Asia Mark plays the Apprentice Poet in “UniSon,” Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s tribute to the poetry of August Wilson devised by UNIVERSES. While at Western Michigan University, Mark attended Lecoq acting training with the Arts University Bournemouth, England. She also auditioned for UNIVERSES and has been touring with them for the past two years. We met in the Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center on the OSF Campus.
EH: Tell me about UNIVERSES.
AM: UNIVERSES is an interdisciplinary theater company that fuses poetry, music, rhythm and dance; they do a lot of commissioned work. It started off in the NuYorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side of New York City: When you do slam poetry, you only have about three minutes on stage. Four poets combined their poetry, to have more time; they fused their poetry. That’s where the origins of UNIVERSES came from.
EH: What was your process of developing “UniSon”?
AM: It felt like were jumping into a world of poetry — a world of the unknown. It’s heavily written by UNIVERSES, with the support of August Wilson’s poetry. It is a linear play, but there are so many different aspects and poems. None of us knew what the play was, until opening night. We’re still figuring out things about this play, because there is so much to take from it.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Lauren Modica, appears in “Henry IV, Part One” and “Henry IV, Part Two,” where she portrays multiple roles including Peto, the gal pal of Falstaff and Price Hal. Next season she will be playing in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Modica is from Portland, where she developed her extensive resume by performing in many of the remarkable theaters there. She was hired after she submitted a video audition to OSF.
LM: Working here is the best education, in terms of who you get to work with and watch and learn from. It’s never an easy path for anyone who wants to act in theater. It’s a hard career to break into. It’s made all the harder if you are at all outside the norm; and I, as a 4-foot, 8-inch woman with dwarfism, who’s half African American, recognize now as an adult what some professors may have been trying to communicate: which is that any little thing makes it so much harder, makes your path so much longer, or more intense in terms of obstacles. But at the time, having some cold hard realities introduced, was so disheartening: Having something that I loved, that I was encouraged to do and explore — and having someone say there’s no way I could possibly make it as a professional actor. I’m very happy that I have the chance to prove them wrong. I’m just grateful for the chance to make a fool of myself, to learn, to grow. Continue reading Backstage: Inviting the audience in
The Collaborative Theater Project’s current musical, “Bonnie and Clyde” features Sabrina Hebert as Blanche Barrow. Hebert studied music at Southern Oregon University, and discovered her love of musical theater. I met with Hebert and CTP President Susan Aversa-Orrego at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland.
EH: Tell me about “Bonnie and Clyde.”
SA-O: I picked “Bonnie and Clyde” because it’s fun to do a newer show with a wide audience appeal. You want to do something new and exciting, but you also want to attract people to see your work, so that you can build your company.
SH: The play is very glamorous, but it’s pretty edgy. It really makes you weigh in on what’s right and what’s wrong. It takes place during the time of the Dust Bowl, a time when people were desperate.
SA-O: This is the backdrop for this show: a very painful time for most Americans. These actors are the ages that the characters would have been. Bonnie was 24 when she died; Clyde was 26. They actually had them lying in state. About 40,000 people came to see Clyde Barrow, and 50,000 came to see Bonnie Parker. They were like movie stars. The sad part is that they were kids. Continue reading The moral of the Bonnie & Clyde story
Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Michele Mais plays Mistress Quickly in “Henry IV, Part 1” and “Henry IV, Part 2.” Next season she will again be playing Mistress Quickly in “Henry V.” Mais, a veteran of Broadway, has also performed with the Cornerstone Theater Company. We met at Hearsay in Ashland.
EH: Do you subscribe to particular style of acting?
MM: I don’t think there’s only one way of dealing with it. You do a little Stanislavsky; sometimes you do outside-in acting, physicality. The choices are: Do you hit the pillow because of some emotional need to hit the pillow? Or, while you’re hitting the pillow, is this emotional need coming out? That’s always the question. Sometimes it’s being in a certain costume or footwear.
EH: Tell me about acting at Cornerstone Theater with Bill Rauch.
MM: We did some weird shows. One of my favorite was when we did the speeches from “Everyman” in the mall. We had the shoppers follow us. We started out with maybe four people trailing along, and by the end of it, there were about 200 people. The audience was on the journey with us. They became “Everyman.” Continue reading Backstage: Acting can open doors to possibilities
Vilma Silva has portrayed such iconic characters as Portia in “The Merchant of Venice,” Julius Caesar in “Julius Caesar,” and Katherina in “The Taming of the Shrew” during her 23 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
After graduating from Santa Clara University, Silva performed with El Teatro Campesino and the American Conservatory Theatre before coming to Ashland for her first OSF role in “Blood Wedding.” This season, she is Armida in “Mojada” and Mistress Page in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” We got together at Bloomsbury Coffee House in Ashland.
EH: How do you create such real people on stage?
VS: I always start with what’s on the page. Then, it’s looking at the people who you’re going to be saying these things to. There are going to be clues — in how to make them see things your way — to make them do what you want them to do. That’s going to come from the other actors. And certainly, there are things in one’s life that you can draw upon. Continue reading Backstage: ‘I love a great story told honestly’
Liisa Ivary is directing David Ives’ version of Georges Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear,” opening Wednesday, May 3, at Ashland High School. There’s a cast of 20 student actors and a good deal of technical support from Ivary’s colleagues at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, including fight director U. Jonathan Toppo.
Ivary spent seven seasons in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s acting company. She has also performed in Shakespeare Festivals and regional repertory theaters all over the nation. She recently directed “Annapurna” for Oregon Stage Works. We met one afternoon at Noble Coffee Roasting in Ashland.
LI: This is something I wanted to do, because it’s important for these talented acting students to be mentored by OSF veterans, showing them style — and teaching them precision, timing and how to physically commit to a style that is split-second and dangerous.
It’s a large cast. It’s a lot of language and a lot of fight moves: kicks, punches, chases, slaps, rolls and jumps — every kind of slapstick; but it has to be timed perfectly, with intricate threading of props and costumes, because it’s a play of mistaken identity. It’s setting the style, the world and staying consistent. Continue reading Backstage: Some serious work goes into a farce
EH: Do you have a theory or method of acting?
AE: I had great teachers at Boston University. I had a fantastic physical acting teacher named Elaine Vaan Hogue who changed my view of what acting could be. Everyone has methods that work for them; a lot of times, we just take bits and pieces from here and there.
The Stanislavsky and Meisner techniques were fascinating to me, but they were very intellectual. I don’t think they actually work for me. I had a hard time applying them to my character. Whereas physical acting for me was, “Oh this, I can get.” It was eye-opening for me, that I didn’t have to write down every tactic and all my verbs: which is really cool; but it just doesn’t work for me. I need to have a very strong understanding of the language. Physicality helps me understand the characters, an understanding of who they are in their bodies. Continue reading What actors want: to tell stories