TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.
My parents both grew up in Missouri: my father in a small town with no stoplights and my mother in a more urban, college town. I was born in Michigan but spent most of my childhood in Dallas, Texas and my young-adulthood in Arlington, Va (Dad's job in newspapers moved us around a couple of times). I have extended family in Missouri, California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Georgia (to name a few) so I have seen much of the U.S. I have lived in New York for the past ten years, living the life of both a professional and amateur actor.
TELL ME ABOUT A DEFINING MOMENT IN YOUR ACTING CAREER. PERHAPS A MOMENT WHEN YOU DECIDED TO BECOME AN ACTOR OR A PARTICULAR PART YOU WERE PROUD OF.
I'm not very good at this kind of question. I'd hesitate to pick a "defining" moment (though there are probably two or three excellent candidates). I suppose it would have to be a moment in which I realized that every act of theatre is a unique experience between two groups of people (actor & audience) sharing a space and (often) a story. Whether it is doing Russian Children's Theatre for American children, a topical play about Iraqi translators for veterans, an American production of Shakespeare for Londoners, or a non-linear performance for "downtown" audiences - each moment is unique...and some are better than others.
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE PLAY FOCUSED ON IRAQI TRANSLATORS?
The play is called "Betrayed" and it was written by the reporter George Packer, based on his 2007 New Yorker article of the same name. George wanted to write a fictional play that dug a little deeper into the inner lives of some of the people he met during his time in Iraq. He found a great director/producer team in Pippin Parker and Julianne Hoffenberg to collaborate with (this was George's first play), and the show ran at the Culture Project in New York for several months and has gone on to be produced around the country.
The play focuses on three Iraqis (who eventually work for the State Department in the Green Zone) and the American they work for. The play is inherently political but was never intended to influence policy or be agitprop. I played two characters: a young Marine in a little over his head, and a civilian Regional Security Officer (RSO) in the Green Zone.
It was interesting telling a story so close to the actual events. We performed in New York in 2008, so the election was on everyone's mind and the surge was still being debated. The play certainly opens the door for criticism of how the war was managed and New York audiences didn't have much trouble stampeding through that door and viewing the play as a prop for the coming election and an opportunity to bathe in American guilt. On the other hand, quite a few veterans came to see the show and (of those I spoke to) they were eager to recognize characters as people they had worked with, butted heads with, befriended, loathed, etc. Finally, several expat Iraqis (including some of the people the characters were based on) attended the show. For them, the show was an homage to them and their lives.
In January of 2009, we performed the show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as a benefit for Refugees international. This crowd was full of Washington insiders and government workers and they really picked up on the inside-the-beltway references and humor of the play. A month later, we performed the show as a radio play in Los Angeles. Audiences there tended to be subscribers and the piece was, for them, a more straightforward narrative drama; informative and entertaining.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I have been working with two other actors and a director on a performance of Herman Melville's "Bartleby" over the past several months. "Bartleby" is a short story - not a play - and the performance is more audial than visual. We perform for groups of less than two dozen at a time. The story - and the title character - are enigmatic, eliciting a wide variety of responses from readers/listeners. The director found the following quote, which serves as an inspiration for the piece:
“When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no longer find any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of novelty; we enter into the surprise and admiration which it naturally excites in him, but which it is no longer capable of exciting in us; we consider all the ideas which it presents rather in the light in which they appear to him, than in that in which they appear to ourselves, and we are amused by sympathy with his amusement which thus enlivens our own.”
- Adam Smith, A Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
TELL ME ABOUT THE ACTING EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD ON YOUR TRAVELS.
Happily, in New York, you don't have to travel far to get (or give) a taste of what our complex country (and world) have to offer. My own performances have been limited to Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Minnesota, Los Angeles, and London.
The "American production of Shakespeare" that I mentioned above was a 4-man ROMEO AND JULIET in which we played school boys (in uniform) who come across the play and act it out for each other. We first played in the Bath International Shakespeare festival. The audience came to see what different companies brought to the table, and the companies performed for each other as well as the locals and saavy theatre-goers up from London and other parts of the country. Much of the conversation there was about how Shakespeare was expressed by the cast of young, American males. There was great focus on the language and the so-called "American approach." From there we went to Coventry, which is a much more working-class city (still recovering from the Blitz). Audiences there were much less interested in the differences between American and British styles, and much more keen on ramifications of the casting and the questions about love and youth that it raised. In London, we ran for several weeks largely due to several schools buying up seats. These audiences looked exactly like we did on the stage. To many of these boys, the production was viewed as a threat to their sexuality, most nights eliciting vocal objections to what they were watching. It was the same production and the same country, but wildly different experiences for both the actors and the audiences.