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?
Ashland Contemporary Theatre’s recent production “Pankhurst: Freedom or Death,” directed by Peggy Rubin, is a theatrical tour de force written and performed by Jeannine Grizzard. Set in England in 1913, the play examines the history and issues involved in the women’s fight for the right to vote, finally granted in 1918. Grizzard had researched a speech by Emmeline Pankhurst (a leader in the suffrage movement). She decided to develop the material while attending a Social Artistry Workshop given by Jean Houston and Peggy Rubin. The challenge was: What project can you come up with to change the world?
EH: How did Emmeline Pankhurst make her mark on history?
JG: She created modern media coverage of activism. Technology had advanced to the point where they could take pictures of a protest and have them published in newspapers the next day. Staging events for the media to cover was her introduction to the twentieth century, which paved the way for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, making big demonstrations and relying specifically on the press. Continue reading Suffragettes pioneered techniques used by Gandhi, King
Dawn Monique Williams directed “The Rover,” now playing in the Main Stage Theatre in Southern Oregon University’s Theatre Building. Last season, Williams directed the “Merry Wives of Windsor” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
With exuberant performances by a cast of 20, a revolving set, flashy sword play and saucy plot twists, “The Rover” is as alive and vital as it was when it was written in 1677 by Aphra Behn. I chatted with Williams at Mix Bakeshop in Ashland.
EH: “The Rover” is a huge undertaking, where do you start?
DMW: My process varies, from show to show, but I start any play with the script: reading the script, reading the script, reading the script. And then, most times, there is one character that will stand out for me, to be my guide through the world. It is the character that opens the door and says, “Come inside.” Usually, I’m able to anchor onto that character. Then I’m moving through the play again, re-reading it, thinking about that character: What they want; what they’re doing; and how the other characters relate to that character. And then, simultaneous to that, I usually create a mental play list of what I think the world sounds like, not just in terms of the ambient sounds, but (if this character had an iPod) what would that character be listening to? Then I always ask myself: “What would the play look like if it were a dance?” Continue reading 17th century ‘Rover’ resonates with modern feminists
Southern Oregon Professor of Theatre Arts Jackie Apodaca directed “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, now playing in the SOU Black Box Theatre. The play takes place inside the fantasy role-play game, Dungeons & Dragons, which first became popular in the 1970s.
Actors play two roles, fantasy characters (with special powers and attributes) and real-life high school students playing D&D. Then there are monsters, including leprechauns, harpies and scary dolls. I met with Aurelia Grierson, who plays Agnes; Assistant Director Carlos-Zenen Trujillo; and Apodaca in the SOU Library Coffee Shop to talk about the play and the game.
CZT: Dungeons & Dragons has become a popular activity. It’s not on a board or a computer; it’s just papers and dice. You pick a character, then you get to build your character (with your stats and skills) and then you have an entire adventure. But it’s all just people around a table telling stories. Continue reading ‘She Kills Monsters’ dives into ‘Dungeons & Dragons’
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
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’