Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Greg Matthew Anderson talks to David Weidenfeld

New Board member David Weidenfeld interviews Greg Matthew Anderson, who will be starring in Chesapeake.
David Weidenfeld: Where do you get the energy when you don’t have other actors?
Greg Matthew Anderson: That has been my biggest fear going into it. I have some friends who have done one-person shows; Tim Kane who just did An Iliad down at Court; Mary Beth Fisher who did The Year of Magical Thinking at the Court; another friend who is an improviser, he did a show at iO. I am about to take a couple of them out for lunch to glean their insights. The way I have been thinking about it: some days people don’t want to go to work right? I mean some days you just don’t want to go to work. When that happens in a show, there is always the other person in the room who you are working for in a way. You’re like “I have to give them my best”. I show up for them in a way. It’s my joy to give it to them. I have been thinking about, “Wow, I will be the only person in the dressing room. Where am I going to go and I think?” But I have been telling myself after reading the play over and over again that the character in this play is an artist and a performer and a performance artist and there is an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm in the text for the work. Every time I read it, I get energized reading it. I get a little fluttery, just reading it to myself and thinking this is going to be my ‘well’. It’s one of those plays that’s not dour or really dark. It’s kind of buoyant. I am excited about that being there for me, just inside the text. I think it’s a play that hopefully audiences will respond to in a way where there is going to be a connection, like comedy. It lives and dies in what you are getting back. When we did Earnest, 99.9% of the time there was just great energy coming back at you. My hope is there will be that connection, there will be that energy because a lot of it is direct address to the audience.
DW: Does that mean you adjust within the parameters of what you have done in rehearsal to the energy level being different.
GMA: I think so. I think some folks may consider that heresy. I really think that those are great performers who can adjust to the situation. The sense that there might be audiences that implicitly ask you to take your time and you might find that they respond in a way that you modulate a performance in a way that seems to work and you feel it working that way. There may be audiences that are so smart and with it that you don’t have to wait for them to get something. That push and pull that casts work with all the time. That dynamic might be more intense because it’s just me. I don’t have to work in concert with someone else. It’s just me and an audience. That’s kind of exciting to me. To think about how some performances may be different or some moments might be different depending on what I feel like is happening out there
that’s exciting.
DW: No we have the next little twist here, which is in the middle of everything you suddenly have a different director and which adds a whole other kind of dynamic. What does that do for mental preparation or the mindset you have going into this?
GMA: Shawn [Douglass] is a terrific gift following Timothy’s [Douglas] departure. Timothy, I was really excited to work with because I heard about how he works and it is a way in which I have kind of worked in school. Just his process in the room. And we had spent a chunk of the year getting to know each other, building a relationship, and having that was going to be essential
embarking on this type of project. When Timothy couldn’t do it, Shawn stepped up – thank God he was available. I hope we don’t tired of each other because we are going to be in the same room for a while. We have a working history, we have a great friendship, we have deep respect, and implicit trust. Years of not just working together on the stage but just in the room, having discussions and talking. It is a huge relief to know I have a friend and a respected colleague there. So in some ways the adjustments mentally weren’t that gymnastic. I was excited to work with Timothy, I am excited to work with Shawn. I know they are very different directors, but I am really grateful to have someone who is so close. I feel like, second one, we won’t be wasting anytime.
DW: It helps to bridge the gap a little easier, having someone you know rather than a complete stranger, and because he directed you last year.
GMA: He directed The Importance of Being Earnest and he directed Philadelphia Story that I was in as well. So it’s been great to imagine the two of us going into rehearsals. Knowing what that is about, what he is about in the rehearsal room. So now we just have to work on a play. Which is really cool.
DW: Maybe an obvious question. Have you done one person shows before?
GMA: I have not.
DW: So it is completely new.
GMA: Completely new. Completely terrifying and completely exhilarating, and exciting to do. You always read about people who are asked the question: why did you choose this role? Mostly film actors. They say well I took it because it scared me or it was outside of my thing. I always thought that was b******t. Then this opportunity came up Nick [Sandys] brought it to
the table and I thought maybe that is right. Maybe it is that kind of ‘I don’t know how I am going to do that’ and that means I should do that. I worked with a friend of mine at Improv Olympics, now iO. He did a one-man show and I in a way directed him. He directed a lot of it himself, but I became his eyes in the theatre as he was getting it. So there was a window into how I perceive
it at least. I thought “I don’t know if I can do that”. I thought about it and read it a lot and thought, “Let’s do this”.
DW: So this isn't your normal structure of working as an actor. How have rehearsals been going? Has any of that changed?
GMA: We haven’t started yet. We start next week. So to be continued.
DW: To be continued. That's interesting. I would be curious to come back and hear what you have to say two weeks into this. Do you think any of those answers would change?
GMA: My gut feeling is that it will be all of those things on different days. Like any play that you start working on. You have that first table read and you look around and you think, “All these really good people and, wow, this is going to be great”. And then a week in you are like, “this is not right”, “This is not going well. I don’t how to act. I don’t know what I am doing”. And then, “Oh, I’m killing it”. And then three weeks into the run you think, “I just made a huge discovery and I am only getting it now and we close in a couple of weeks.” So, I am sure in the rehearsal period I will go from “I can’t do this” to “I can totally do this” to “I have been doing this all wrong, but I feel like I am getting there.” If I feel like I am getting there, then the rehearsals will be in ok shape.

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