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Entries in Poet (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.

Friday
Jun222012

Rachael Sage

Photo Credit: Deborah LopezRachael Sage’s tenth album, HAUNTED BY YOU, is a song cycle about passion. As the NYC-based artist explains, "I fell recklessly in and out of love multiple times while writing this record. I broke a couple hearts…and I also had my heart broken pretty badly." Nonetheless, the crystalline-voiced singer/songwriter says she has no regrets, revealing she was "due to feel as deeply again as when I first started making music."

For Rachael, who is also a poet, actor, and visual artist as well as a longtime record label owner (she founded MPress Records in 1996), music has always been her primary form of self-expression. By the age of three she had taught herself to play the piano, and by her teens, she’d won the ASCAP Pop Songwriting Contest. Upon hearing Rachael’s winning entry, legendary producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex) told her she was "extremely talented" and offered to produce her demo. While her parents pressed her to go to Stanford University instead, it was an encouraging moment that gave her the confidence to self-produce her first record, MORBID ROMANTIC.

On the milestone of her tenth album, Rachael admits, "I started writing songs to make sense of being bullied in school. I never envisioned music taking me around the world, or that one day I’d play the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Being part of the indie community is humbling though…it keeps you grounded." Rachael, who has collaborated with Phil Ramone and shared stages with Judy Collins, Marc Cohn, The Animals, Shawn Colvin, and Sarah McLachlan, has had a prolific career both as a musician and entrepreneur. This year Rachael produced the fourth volume of MPress' annual charity compilation series, NEW ARRIVALS, benefiting homeless youth, while her label had its first Billboard charting and Grammy® nominated releases.

Unlike Rachael’s previous albums, including 2009’s critically acclaimed DELANCEY STREET, much of HAUNTED BY YOU was composed on guitar. "I pushed myself to pick up guitar to write this record because I was scared of it and took that as a cue." Rachael wrote the dozen songs on the album after separating from her boyfriend of four years, whom she describes as "the kindest, most balanced person I’ve ever dated. He was much more traditional than me though…touring slowly took its toll." Alone, reflecting on her breakup, the 3-time Independent Music Award winner found herself suddenly prolific. 

Photo Credit: Deborah LopezPresented by Chip Duckett, Rachael will be performing at the newly re-opened Bon Soir at The Pink Elephant on Monday, June 25 at 8pm! At this invite-only show, Rachael will perform songs from her new album "Haunted By You" as well as some fan favorites!

Click here to ownload a FREE copy of Rachael's latest single "Invisible Light" and click here to purchase a copy of "Haunted By You!"

For more on Rachael be sure to visit http://rachaelsage.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a singer, songwriter, poet, and actor? I just always remember feeling like a performing artist and creative person. But I did listen to lots of Broadway and Classical Music as a little girl, and that's what inspired me to play piano, initially. My mom took me to see "A Chorus Line" and "Oklahoma" and apparently I came home and played the scores by ear, much to the surprise of my tone-deaf parents! Some of the earliest pop material I can remember enjoying includes: Carole King, Billy Joel, Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross (yes!), Elton John, and The BeeGees. "Saturday Night Fever" was actually the first recording I bought with my mom. I'd dance around to it for hours, and make up crazy routines.

OK, here's the truth: I wanted to be a "Solid Gold Dancer," from the moment I started watching that show. I had a huge crush one particular soloist but I never knew her name; maybe YouTube could help...I was also in love with Andy Gibb, of course, and after I saw him in "Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," he signed my program and wrote "follow your dreams, always!" That was definitely a moment. Soonafter, I realized I didn't just want to be a dancer on "Solid Gold," but also a singer and a songwriter and hell, why not - a host! I guess I'm lucky my parents always let me watch it.

My dad also took me to see two movies that really impacted me, musically: "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "The Buddy Holly Story." I was instantly fascinated by the music business as I saw it depicted in those biopics, and those films definitely sparked my interest in touring. It just seemed like the most adventurous, interesting lifestyle to me - and I guess those movies planted that seed, for me.

My first foray into acting was imitating TV commercials. I'd mimic them for my family and make them laugh, it was my first party trick. By Junior High School I was obsessed with Meryl Streep and performed a monologue from "Sophie's Choice" at the talent show, and won. It was a bit of a turning point for me, because the reaction I got wasn't "congratulations." It was "thank you," or "thank you for sharing that with us...," from teachers, and even peers who had picked on me. Somehow, maybe because we'd studied about The Holocaust in Hebrew School, I really managed to connect with that material in a deep way even though I was twelve, I ended up bursting into tears on stage and it really rattled everyone. They were really a bit worried for me, I think!

Once I was in high school, I  threw myself into every high school drama production I could, and really fell in love with performing Shakespeare. For my 16th birthday my family took me to see Shakespeare In The Park which was wildly inspiring and eventually lead to my studying at The Shakespeare Lab at The Public Theater. Of course, all this time I was always still playing and singing my own songs, but I never saw any reason why I couldn't do it all. No one really tells you "there are only so many hours in the day" until your 20's...

Poetry is something I didn't start writing until later on, but it's a very different kind of process for me than writing lyrics, which I almost always write while simultaneously hearing the melody and rhythm in my head. Poems usually only come out when I'm literally bursting with some emotional (over)reaction or other. It's more of a safety-valve for me, and something I do involuntarily. I'm a lot more conscious and craft-oriented when it comes to writing songs.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Tons of people! A few on my wish list: Glen Hansard, Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello, Elton John, George Michael, Alanis Morissette, Sinead O'Connor, Sandra Bernhard, Baryshnikov. I'd also love to collaborate somehow with Joan Rivers, who is one of my personal idols and has enriched my life constantly with her always-outrageous comedic fabulousness!

3. What excites you about your upcoming concert at Bon Soir at The Pink Elephant on Monday, June 25? Firstly, the venue looks gorgeous - and of course, the fact that Chip Duckett is presenting...I love him as a person and really respect his taste in performers across the board, so it's definitely an honor to have been invited to play this series! I'm also excited to just be playing in an entirely new (to me!) venue, and hopefully, a bunch of new listeners. I'm not quite sure who'll be there, because the room is new to me, but I'm sure it'll be a fun crowd!

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing you perform? I hope they come away feeling like they can do or say anything they want, that matters to them, with confidence, because they've just seen me do it. I like the idea of being someone who literally, sparks other people to be much more of who they actually are.

5. You just released your 10th album "Haunted By You." What does it mean to you to reach this milestone? It means I can finally tell my parents "this is what I'm falling back on."  I do think there's something be said for persistence even though I haven't figured out exactly what it is yet. Maybe that'd be a good theme to explore for my next record - unless I actually follow through on that Air Supply tribute idea...

6. According to press notes, "Haunted By You" chronicles the multitude of emotions you have felt with falling in and out of love. How do you feel the writing of this album helped you through this period in your life? Well, I think writing songs and creating in general is always helpful at just maintaining some semblance of sanity, for me. Part of why I ended my last long-term relationship was because I felt like I'd lost touch with my innate tendency to react to the world around me through creativity. I'd tempered a lot of those impulses to try to be more "present" in other areas but what I've realized is that ultimately, that's too big an adjustment for me to be making, and still expect to be happy.

My decision - and it really was a conscious one - to open myself up to a handful of intense affairs in the year after my relationship ended was a mixed-bag, because I didn't anticipate getting my heart broken as much as I did; I surprised myself honestly. But being able to channel all of that into music was incredibly cathartic at times, even euphoric. I really had wondered if I'd ever be that "emotionally raw" again, but alas, I had nothing to worry about!!

7. What do you enjoy most about touring the country to promote your music? What do you like about interacting with your fans at signings/concerts? My favorite thing about touring has nothing to do with promoting my music, really. I love touring because it grants me the opportunity to get up on a stage and try new things every single night. It's addictive, it's a high-wire and I'm sure that physiologically, it's akin to drugs. When I'm able to combine preparation with spontaneity and genuinely create moments where the audience becomes part of my act, and we're all making something together, it's pretty intoxicating.

I love that there's always another chance to try to do it better, or even just differently. I have a very short attention span but mainly, I just relish the opportunity to try to continue to grow artistically and whether it's via my between-song banter, my physicality or the music itself, there's always something challenging about presenting my work in a live setting.

It goes without saying that when someone comes up to you after a show and shares a really poignant anecdote about how your music or overall spirit helped them through a tough time, it's incredibly humbling. I suppose part of what I love about touring is also that duality between being in the spotlight, and getting to really have some intimate interactions offstage with people who come to the shows. It also helps me realize just how lucky I am to be doing something I enjoy, even when I hit my inevitable "lows."

8. In addition to singing/songwriting, you are a visual artist, poet, and actor. What have you learned about yourself from each of your endeavors? I've learned that I'm most relaxed when I'm "making stuff." It's who I am, to be creative...for better or worse. I say that because it does make it difficult to not be selfish in a relationship at some level, when you feel compelled to follow that muse. But in the big picture, it's so much better that I understand that now more than ever, and I think I'm going to avoid a lot of depression in the future, by being as honest as I can about it with anyone I love. In particular, creating visual art really calms me down...it's like mental yoga for me and helps me make sense of just about everything, because it's so subconscious; I just power through in most areas of my life, especially in running a record label which involves a lot of grunt work and stress. But when I'm painting or decorating clothes or decoupaging, everything else has to kind of recede into the background. I think the more art I make, the happier I'll be and that also applies to writing poetry and, hopefully more and more, acting which I have missed profoundly the last few years. Time-management is a big issue though, it's my biggest struggle in terms of balancing the business with being an artist.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Don't listen to people who try to tell you how to make your music. Don't listen to your lawyer, or your manager, and especially your record label. Just write music that moves you, and the rest will follow." - Suzanne Vega, at Lilith Fair 1999 (where I was an opener)

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I can, and I do! I took a lucid dreaming class in college. I often dream about acting alongside Phillip Seymour Hoffman actually. John Malkovich and Kate Blanchett have also appeared in my dreams. A few days ago I decided to dream about John Lee Hooker, with whom I became good friends while attending Stanford (I met him through my work at the radio station). I've always felt like there were some lingering things I wish I'd said to him, before he passed away, and I have a song about it. I wanted to sing it for him, so I was able to do that in my dream and hopefully he actually heard me...

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Going to the movies, and making arts & crafts!

12. Favorite way to stay in shape? Since quitting ballet many years ago (I used to be a professional dancer and attend School of American Ballet), I haven't really figured that out yet. I hate going to the gym and have a hard time doing any exercise consistently, so mainly I just don’t eat a lot of crap – I’m pretty healthy that way. But in terms of exercise I really need to jump around more. Help me, Michelle Obama! Resistance bands, perhaps? I think I need a yoga buddy, honestly. I have a little bit of a phobia about going into classes by myself with strangers, it's definitely something I need to work through. It would be nice if my next partner was a personal trainer/Protools engineer/carpenter. Carpentry really turns me on. But look how I digress!

13. Favorite skin care product? I'm a terrible girlie-girl. I wear a lot of lipstick and glitter but I rarely use the same moisturizer two nights in a row. Part of what I also like so much about touring is all the little samples at hotels, and that they're different everywhere we stay. I do enjoy the cinnamon-vanilla scent of Holiday Inn Express products...

I guess Noxema is a reliable classic for me. It really never fails to get my skin back in decent shape right before a big photo shoot, and of course, their commercials are so damn refreshing!

14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would choose the ability to scan technical manuals instantaneously and understand/implement them immediately with absolute confidence. I am the least techie person I know, and it's hindering. I will probably be the last human on the planet to get an iphone, or at least the last New Yorker. If I could casually glance at a Final Cut Pro manual and suddenly be a master video editor, for instance, I would feel pretty damn sexy and powerful! I promise I'd use my techie-abilities for the creative good!!!