There’s gonna have to address these two issues and one of them is the fact that we have to admit the theater is usually boring. And the other thing is that theaters too freaking expensive. Like we We can’t keep going along with this model. I remember something it was a while ago it was maybe something like eight, seven or eight years ago Jude Law was playing Hamlet. I think that the Donmar Warehouse or something like that it transferred to Broadway. It was a huge hit in London I mean a critical gate they said Jude Law was amazing as Hamlet came to Broadway and he just kind of like you know, people thought he was okay. But still you do law people are gonna go see and play Hamlet. And that can that play was considered a hit. And I remember reading it broke even it broke even that’s what’s considered a hit. Is that the you know, the producers didn’t leave your Sonia Friedman or whatever, didn’t lose her shirt. I just was thinking like, why would you guys you know, look at yourselves and ask yourself like, what’s wrong? Why is theater so bloated? Why is it so expensive? You know, it doesn’t have to be this expensive. I’m sure Jude Law wasn’t, you know, wasn’t you know, getting his usual salary You know, I’m sure he was taking a pay cut because he was getting a chance to play, you know, Hamlet on Broadway. You know, and that’s, that’s just unacceptable. And it’s not acceptable from a cold money crunching commercial aspect. It’s about the art, you know, you’re not something’s not working. It costs too much, and people aren’t interested enough to see it. You’ve got to reckon those two things together. And yeah, I agree with you. I think the business model is we’ve got to look at it. And you’ve got to be honest about it. I think the answer is actors. I think the answer is improv. Really, I look at the model of improv. And I’m like, this is a, you know, improv artists put together a spontaneous performance. It’s all actors. They have the company ethos that has been lost with the the ethical industrial complex, and the hierarchy that’s been built, where the directors on top and the designers make all the design decisions without the actors and the actors come in and they’re just told where to go and what to do and it’s, it’s so silly, you know, when you look at improvisers They don’t do it that way. It’s far more vital and electric and exciting and interesting. And cheaper, quite frankly, and more versatile and more flexible and more intrepid. And that’s the way theater really needs to be and it dances right in front of you. You just have to reach out and grab it. I think that’s
my prediction the the improv world what it has that the, you know, organized Theatre World does not is collaboration and community. Like Yeah, you’re right. When the actors arrive, there’s a whole other group that like sit and stare at you while you do stuff and then they don’t talk to you. I’ve worked on lots of plays and the like strong lines between groups is crazy. Like and and just the way that it It runs in that way. And listen, I understand that usually it runs that way for time and for budget, which is great. But you’re right, they could probably get a lot of stuff done for a lot cheaper. I mean, honestly, the thing that I wish would change in theater, for me is the, like, what happens with the community is that people get involved and then people start getting entitled and then all of a sudden, there aren’t actual plays that maybe the community who might watch it are interested in seeing, but rather it becomes about the people in the internal theatre community getting what they want. And I see that a lot. So, you know, there’s, there’s a give and take to the way that a theater has to run. And I think that the ones that do really well are the ones that do half and half if the audience is excited half of the time, and then the artists are excited half of the time. I think that’s probably best because you know, It’s almost like those theaters where they’ve got like a big theater stage. And then like a smaller one. It’s like, yeah, try that experimental stuff on the smaller one. If it packs out, move it to the big one. Right? Great. They love it. Yeah, it’s in. But you need to pay the bills. So like swing Hello, Dolly up there and like everyone has a nice time. No one’s sad. Everyone loves it. They the people that are in it are happy to be in it. Everybody’s fine. We could probably spend less on set but you know, whatever.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I would. I hope also that theatres, you know, when they reopen and when they reconstitute after the virus is over. I hope that that will take back celebration of holidays from the corporations. You know, I don’t want Valentine’s Day to be a day when you know, you’ve got to go and buy dumb you know, chocolate because that’s what is at the grocery store and it’s in pink and red wrappers and, you know, what if and I know that obviously The reason why I thought that this was because, you know, the bread and butter of a lot of theater companies is like doing A Christmas Carol or something around Christmas time. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think that that is great. Oh, yeah, yeah, I think I think they should do that with all holidays and all across the board, especially, you know, reach out to other marginalized communities and their holidays individually, whatever it is. The idea of a holiday being commercialized and packaged and sold to you by a corporation doesn’t make any sense. It should be on the grassroots local level because what theatre is and what theater does well anyway.
Great idea. Hold on. This is a million dollar idea that you need to like find a theater to like to get done. You were just talking about Christmas and you’re talking about how there’s a Christmas carol but then what if you went to other communities and maybe other cultures and found out what their stories are that commemorate Christmas that are like folktales and they do them all Dude, that would be an awesome that would be the best Christmas Pageant ever. Right?
Absolutely, absolutely annoying. But also, I’ll even give you an example of a theatre company that I think does this really, really well. And I’m gonna give them a little shout out so that maybe you know, anybody if they’re in Jersey, yep, so this is a great little Theatre Company, actually, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t been there in a few years. And they’re now under new management, but I think they still have the same connection to the communities that they used to have, which is sort of my point. There’s a theatre company called new stage, which is in like South Orange, New Jersey, or something like that. And I live in Jersey City. And I used to do plays with a Shakespeare Company in Jersey City. And of course, you know, the audience, if we were lucky, would usually like 20 or 30. You know, it was usually like a marginally larger than the cast do that kind of sad thing. And we used to always be like, why can’t we just go out into the neighborhood and try to get people to come and see Shakespeare and, and one of the company members was always like, you know, surely people in this neighborhood are interested in Shakespeare. Just one really smart actor in my company. I remember him saying, he goes, guys, we’re not selling Shakespeare, we’re selling theater. It’s that bad. I mean, you have to really, you know, try to just get people just come to the live event. But then we miss stage out in South Orange, but I did a little bit of work with. They were great. And so like, I went there one time, there was a one man show about an actor. It was called American more. It was about an actor, a one man show that an actor playing a fellow, you know, in this day and age and dealing with racism in the American Theatre. And you know, I went to the show, I was invited by the artistic director because I was friends with her. And it was packed was packed with people from the neighborhood local people. And most of them were African American. They were interested in seeing this this this guy’s story, and the play was great. And it was a talkback afterwards and everything. And later on the season. There was another play that Luna stage had, that was all about a very, very, very Italian American. It was about a specific injury. It took place during the blackout. During the Son of Sam, blackout, you know, in the 1970s, or something like that was very, very specific. And I went to see that show also. And it was the same turnout, the same diversity, the local people from the theater, it doesn’t matter whether it was you know, African American or whether it’s Italian American, it doesn’t matter. They had a ironclad connection to their community. And I was like, cool. What did they bring you something? Oh, yeah. So I think that you know, it’s like when you do the Christmas Carol, but also do something for you know, Hanukkah, do something for you know, Devaraj right around Halloween. Yeah, exactly. bring everybody in, you can possibly bring in theaters. That’s especially the Shakespeare. You know, I find that all the time in Shakespeare that Shakespeare, you know, of course, he was, you know, new research has, has sort of pretty much proven that Shakespeare was a Catholic and right during Shakespeare, the time to secure lives. Catholics were being suppressed and persecuted so he encodes holiday in Italy. of his plays, because his Catholic audiences, which were, to be honest, most of the people in England, they just weren’t allowed to go to Mass, there was no math, there was no celebration, there were no plays, but the churches used to put on and stuff. So he would encode these little holidays into his plays. And it was sort of like, you know, the only way these people could celebrate the, you know, The Merchant of Venice is Easter. And, you know, Midsummer Night’s Dream is, you know, the main crowning of Mary, and all these kind of, it’s so interesting the way he would build it around holidays, because that was already the natural time that people would gather together and see a story. It just seems to be like that’s the destiny of theater. We need to go back to that and stop trying to imitate film. You know, get rid of that’s that’s the main thing I would wish for when theater comes back after this whole virus nonsense. The reformation of theater, like I said, Get rid of technology, or at least reduce it, technologies to make things easier, they should not make things more cumbersome. I’m so tired of seeing my microphones on actors in theater like that. That doesn’t belong. Yeah.
Yeah, absolutely no. So wait. You’ve gone down like a wild rabbit hole into your prophecy, which I’m down for, and I’m into this. But we all I’ve heard about you so far is about how are you? We’re in a fourth grade play, and how you played Macduff. A couple of times. I heard somewhere in the beginning, something about a high school play. That was perhaps the beginnings of you getting into meaty roles that made you go, Oh, yes, I am an actor. Because as I recall, I believe I met you in college and and so you’re already ready to be a star at that point. So how did you get there? What was the high school play that got you going?
Well, so it’s interesting Actually, I did do all the plays that were offered by my high school. You know, I See I did. The first year I did Alice in Wonderland the second year I did our town the third year I did Dr. Neil Simon, which is sort of like a revision a lot. Yeah, no, it’s a Neil Simon play that where he reworked a lot of checkoff plays. It’s kind of interesting to me. And then the last year we did, you can’t take it with you talking in your heart, which is a great place everything. But the thing is, it’s really interesting. I think it’s interesting. I don’t want to be conceited, but um, she wasn’t displays that that interested me. I actually, the plays were always kind of frustrating to me. What I liked was forensics, a speech and debate because in speech in debates, I didn’t do debate. A lot of my a lot of my, you know, siblings, a lot of my buddies, they all did debate, but I like to be competitive acting part of it, where you can do it, you can do scenes, you can do a humorous scene or a dramatic scene. And you can also do what’s called an interpretation, dramatic interpretation or humorous interpretation, and we Which is a scene that one actor plays. So you kind of like go from being one character to being another character, and it’s really weird. But, um, but I really liked it. And what was great about that the whole speech and debate thing in high school was you could cast yourself, you could pick your own play, and you could cut it. And so it gave you a lot more. And, and you you sort of had the same process with your performance that like a stand up comedian has, you know, stand up comedian. You know, they have an idea for a few jokes, and they go and they test it out with an open mic. And the jokes that work, they keep the jokes that don’t work, they don’t. And if they think a joke can work, if they change something, they change it, and it’s just like this like constant process that just that just that makes so much sense. I wish theater would find a way to adopt that practice, and they don’t really know the closest thing is like the preview When you do like a Broadway play, of course, that’s the thing, which most smaller, more cash strapped theaters just get rid of, you know, you rarely get any kind of preview period where you can test out like, Oh, you know, that joke doesn’t work, because I’m coming in on my line too slow or whatever. And you’ve got to work out all that stuff through various rounds of competing with other performances. You know, and so that was I feel like that was really where I sort of began to sort of decide what I liked and what I didn’t like. Yeah, I think the first thing that any actor really should pay attention to because I think it’s the cornerstone of your is going to be the cornerstone of your art is taste. What do you like? What do you like? What do you think is good acting? What do you think is dramatic? What do you think is interesting? What do you think is scary when you think is funny? And if you do those things, and the audience does not respond, change, like figure out something You know, you got to get them. And you know, there’s a great quote, I think from no coward, who said, you know, when you’re rehearsing a play, he said, Do what pleases you first. And then when you get into performance, if it doesn’t please the audience, get out of theater. And I kind of, you know, I like the severity of that comment. It’s like, you know, you’re supposed to be doing this for the audience. So, if you’re up there, navel gazing, or you think something is really, really interesting, and it actually is just pretentious, you will know, because there will be cricket, when you think there will be a laugh. Or there will be, you know, complete apathy and boredom, where you want there to be intensity. And so that’s, that’s really I feel like that’s really where my training ground is. And actually, I just reconnected with an actor up here in New York. That was one of my competitors. He used to compete against me, and this cat was so good dude. He used to like blow me out of the room. He was so good. I used to go to rounds where I wasn’t Competing against him. Just to watch him back because he was so good. So it’s an interesting, I’ve only heard him a few actors that sort of came from this world. I think that Jamie didn’t Shelly long you know from from Cheers. I think she did forensics. Most recently, you know, the actor Michael, your good actor, Michael Yuri, he was in a Ugly Betty and a few other things. He also did a forensics i think i think there’s even a documentary about the speech competition world and what it’s like, you know, these these actors, these competitive actors,
I really thought everybody got involved in it except for me, I mean, I went to a private Catholic High School and it was all girls so they like didn’t really do many competitions and we had to like beg to have a play like senior year. Like we didn’t really have, you know, anything. We went to a boys school to do, to do plays and stuff like that. So like when I heard yours, like And when I went to college and I found out that like people in high school had been traveling around and doing competing performances, I was like, what I missed is my whole that’s all I want to do. But it just I missed it. It was not a thing that was part of my life. So, but it sounds really cool and really awesome. So let’s move forward. How did you get into what was your I know that clearly I mean, I guess we went to same college but like for you, what was your college and then you went to grad school to write like experience? How did the education part post High School go for you? You really soaked up? Well, so factoring.
Yeah, so so I, you know, I came from this family of, you know, like I said, sort of, you know, actors and speech of fires and stuff like that. That’s really just kind of the family I came from, but there also were, you know, like you were saying, really Catholic, and my mom, my mom and dad pulled some sort of weird ass Jedi mind trick on me and they were They’re like, you have to go to a Catholic school, but they didn’t offer me any money to go there. So you’re just like, you’ll figure it out. But you have to go to public school. I understand like, how did they pull that off? But they did. So I could only Yes. I could only look at Catholic schools. And I went to go see my sister, Laura. Well, I assume maybe you know, you saw? Maybe not. Okay. Yeah. So I saw my sister Nora at the University of Dallas. And I just thought that Kelly’s plays were so good, they blew me away. So I was like, Okay, I want to go here. So that’s what I wanted you
to see. You were like, Yeah,
what’s up? Or did you see all I saw her? I saw her in the 12th night playing Viola and it was good. It was good production. Everything was great. But it wasn’t I mean, but when I saw her in the tempest, actually is production of The Tempest blew me away. It’s one of the top three productions I’ve ever seen. And I you know, I’ve since I’ve since you know, since then i’ve you know, you know, reconnected with Bryant Mason. Kyle Lemieux? And I told him I’ve been like, guys, that was the best performance of the templates I’ve ever seen ever.
Yeah, it’s been the best thing in the whole wide world. The lead in the play became the head of the drama department. That was that’s what he won. Boom. Yeah, exactly, exactly. He was so good. They were like, wow, that’s just listen, do you wanna go to grad school in the back? Cuz you’re pretty much the best. And that’s what we’d like. You’re not wrong. He is the best. But yeah, that was my favorite. I loved that. Oh, that was my sophomore year. I loved that.
Well, and I even told I was just talking to my sister about this recently. I even told Brian, when I when I met up with him up here in New York, a few many years ago. I told him like, I never realized that the role Antonio, in the tempest isn’t that big of a role. But Bryant made it seem like it was, you know, a big roll because it was the He’s the main villain and everything and because why it was so good in it, like it blew me away. So then I went to go to UT. And so I went to UT. You know, UD, in a similar way to the speech competitions in high school, you know, the speech contest competitions in high school, you got many opportunities to act, you cut your own script, cast yourself, you read a bunch of plays until you figure out the one you wanted to do. And then you would, you know, you would perform it in several rounds, and you performed it so much. And there were sort of a similar quality, I feel like at UD, because, you know, as you know, the program is sort of geared towards teaching you how to direct the play. But in order to do that, you had to have a lot of actors so that you could be you doing a lot of scenes like in the directing lab class that that was an incredible class. And so I you know, I got to just be in a lot of plays. I mean, I remember actually, when I auditioned for grad school, a lot of my fellow classmates who were also under You know, you all have to hand in your resume and your headshot. And you know, they had you know, pittances on their resume. You know, they’d been in a few things. They were in the course in their college production or whatever. And then my resume came along. And I was Jason in media. I was Korean and Antigone, I was Trigorin. And the seagull I was Falstaff and Henry, the fourth one and two. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. There’s so much opportunity to act because as you know, each director had to do a play for their thesis. So there was, you know, so many parts like I actually, and I still kind of regret this. But you know, a lot of the students are the students and all the students go to Rome for half their semester. And I actually didn’t I elected to not go to Rome, because I wanted to do the place that we’re still going, going and going on the next you know, the next semester I was like, Oh my god, I can’t leave. When they’re about to do merchant events. I can’t leave when they’re about to do the Trojan Women. You know that Died you so? Yeah, I know. I know. I it’s so silly. But um, but but you know, and I remember
hearing alone, just you know, um, and then you can go visit Israel.
You can. And I remember I remember one of my acting teachers in grad school when they were, you know, they were looking at my resume and they were sort of interviewing me after my audition. And, you know, I remember her looking at my resume going you play Korean and Jason and to go here. I was like, yeah, and she was like, and I remember her just being kind of bug. It was attention to me when my favorite teachers was amazing. But like so it that that did have an effect. And then I went to Columbia. So Columbia is where I went to get my master’s degree. Pat Kelly had sort of a regular our, you know, our head of the program at University of Dallas. She had sort of a regular directing gig at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. And I was asking him about, you know, what he thought about my getting a master’s and what sort of, you know, training I should get He just told me he was like, well, I just came from Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He’s like I worked with, you know, kids that went to Juilliard could go into Yale. He was like all the kids that went to Columbia, the best. And I was like, okay, so I’ll put my, you know, they’ll put all my eggs into that basket. And I didn’t get it anywhere else. I applied to every school on the face of the planet. And I just so happened that I got into Columbia. So I sort of felt like that was Providence and, and the greatest Shakespeare teacher in America, taught at Columbia. So I was ready for that sort of just snapped it all up for me. I was like, you know, I gotta go here. It was expensive. And I’m not going to mention to you how in depth I am. But let’s not talk about the same. But at the same time, I did, what I set out to learn and that is, that is something I can say with absolute confidence. I knew what I wanted to learn. I knew what I didn’t know. And I got it from Colombia, like they really did. They knew and they taught me so they’re really
nice. debt or is it like your pay back this thing? Like because really, we all talk about our college debt and whatnot and like rah rah rah. I had a great time. I had a lovely time. Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give them back all that money because I don’t have a lot. But no, I sure do appreciate it. You know what I mean? Like, like, for whatever, whatever amount I’ll end up being able to actually pay for it. Great. But it was a good experience. And if I’m gonna have debt on my, on my you know, credit report, no matter what I’d rather be debt for having an amazing experience and learning things I wanted, right?
Totally, totally. And I’m going to give them some more. I better give them I’m gonna give a little bit more credit to one other person there was an actress in Dallas named Emily gray, and she and her husband Matt grace, founded this this company called the classical acting company. And I remember I had a conversation with Emily’s this was the year after university of Dallas, before I went to Columbia, so I took a year off. And I remember talking to her and I said, I was wondering about going to school, but it was gonna be so expensive. And she said to me, she goes, go ahead and go to school, you know, kick on to that do whatever she goes, you know, let’s say the worst happens. She goes, they can’t, you know, repossess your knowledge. They can’t repossess your degree. So just do it. And I was like, you’re right. You know, I mean, I do want to pay it off. And it is an enormous amount. But, you know, you just said it. And Emily said it at that time, also, like, I got what I wanted, so it’s not really a debt. You know, it’s, it’s just something I’m trying to pay off.
Yeah, and they gotta figure out how they handle their financials better because realistically, yeah,
It’s not you you’re
I mean club near me. Yes. When he was, was also you know, financially. I mean, they Yeah, they charge way too. I think actually, I read somewhere that they offered the least amount of financial aid of any MFA acting program in the country. And I was like,
thanks, guys. Oh, sure. You know, like you want an MFA? Well, you better have some cash. Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of that. Um, but so after you went to Columbia, and you got your MFA, what was the next step for you? Like, what do you do after going to grad school? How do you get involved?
Well, so you know, I everything I did. I wouldn’t say it was a mistake. It was just it was just weird. I just, I just did everything differently than everybody. So I was already married. When I went to Columbia, with you know, my wife, Megan, you know, you know her she was in your thesis production. And we, and we ended up having a kid while I was at in grad school, which, in a way was great because all my classmates rallied around me they all thought like kid was the bee’s knees and They all doted on him. And you know, there were a lot of petty sort of diva fights that happened between a lot of my classmates, and I was always out of it. I was never involved in any of that nonsense, because I had to go home and hang out with my Monday, you know, my, my kid, but but at the same time, that did make for a very strange beginning to an acting career. You know, I would not advise someone who’s, you know, considering, you know, starting an acting career, you know, for them to to start a family, you know, but I did and I, that’s just who I am, how I how I how I build things. And so I had a kid and Megan ended up getting a really, really great job. And so I was sort of, you know, mostly staying home with my son and submitting myself for parts. You know, I auditioned and I got an agent, right when I got out of grad school, she wasn’t very good. And I ended up switching her about two years later, with the ad for the agent that I’m still with. So that’s something though it In the game was changing, right on a sort of a professional logistical level. It was changing, right when I graduated from grad school. So and I wonder, to be honest, I mean, I, I, I love my agent and I, I hope he does not go the way of the dinosaur. But I do wonder if agents in general are going to go the way of the dinosaur, because most of the submissions that I hear that that led to auditions, and then then that led to jobs. I did that myself. And, you know, actors access, you know, the website where you can sort of submit yourself for professional projects and things like that, that was just sort of coming into existence. And that was most of the traction that I got was just submitting myself utilizing the tools that are available. And so so I had sort of a strange experience compared to a lot of my compadres. I was mostly at home, baby Sitting a kid and submitting myself for roles. And occasionally I would get an audition or a role or something. And when we get an audition, it was a nightmare. I’d have to juggle your bag, some friend of mine to watch my kid while I went into an audition because of course, I was the, you know, primary caretaker for my kid. And that did not make things easy. But yeah, but at the same time, it’s like, but I don’t care. I mean, I liked my kid, you know, I wanted to be around him. And it’s a lot of fun. You know, being with kids. I think I think it can be very, can feed your creativity a lot, you know, a
different way for sure. It definitely reframes things, you’re able to watch movies in a new and different way. You know, I find that I’m sort of like, sweeter My heart is softer than it was, you know, cynical that a lot of things. But, you know if I watch a good Disney movie, I mean, they get me and I’m I’m crying like hello. Yeah, you know?
Yeah, it’s great. I haven’t funny story. I have a funny story right about that. I remember my older sister had a bunch of kids, you know, before me, and, and I was right when my son was born and I was at Columbia was right when The Incredibles the first Incredibles Pixar movie came out that movie about the superhero family, you know, cartoon character, and I asked my sister if she thought and she said, Oh, no, I she was I saw it, but I couldn’t handle it. It was too rough for me. And I was like, What are you talking about? And she said, Well, then she said, Well, there’s that team, where the mom is on the plane, the jet, the jet plane and those missiles, you know, are shot at the plane. And she goes like, I just I can’t handle that. I can’t handle a mother, you know, in danger with her babies. And I was like, you’re a wuss, you know, and the movie had just come out on DVD. And I remember Megan was out for the evening or something. And my son was asleep on our bed and I had gotten up The Incredibles I hadn’t seen it yet, from Netflix in the little DVD sleeve that they used to send, you know, I’m watching the DVD. Yeah, right old school. So watching the DVD, The Incredibles, and that scene came up, you know where she’s, you know, she’s flying. So now I’m a dad. I now have a kid. And that team comes up that my sister had referenced that I did not know about, and it was like someone flipped the switch. I burst in tears and I started having a panic attack and I had to posit I was like, I can’t handle this this this mom here with these new missiles flying at her plane but her kids are in danger. It just freaked me out. So it there’s something about about Yeah, about having a kid which I think is is wonderful for creatives. And for actors. I mean, I don’t think you should go out and purposely have kids just to know just to just to reignite your creative life, but I mean it there’s nothing wrong with it. But it was weird and it was different. Yeah.
I think it opens up a like channel of sensitivity that like you did. Have before or you know, maybe reignites it from your childhood or something like that to connect to that kind of thing like you had it but then life filled it in with sadness and now and now it’s cleaned out and you’re able to like see through that hole in your heart again. I feel but you know what’s crazy, this is the terrible byproduct of a long time in improv, my my brains extra exercised to come up with cool and new ideas just immediately thing to do. And that’s great except for it also functions to elicit terrible and terrible or imaginations of things that will happen to my child and myself. Which we are going to be murdered or hurt in some way in which I’m in a car accident where I have to like pry myself out. And get him or like he’s running through traffic. I imagine these things with such vivid, like, oh, I’ve never I don’t I did not know I had this movie in my brain the way that I do, but I will like feel it. I’ll be driving down the road and all of a sudden, like, I’ll be nervous of a car that swerving near me. I’ll imagine my entire death. And then I’m like, Oh my God, oh, you cannot do this. Keep driving. Good lord. And it’s just in my head, you know?
Oh, yeah, you’re crazy.
But they never thought about those things.
Yeah, but it’s Yeah, but you’re right. I mean, it’s it’s reality. It’s reality, smacking you in the face of who humans are. And I mean, we all started out is that we all started out as babies. You I think you’d become much more forgiving of your parents when you become a parent, because you think oh god and you know, like, this is a nightmare, like How do you ever do it? Yeah. Oh, I
had so many jobs. Where was how did that How did I see them ever? Like? Yeah, you think about it you know a cool I’ll talk to my sister where I’m like, how did we go on vacation? When was how did they was there like a jar with pennies? Like what? Oh my god like how did they do that? You know can you can I see the budget sheets like on you know just things where you’re like it’s impossible that they accomplished like we lived a lifestyle like what is happening right now?
I think a lot of guys, yeah where the world went. But yeah it was it was different. It was weird. You know, most of my, you know, most of my my fellow actors didn’t didn’t have kids so that I in a way became kind of a novel theater became an interesting little litmus test for some actors that would be in a place If we’re like, oh, that’s weird, you have a kid. And then I was like, okay, you’re not the type of person I want to hang out with. And then other people be like, Oh my gosh, you have a kid, that’s amazing. And be like, Okay, well, you’re the person, I’m gonna invite over to my house after, you know, our opening night party, and you get to hang out with my kids and have a drink with me and whatever. So it I don’t regret it. But it didn’t make things weird. You know, having a kid trying to start a career, you know, in New York, you know, but, um, but the big, biggest sort of revelation I had about my career and everything, and this is what sort of has led me to where I am in my career now, which is, technically speaking, if I was going to just be objective about it, I would say, I took a break. I took a break for about about four years now, just about I haven’t done a play in about four years. And then a little bit I don’t mind that Well, again, because we’re having another kid. So I was like, you know, well, I didn’t find a good solid day job now and I found a really good job, you know, walking dogs for millionaires and billionaires with a company that’s comprised is almost exclusively of other actors. So I get along with everybody in the company and everything. And you can you can imagine how you can imagine how that business has done during the Coronavirus album, all of our clientele pieced out to the end of the game. Yeah, yeah, exactly. But But, but that was the that was the break. And taking a break is an interesting thing. Because you, you feel like you’re not an actor anymore. But it’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to take breaks and one of my favorite actors is Elizabeth Marvel. If you’ve never done this, but she’s a stager, she’s done a few movies, a few TV shows and stuff but she she’s she’s a goddess on stage and she’s worshipped. And I’m reading a an interview with her and her husband. She’s an actor too. You see that TV show The The Outsiders that was on HBO. I didn’t watch it, but I’m aware of it. You should check it out. It’s really, really well, he’s in that mini boot camp. You know, he’s off Broadway royalty, so is she. And he, I remember reading an interview with her. And she said that, you know, they had a kid and Bill camp just took some time off. He just you know, was like, Okay, I’m gonna go be a cook for a while or something. I think that he said he was also a mechanic for a while, he just just, he just took time off. And you know, and she referenced it, like, it was no big thing. And he came back, he came back and then probably roles, you’ve done stuff on TV, he does stuff in movies. So it’s not like it’s not a destination. Don’t be afraid of taking time off if you need to just take time off. You know, as I’ve been talking about, you know, like when you have a kid, it makes you a better person. It makes you a better artist, it makes you better be a full Well, you’re well rounded person. So if you need to take time off, especially if it’s to spend time with them, or to attend your life in some other way. I haven’t missed not being in place and a lot of Because, you know, I’m very opinionated. And I think a lot of plays weren’t done in the right way. But, um, but yeah, so I guess that’s sort of the main thing I would sort of feel about my, my career. It was, it was underwhelming. You know, I did, I did a lot of plays. I’m very happy with the plays that I did. But it’s not like, you know,
some work to do. Sounds like you got some more work to do. You’re not like done. You’re just taking a break, took a break from, you know, really, like real life is something to be experienced, especially by a person who considers themselves and artists such that you are communicating stories of human life to other people, if you don’t get to experience it. Like how can you really put it up in front of people? And like, I get it. Some people are just like, can pretend anything and you’re like, wow, they’re really good at that and great, but I feel like for some of us, it’s more of a story. spiritual experience and it’s more of a like being in touch with the moment kind of scenario when you act. So it’s really great if you’ve been in an experience like Parenthood, like having a family like things not going well occasionally in your life. It really helps with just general empathy as a human, but it also helps when you’re an actor because being an actor is just like, empathy plus a show, right? Like, we understand where you’re coming from here. Let me show you. I’m going to pretend to be someone like you check it out. And then it’s like, wow, you did it. I really thought you were like me, and they’re like, it’s true. But actually, I’m a single man who lives in an apartment alone on the Upper West Side, you never would believe it. Right? But not have, we get to. I think it’s important to especially to even as a human not just as an actor, but as a human. to experience all the things that we’re allowed to experience, not everybody gets to do all the things. And that’s fine. You know, I don’t need to do all the things, but the one when I get the opportunity when the world says, Hey, did you think that you’re gonna make it to your 40s and not have a child? turns out not so much. You’re gonna get it 39 who’s excited? You are right. I thought, well, gosh, this wasn’t what I was planning on doing but I get the opportunity to do it. So then I did it.
Right. Like, what do you think that the your, your your expertise in improv? Do you think that bleeds into the way you live your life? I’m curious because like, like, Do you enjoy improvising wise? anyway?
no, I think that improv is a good religion in the way that meditating is Good for life because improv is an exercise in everything changing around you. improv is an exercise in chaos. And life is key. And if you can stay cool and pay attention during chaos, then you will be lucky in the rest of your life because you have the ability to navigate this crazy thing. But But improv is more of a like chaotic exercise meditation than it is a way of life. I’m think of us of people the way like, almost like people in a play, right? I was a stage manager for a long time. And while it’s unlikely that I will stage manage another play, I don’t know maybe I will. It’s still my personality. It’s who I am. I’m an organizer. I organize things. I’m a producer, I make sure things happen. Right now, as I’m at home, not doing stuff, the things that I’m thinking about doing are creating shows in which other people can do them. I don’t necessarily want to perform myself that much anymore. I really like providing other people with opportunities to perform or writing for them so that they can perform or doing different things where me like, I love this conversation that we’re having. Because like, it’s cool that two actors can discuss like, what life is like, and I want to listen to other people’s I want to put people together and say you guys should talk so I can listen to your conversation. Like, I want to organize stuff versus necessarily like, I mean, on the journey in the organization, but I want to like be the gardener as opposed to the flower.
Gotcha. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. I and that’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about in Coronavirus. Like I’ve been like, okay, but like, what do you really what do you really miss? What are the things because I’m performed in a long time. I’ve performed in film and commercials, which are fun, but a different vibe than anything. Theater. Right? But I love improv and sketch comedy. And so it’s almost the same for me because realistically, every time I teach, it’s just a performance. It’s like two hours of me doing a show. Hey, guys, let me tell you about this. Okay?
Like, yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s what I noticed with my parents. You know, like I said, My parents were both actors, when they both became teachers. And you know, and there was no, there’s a little period, I think, when I was in like high school, I think my younger sister started it, but she, where she was like, she’s in high school, and she’s like, Hey, Dad, I want to go to see your class, you know, your college class that you teach. He’s like, Alright, fine. So he would let her sit in on his lectures. And then I was like, why don’t we go and do that too. And that’s when I realized when I saw my dad lecturing, like, oh, oh, this is how they get get that bug out, you know, the needing to perform and needing to, you know, teaching is it Yeah, the next best thing, the one thing I hope I can figure out in my life, but also sort of, you know, project to the world, which is, if you are a natural performer, and I, I think a lot more people are natural performers in our world, then the people that end up becoming actors in the profession, you know, I mean, public speaking is most people’s biggest fear. So if you don’t have that fear, if you can do it, I almost feel like you have an obligation to do it for your community to stand up in front of your community and talk. And I think that’s where most teachers find themselves. So if there’s one thing I wish I could, you know, really nail down or sort of explore in this next phase of my life. It’s, if the teaching is badass, it shouldn’t be this whole idea of like, Oh, you’ve failed. So now you’re becoming a teacher. It’s like no, that means There was a teacher. And you know that. I mean, we just recently found this out recently, that he was almost certainly a teacher, they said that he was a teacher in the countryside. And that was part of his training before he became an actor and then a playwright. And I think
that means, forever more even to Shakespeare’s time, the only one making money is the theater teachers, let’s be honest.
Exactly. Yeah. I mean, that’s the other thing is, when you’re talking about business, the business model in theaters and how that needs to change. You know, the every theater as a professional theater has an education wing, because that’s where a lot of the money is. And that’s where a lot of the interest is, but it’s never integrated with the actual mainstage actors, usually, almost Usually, it’s not, you know, they have a bunch of teaching artists that are people that you know, are marginalized and sort of shoved aside. That needs to be the same people, the people doing the main thing shows maybe the people teaching, if you are good enough at acting that you can do it really well. Then you can teach it really well. And if you can teach acting really well, you can do it really Well, and those things, you know, the idea of those that can’t do teach, we need to abolish that when it comes to actors. I mean, what I really want to do is do.
Yeah, I don’t.
Yeah, I don’t think that’s true at all. And it’s a horrible thing that our society says, and I, I know for myself, this next phase in my career, what I want is to fuse, acting, teaching and directing, you know, I’m not interested anymore in, you know, not passing on all this cool stuff that I’ve learned, because most of the stuff that I’ve learned with my incredibly expensive education, it’s not that applicable in the acting profession, the acting profession, just, you know, day to day pounding the pavement, you don’t need a huge classical education. But if you have it, you should share it. And it’s, it’s great. It’s wonderful. It makes you a better actor, makes you better teacher makes you better director, all of that. I think,
Turns thank you so much for chatting with me and for going down wild rabbit holes of like acting in life with me. This has been a really great episode thank you so much for being on it.
Oh of course I’ll do it again. Any time you’re awesome yeah, I love it
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