Thursday, November 5, 2015

Great Authors For the Holidays!

It's been a long time since I have spent the holidays in New York.  We actors go where the work takes us; this year, it keeps me at home in Manhattan!  After a hectic audition season this fall, I was offered two productions simultaneously, both early works by two great playwrights.

Anton Chekhov
An actor friend put me in touch with Columbia MFA directing candidate Inés Braun, who was casting her project of Anton Chekhov's "Ivanov."  Inés, a dynamic creative force from Argentina, cast me in the role of Lébedev, the alcoholic but well-meaning father of Sasha, who falls in love with the manic-depressive, 'Hamlet-esque' Ivanov.  It's an interesting play, definitely an early effort for Chekhov, but a fascinating glimpse into his gift for characterization and his uncanny perception of human foibles.  "Ivanov" will have three presentations, November 20-22, and I am excited to be a part of Inés' growth as a director and to share the work with her esteemed teachers, directors Anne Bogart and Brian Kulick.  It's also so nice to dig into some classic dramatic material after a pretty steady diet of frothy musical comedy!  Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Simultaneous with rehearsals for "Ivanov" I am working on the holiday offering of The Peccadillo Theatre Company, the company in residence at the Theatre at St. Clement's.  Peccadillo's mission is the presentation of great American plays, and they have chosen two early one acts by Thornton Wilder, "The Long Christmas Dinner" and "Pullman Car Hiawatha" to present as "A Wilder Christmas."  Just as with the Chekhov, this is a stunning look at the developing voice of one of the great playwrights.

Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder plumbed the depths of human experience from an existentialist's point of view, and presented his stories in highly theatrical ways.  "The Long Christmas Dinner" tells the story of 90 years in the history of an American family, played out in front of the audience's very eyes; "Pullman Car Hiawatha" is an early experiment in the conventions and devices Wilder perfected in "Our Town"--including a narrator called 'The Stage Manager' and the use of simple props and chairs to establish the world of the play.  These plays are the essence of ensemble acting, and I am thrilled to be a part of an extremely talented cast under the meticulous direction of Artistic Director Dan Wackerman.  "A Wilder Christmas" plays December 3 through January 3 at the Theatre at St. Clement's in the heart of the theatre district.

Various kinds of theatre challenge different sets of actor muscles and as much as I love doing the dynamic work of musical theatre, I am having a great time using my more classical actor talents to bring these Chekhov and Wilder characters to life.  I am also enjoying being a part of the visions of two passionate directors, one well established and the other beginning her training at one of the great directing programs.  In the process, I get to learn more about myself and my work.  A pretty great Christmas gift.

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