Jackie Apodaca, a professor of theater at Southern Oregon University, has co-written the book “Answers from ‘The Working Actor’” with actor Michael Kostroff (best known for his five seasons on HBO’s ”The Wire”). Taken from the actor’s trade paper “Backstage,” the book gives a fascinating picture of the complex and confusing world of the acting profession.
Written in the style of advice to the lovelorn, “Answers” consists of years of words of wisdom given to struggling actors who have written to them, signing off with such names as Frustrated, Beyond Confused, Confused Yet Determined, and Lost in La La Land. They offer solid research and techniques to navigate the ins and outs of such a daunting environment. I chatted with Apodaca over lunch at Greenleaf Restaurant in Ashland.
EH: What is your best advice?
JA: There’s no one answer to any question. The only people you can trust are the people that say they “don’t know.” If they say: “This is what you have to do,” they’re lying. In the book I’m constantly saying, “I think this, but some people say this,” or “Here are the 15 different paths you could take.” I try to frame everything in that mind set. Hopefully if people can take away, “Don’t believe anything anyone tells you. It’s going to be different for you.” That’s probably my best piece of advice. Continue reading Dear Working Actor, What’s the path to acting success?→
After eight seasons with the Camelot Theatre, Artistic Director Roy Von Rains feels very lucky that he’s been able to work with some of conference room to reflect on the unique experiences intrinsic to “community theater” and its impact on society.
RVR: As humans, we are storytellers. People have said that the oldest profession is prostitution. I absolutely disagree. I think storytelling is the oldest profession. It’s been around since painting on cave walls, and it will probably continue to permeate society as we travel through the stars. It’s such an important part of who we are. Continue reading Backstage: Oldest profession? It’s storytelling→
Robin Downward, artistic director of the Randall Theatre, will be singing and dancing the role of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly’s iconic role) in “Singing in the Rain,” directed by Livia Ginese, at the Randall Theatre’s Jacksonville location. Now going into its eighth season, with two theatrical venues, the Randall Theatre depends on ticket sales for 95 percent of its revenue. I met with Downward at Mellelo Coffee Roasters in Medford.
Michael J. Hume directs Southern Oregon University’s “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” Anne Washburn’s dark musical comedy, now playing in OSF’s Black Swan Theatre. The play envisions a post apocalypse world set in Northern California.
Next year Hume will be in his 26th season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with roles in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sense and Sensibility.” We met downstairs at Mix in Ashland.
EH: How did SOU choose: “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play”?
MJH: SOU wanted to celebrate the art of storytelling. We are doing this play, about people telling the story of The Simpsons, in repertory with Mary Zimmerman’s “The Arabian Nights,” about Scheherazade and a thousand and one tales.
EH: Is the play science fiction?
MJH: It’s dystopian fiction as opposed to science fiction; there’s not much science in the play. It’s about surviving and not uncomfortably. “Mr. Burns” begins with very basic storytelling: Folks sitting around a campfire obsessing about The Simpsons “Cape Feare Episode.” The great irony is that: What if these same people were obsessing about “King Lear” or “Moby Dick,” some great classic piece of literature, as opposed to what some people would call trivial or pop culture? I’m not a huge Simpson’s fanatic, but I am a fan. In terms of social commentary, I think it’s brilliant.
I would argue for The Simpsons that they’re smart. That they are a dysfunctional stupid American family is actually very telling — in terms of who we have become. It becomes a new mythology. We have Simpson’s scenes, we have Simpson’s characters: It’s not “The Simpsons on Ice,” or anything like that. It is human beings talking about The Simpsons and eventually putting on Simpson’s plays to make money. Capitalism is all over this. Continue reading The art of storytelling in a dystopian setting→
Actor/director Peter Alzado plays Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” now playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. A veteran actor of Broadway, television and film, Alzado spent five years as artistic director of the Actors’ Theatre (now the Camelot Theatre) before founding Oregon Stage Works, where he served as artistic director for 10 years. We met at Pony Espresso one sunny afternoon.
EH: Why is “All My Sons” pertinent today?
PA: It’s about responsibility to the greater good. Just being responsible to yourself and to your family doesn’t cut it. Individually, we have a responsibility to the world. If we disregard that responsibility, then it wreaks havoc. You’re creating a world of divisiveness, hatred and anger. And it’s a world that doesn’t have basic equality to it. Eventually it wreaks havoc on the people you’re trying most to protect, which is your family and people you love.
EH: How do you develop a play?
PA: To my mind, it’s all about words and action. There are themes: One has to be aware of what those themes are, and how to interpret those themes, so that they are accessible to everybody. What often happens now is, directors are layering things on top of the script that have absolutely nothing to do with the script whatsoever. It’s just coming out of what they think could be creative, but it doesn’t take into consideration the writing. People recognize subliminally (and sometimes consciously) that they are not being told the truth. That “truth” is found in the writing, and if you start layering things on top of the text, people stand up, applaud, say that it’s great, and it meant nothing. It’s an intellectual pretense. That’s not the effect that you want to have in the theater or in any of the arts. Continue reading ‘If you can touch people’s souls … then you’re doing something’→
Actor G. Valmont Thomas plays Sir John Falstaff in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Henry IV, Part One” and in “Henry IV, Part Two.” Thomas also played Falstaff in OSF’s 2006 production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on June 12, 2017.
EH: What makes great comedy?
GVT: Comedy should illuminate something about the human condition — in a joyously hilarious way. Nowadays humor has gotten very cruel, actually mean. Some stand-up comedians just vent. If you look at the writing on TV situation comedies that are really popular, there are a lot of mean things said between characters. We are supposed to treat them like they are funny. Some of them are; but most often, they’re not.
EH: Do you prepare for comedy and tragedy differently?
GVT: In comedy, you need less restraint. You have to explore a lot of different ways of doing things to find out what is going to work with the group of people on stage. In tragedy, we’re all going in the same direction. The thing about comedy is that nobody is going in the same direction. The diversity of objectives on stage is clashing. That’s what’s funny — people careening off of one another. Continue reading Backstage: Exploring the difference between comedy and tragedy→
Actor G. Valmont Thomas brilliantly portrays Sir John Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part One,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He will also play Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part Two.” This is Thomas’ 14th season with OSF. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Thomas took time out from his acting career to earn an MFA in Directing for the Theater from Pennsylvania State University. We met at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland. This is the first of a two-part interview. The second will be published on June 26.
EH: Why do people make their life in theater?
GVT: It’s different for everybody, but most theater artists have an altruistic streak. I don’t find what we do that much different from psychology, psychiatry or religion, because we are dealing with these four questions: “Who am I? What the heck am I doing here? What am I supposed to do when I’m here?” and “How do I know when I’m doing it right?” Those are the things that we deal with everyday. I believe that I’m helping the world deal with itself. A lot of theater people feel that they can help heal. We feel that we are the agents of healing. And right now, it’s very prevalent among us. Continue reading The four questions actors deal with→