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Entries in Michael Raver (2)

Tuesday
Jun062017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Michael Raver & Nicholas Carriere: Death Comes for the War Poets at Sheen Center

Nicholas Carriere & Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Lloyd MulveyWe live in some crazy times. Every day that moron stays in office is another battle we have to fight for our freedom from him because we never know what that lunatic is going to do. Ever since this election, I am just grateful to wake-up everyday still alive.

When I found out about Death Comes For The War Poets, a new play by Joseph Pearce, I thought this would be a great show to highlight because it takes place on the centenary of the United States’ entry into World War One and grapples with the horror of trench warfare as experienced by the two greatest war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

I was so excited to get to speak with the plays' two lead actors, Michael Raver and Nicholas Carriere, who play "Wilfred Owen" and "Siegfried Sassoon" respectively. It was interesting to compare the events of the past with what's happening today.

Presented by Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company, Death Comes For The War Poets will make it's world premiere at The Sheen Center in NYC (18 Bleecker Street) from June 9-24. Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://michaelraver.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on Nicholas visit http://nicholascarriere.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. This June you are starring in the world premiere of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company's production of Death Comes for the War Poets by Joseph Pearce. What attracted you to this show?

Michael Raver: I didn’t actually know anything about Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon when I heard about this play. The poetry that both of these men wrote, the emotional capacity of their work and what they accomplished with it is staggering. Ultimately because plays are about relationships between people, that's the breakfast, lunch and dinner for actors, right? Sassoon and Owen had a fascinating relationship, one that was very obviously filled with a lot of love. Against the backdrop of how they met and the abiding feelings they expressed to each other suggest delicious possibilities.

Nicholas Carriere: Pure curiosity, and a dose of masochism. I’m from New England, and was raised Catholic, so if it seems difficult, I’ll probably be drawn to it.

2. What do you relate to most about your characters "Siegfried Sassoon" & "Wilfred Owen"? What is one characteristic of theirs are you glad you don't possess?

Michael Raver: I love Owen’s emotional bravery. One of his most profound gifts to the poetic landscape, particularly as it pertained to war, was a willingness to be vulnerable and blunt. There was no sarcasm or triviality in his ethos. As an actor and as a writer, my ultimate desire is to get to the bottom of complicated things. Distilling, while I wrestle with things that make no sense to me. Owen spent his short career fighting to understand violence and I can completely relate to that. I’m relieved that the jingoistic relationship with going to war isn’t on the menu for me. England, at the time of the first World War, had a propensity for nurturing young men to believe that their destinies were all on the battlefield. The might is right. I have respect for the military but I’m endlessly thankful that I’m not among them.

Nicholas Carriere: I love words, much like he (obviously) did, though the way we use them is very different. Sassoon was a fascinating man, whose life was beautiful, and tragic. The events of our respective lives couldn’t be more different; it feels unfair of me to judge any of his choices, or perceived character traits. That said, I could only wish to write as beautifully as he did.

Michael Raver, Nicholas Carriere, Sarah Naughton, Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey3. In preparing for the show, what kind of research did you do on your characters?

Michael Raver: Reading a lot. I’ve read and re-read his poetry. I also was in touch with the Wilfred Owen Association and they’ve been very helpful giving me some details about him that I might not have easily found in books. Because he was suffering from shell shock at the time we’re covering in the piece, I also watched some really heartbreaking documentaries about the lasting effects of war on the human body.

Nicholas Carriere: I read the first of Sassoon’s autobiographies, and reviewed my WWI history, but because there’s very little interpersonal dialogue in the play, most of the work lay in unpacking the language of his poems, because his poems serve as the narrative engine. I can’t rely on relationships, or sets, or a general audience’s working knowledge of this man. I have to find a way to create the world of this man’s life - both external and internal - with only his poetry.

4. Since you play poets and the show is about war, if you were to write a very short poem about war, how would your poem go?

Michael Raver: 

Roses are red, violets are blue
War is complete bullshit
So stay home won’t you?

Nicholas Carriere: If anyone wants to see me doing poetry, they should come see the show starting June 9th!

Michael Raver5. The show is titled Death Comes for the War Poets. If death came for you now, what would you be most grateful for that you've accomplished and what would be one or two things you were like, "Damn, I didn't get to do that yet"?

Michael Raver: I’m grateful that, in the last year particularly, I’ve stayed in the present moment more often than not. I’ve gotten to be present for some really exceptional moments in other people’s lives. Births, weddings, seminal creative moments and also a few deaths. As far as things that I haven’t done yet, I guess that since we live in a work-addicted culture, I would love to get to a point where I can soften out of that a little. In terms of my career, I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. I’m in the process of writing a book right now and I’m looking forward to seeing that through.

Nicholas Carriere: Oh, see, although I have a very bounteous life, with much to be grateful for, I try not to dwell on any of it, and hope to be present enough to not live (or die) with regrets.

6. The show deals with the horror of trench warfare, so what is the most horrific thing to happen to each of you in your life? How did you find the strength to continue after said event?

Michael Raver: My father passed away when I was eighteen and that was pretty traumatizing. Our relationship and the circumstances of it were very complicated and the situation left me with a lot of frayed edges and unresolved issues. For lack of a better way of saying it, losing a parent can feel like emotional war. Someone recently told me this really great idea that your parents give birth to you twice. Once when you’re born and then again when they die. As an adult man now, I’ve made a concerted effort to get the most out of the time I have while I have it. If something bothers me, I say something. If I have the impulse to change something about my life, I really try not to hesitate. While I appreciate that there’s a time and a place for everything, subjugating my feelings and thoughts feels like death.

Nicholas Carriere: There is poetry in the play, which deals with trench warfare, and it’s a testament to Sassoon and Owen as artists that they’re able to render such vivid, haunting accounts of a very dark time in modern history. But it’s the darkness of that time, which enables Sassoon to find a path to peace. So few of us can ever know the horror of that kind of war; mostly anything I could ever, or may ever endure seems manageable.

Nicholas Carriere7. Not only is this story told through the eyes of Siefgried & Wilfred, it's also told through the "Spirit of Death." I don't want to make every question a downer, so let's have some fun with this question. If you could come up with a cheer for the "Spirit of Death," how would you cheer go?

Michael Raver: This isn’t really a chant, but KT Tunstall has a gorgeous song about death called ‘Carried’ that would be my go-to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLNp1WROFR0

Nicholas Carriere: Sarah Naughton, who plays "Death" in the show, will be charming, and cheering audiences nightly starting 6/9. I’ll defer to her expertise.

8. We are currently living in some very trying times, especially with what's his name leading our country. What are some things you are still hopeful for in this day and age?

Michael Raver: I love those moments when communication between people gets bolstered, strengthened. I love directness. I love when I get an email or a text or a call from someone I haven’t seen in a while or even its somebody that I see on a regular basis, to get a "just saying hi" message. Little morsels of love like that can work miracles on a downtrodden mood. Celebrating what unites us rather than what breaks us up. I’m hopeful that in the coming years, people will dig deep to embrace their own vulnerability as a strength rather than labeling it a weakness.

Nicholas Carriere: My father has an infuriating way of assuring me that humanity will find its way towards whatever is best. Frustratingly, as I grow older, I am starting to see his point. I have faith.

Nicholas Carriere and Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey9. How do you feel we can bring peace to this world we live in?

Michael Raver: Love is a huge necessity, absolutely, but I think perhaps a refined definition of what love is. To me, love has always been an action. It’s a verb. It’s so easy to toss that word off carelessly. I so want our collective consciousness to rise to the point where we can walk our own talk. If you love someone, show them if you want to tell them. If something bothers you, do something. Regarding the political circus going on at the moment, my encouragement to anyone upset by it would be to pick up a phone, call a congress person, go to a protest. Donate money. Do rather than simply complain.

Nicholas Carriere: Our collective wellspring of empathy and compassion, I think, has no bottom; we need only make better (and more frequent) use of it.

10. If you could write death a letter, what would you say to it?

Michael Raver: 

Dear sir and/or madam: 

I have a lot of things I want to do. Do me a solid and let me do them. I want to be very thoroughly used up by the time you show up looking for me.

Thanks!

xo

Nicholas Carriere: "Are you ok? You look like… Well. You know."

Michael RaverMore on Michael:

Off-Broadway: The Persians (National Actors Theatre); Vieux Carré (The Pearl); Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet (Aquila Theatre). Select regional: Bay Street Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Playhouse on Park, Ivoryton Playhouse, Sierra Rep. Select film/TV: How We Built the Bomb, Dark Places, Gone Away, Turn: Washington’s Spies. As a playwright: Fire on Babylon (Wild Project, Great River Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill semifinalist), RiptideQuiet Electricity (The O’Neill semifinalist), Evening (Red Bull Theater finalist) and adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray (Sonnet Rep, Orlando Shakespeare Theater 
PlayFest finalist) and The Seagull (The Pearl). Contributes pieces to Classical TVNYC Monthly, Hamptons Monthly, The Huffington Post, Playbill.com, Dance Magazine and CoolHunting.com.

Nicholas CarriereMore on Nicholas:

Some New York and regional credits include Sex with Strangers (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), My Report to the World (NY Museum of Jewish Heritage and Shakespeare Theater, DC), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Guthrie Theater), A Song at Twilight (Hartford Stage and Westport Country Playhouse), Zorro (American premiere at Alliance Theatre), Abigail/1702 (world premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Coriolanus (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), The Lion King (national tour/Vegas). Training: MFA, Yale School of Drama and Muhlenberg College. Thanks to his father for his support and always letting him make a mess in his kitchen.

Saturday
May282016

Call Answered: Michael Raver: Fire on Babylon Fresh Fruit Festival

Michael RaverAs much as I love getting to interview my idols, I equally enjoy interviewing new talent. It's exciting to talk to them about early projects and learn about their hopes and dreams. Michael Raver is a playwright and actor on the rise. This past April, his play Riptide, received an industry reading in New York city. His latest play, Fire on Babylon, was nominated for The Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Foundation Award for Playwriting, as well as being named a semifinalist for The O'Neill Conference in 2015. Now, Fire on Babylon is making its New York City premiere in the Fresh Fruit Festival from July 12-17 at The Wild Project (195 East 3rd Street). Click here for tickets!

1. Your latest play, Fire on Babylon, is getting ready to be workshopped in the Fresh Fruit Festival this July. What excites you about having Fire on Babylon in the Fresh Fruit Festival? I’ve been working on this play since 2012. After the years of pushing this play uphill, it’s exciting to get it on a proper stage. There’s something magical that happens between the process of doing a reading and fully staging something that is pretty indescribable and I’m so happy that we’ve finally moved the play to that point.

2. Fire on Babylon tells the story of two New Yorkers each locked in personal crisis, while the city is having one of its own: the 2003 blackout. What made you want to set this show in the confines of 2003 blackout? Someone asked me that a few days ago and I honestly can’t even remember. Isn’t that terrible? I do vividly remember that blackout and how, when it first happened, everyone panicked that we were being attacked again. But as soon as the word spread that it was an outage, it became this huge out-breath for everyone. People’s lives paused. Everyone, particularly in New York, got to take a pause from the chaos for a hot second. The two characters in Fire on Babylon are afforded that same opportunity. I’m someone who sometimes needs to be derailed in order to see clearly. It’s uncomfortable, but it can be so revitalizing.

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey3. What do you relate to most about your character, "Christian"? T hat he’s manipulative. I’m kidding. And I’m not (laughs) Seriously though, I think he’s got a questionable value system, which is something I at one time could identify with. Thankfully these days, life has me in a much more discerning place with what I spend time thinking about and doing. He sticks his foot in his mouth, which I can absolutely relate to. I have a propensity for letting my emotions take the driver’s seat sometimes, which "Christian" definitely does. But I try not to judge him too much because it’d make the task of playing him impossible. I’d be winking and nodding to the audience rather than letting Jeffrey honestly rake me over the coals.

4. In this show, your character get into a psychosexual situation with an older man (a couggay if you will). Has there been a time in your life when you've been involved with an older man? If so, what did you learn from that experience? I’ve never exclusively dated someone who was as far away in age as "Hugo" is from "Christian." When I’ve spent any time with someone older than me, regardless of the circumstances, the second that there’s some kind of parenting happening on the older person’s part, I want to run for the door. It can feel patronizing. I’m all about being a student to someone else’s teacher, but romantically, I get the itch to step away as soon as I’m being placed into a surrogate child role. I get that the father/son roles are easy to recognize in Babylon but the play isn’t really about daddy issues. The same way that it isn’t about a midlife crisis either, despite it centering on a middle-aged person in crisis.

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey5. How do you feel the generation gap of these two characters comes into play? The play feels, in some ways, like a pendulum swinging back and forth. The "cat and mouse" thing that’s going on is fun because at any given moment, the roles switch back and forth. Sometimes really quickly. They start the play off in very quintessential behaviors that are indicative of stereotypes for their age. "Hugo" is the rambling older man archetype. A bit of an absent-minded professor. "Christian" is a quiet, potentially simple younger man. But they spend the entirety of the story playing against what might be the obvious behavior for someone of their respective ages. When things get physical, when things get verbal, when things slow down or when things speed up between them, the instigator isn’t always the person who you might assume it’d be. The age gap also proves a really important point: no matter our age, life still can happen to us. At any time and without warning. We can always be embarrassed, feel lust, get confused, lost and also be found and feel love.

6. As the play unfolds and the blackout happens, press notes, say secrets are revealed. What is one secret you have been holding onto that you would like to let go of and finally reveal? Oh shit. I have no idea. I’m a pretty terrible liar so secrets are actually kind of hard for me to keep. I draw a pretty distinct difference between secrecy and privacy though. Privacy is great because I see it as a loving and protective concept. Secrecy is awful because it denotes that there’s some shame somewhere. Shame is harrowing and I’m not into it. Not at all.

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey7. Press notes also state that the character of "Hugo Thomas" is a recluse. Was there ever a period when you were a recluse and if so, how did you emerge back into the world? When I was about fifteen or so I was dealing with a lot of things and stayed in the house for most of the summer of that year. Wasn’t eating much either. My poor family didn’t know what to do. I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve wanted to drop off the radar. It’s a hard thing for us to do, right? We’re addicted to our phones and our computers. And I get it. We like feeling connected to each other. Communication is one of the great advantages to being human. I’m also temperamentally highly sensitive so the idea of being without connection to other people can totally freak me out. I do also need the balance of alone time and as surprising as it might seem to people who see me as extremely talkative, I have plenty of long stretches where I don’t open my mouth at all except to eat or brush my teeth.

8. In addition to writing this play, you are also starring in it. How do you divide actor/playwright when rehearsing and performing the show? Do you ever blur the lines or are you able to keep things pretty separate? I think the only thing I need is a clear picture about the story I’m trying to tell and to be directed by someone who wants to tell that same story. And trust. Respect also goes a long way on both parties. Thankfully, I have a truckload of respect for Paul Mason Barnes and I’m greatly relieved that he’s trusting me to wear both hats. I’ve taken the "kill your darlings" concept to heart as a writer and am not precious about any one, single line. I check for accuracy as opposed to better-ness. As long as the text in the script is accurately telling the story, then I’m all for it. As a castmate, Jeff Hayenga has been super helpful with that too. Neither of them are afraid to tell me that they don’t like a certain line or that something needs to get cut. At the end of the day, my job as a writer and an actor still have to deal with one very important bottom line: is this the truth?

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey9. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/performer? I love this question. I never thought there was anything odd about wanting to do more than one thing. It wasn’t until I got out of school that I was ever given a "should" or a "you can’t" by anyone about it. For some reason, culturally, we celebrate Bob Dylan, Sting, Alanis Morissette and Lady Gaga for writing and performing their own material. Richard Pryor wrote his own jokes. The performers on Saturday Night Live are expected to write sketches. But there has long been a stigma against actors writing work that they perform. Shakespeare did it. And thankfully, the multi-hyphenate thing is starting to normalize a little more. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thank you Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. Thanks Kate Hamill. Renaissance people. I respect when playwrights don’t want to perform their own work. But I think to dogmatically say that it’s not possible to be in my own play is a bummer. Trust can go a long way.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Staying in the present moment as much as possible. I think I’ve got my head up my own ass a little more than I need it to be. I have moments of being an ostrich and I’d be willing to let some of that go. I’m down for it.

Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Paul GregoryMore on Michael:

Michael Raver is an actor, playwright and journalist. His performance as a young "Richard Feynman" in the film How We Built the Bomb received rave reviews. His Off-Broadway debut was in Ellen McLaughlin's adaptation of The Persians with Tony Randall's National Actor's Theater. His most recent television appearance was on TURN: Washington's Spies. As a playwright, his adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray was produced by Sonnet Repertory Theatre at the Signature Theatre Center in 2012, and a reading of his pre-WWII adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull was seen at the Pearl Theatre Company. He has also served, for three years, as a judge for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. He regularly contributes cultural arts journalism for Classical TV, as well as pieces for Hamptons York Monthly, Dance Magazine, Cool Hunting and Nature's Post.