Brandon Walker: "Two Rooms" Interview:
"Call Me Adam" chats with The Seeing Place Theater's Founding Artistic Director Brandon Walker, who is currently directing Lee Blessing's Two Rooms and starring (along with Erin Cronican, The Seeing Place Theater's Founding Member & Managing Director) in the first NYC revival of Christopher Shinn's Dying City at The Seeing Place Theater (ATA's Sargent Theater, 314 West 54th Street, 4th Floor) in NYC. These shows play in repertory through March 9! Click here for Two Rooms tickets!
An American kidnapping by terrorists in Beirut sets off a brutal tug of war between the US Government and the Media - and a wife caught in the middle. Named "Best Play of the Year" in 1988 by Time Magazine.
1. What made you want direct Two Rooms at Seeing Place Theater? I tend to want to direct plays for two reasons. 1) If I love the play and there's no part for me. 2) If I hate the play and really can't imagine wanting to be in it. As far as TWO ROOMS went, I really didn't like it when I first saw it. But I knew it was an important play. And I thought that it was possible to approach the show in such a way that made it live and breathe. Most productions are so artistic that it seems like poetry on stage. I wanted to give the play an opportunity it rarely gets. And we have.
2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope audiences come away with an understanding of what things are going on around us that we actively try to ignore. I hope they question what things or people in their own lives that they take for granted and see themselves on that stage. That's what the play gives me, at least.
3. What do you get from directing that you don't get from acting? Directing is way more fun. It's also way more stress and responsibility. But that's only for the last week or two. It's nice to really share with a group of people and have them share what you all learned with strangers. In that way, you don't have to get emotionally naked in front of people every night. And that's nice. But nobody notices you. And you're always the first person to get the blame for anything negative and the last person to get the credit for anything positive.
4. As the founding Artistic Director of Seeing Place Theater, what has it been like to watch your dream grow? I only notice that my dream is growing by the fact that others tell me it is. It's generally nerve-wracking, running a theater company. But people have always told me my ideas of an organic theater were crazy. And some of those people have seen our shows and been blown away. And that's quite a reward, all in its own. The theater can be a living organism - and that's what it is at its best. We strive for that every night. And that's a scary thing to do, for everyone involved. Because we never know exactly what is going to happen. But that's why it's exciting.
5. What have you learned about yourself from being such an intricate part of Seeing Place Theater--from founding it to acting in it to directing shows there? I've learned how to talk to people, how to be a leader, how to act, how to direct, how to teach, how to tell a story, how to write, and (most importantly) how to listen to others and learn.
6. What do you feel Seeing Place Theater offers audiences that other theater companies don't? A living theatrical experience. Period. It may not be obvious unless you come twice. But you can still tell that what is happening is actually happening. It's not the flashiest gimmick in the world, but people don't go to the theatre to be impressed. They settle for that when they can't see themselves in the performance.
Adam Reich: "Dying City" Interview:
"Call Me Adam" chats with actor and director Adam Reich, who is currently directing the first NYC revival of Christopher Shinn's Dying City at The Seeing Place Theater (ATA's Sargent Theater, 314 West 54th Street, 4th Floor) in NYC, which plays in repertory with Lee Blessing's Two Rooms, directed by Brandon Walker. Both shows run through March 9! Click here for Dying City tickets!
Dying City (a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize) follows Kelly, who lost her husband, Craig, to the Iraq War a year before. Despite being a therapist, Kelly has successfully buried her grief until a literal reminder, Peter (Craig’s identical twin brother) shows up unannounced at her door. Grief and guilt collide, and questions for which there are no answers are asked.
1. What made you want direct Dying City at Seeing Place Theater? Dying City is a beautifully written play about the personal tragedies that have come about as a result of the Iraq war. I love that it is a very intimate play that exposes the lives of fascinating, if contradictory, characters and lets us really see up close the wounds that the war has left behind.
2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I feel that all of us have been affected by the war in some meaningful way. Some more deeply than others. The play lets us get in touch with that hurt, with that sense of loss and grief, and I hope that through this we will come out feeling stronger and more connected to those around us who have also suffered.
3. What do you get from directing that you don't get from acting? Directing gives me a better sense of the bigger picture. As an actor, it’s my job to see the world through my own specific lens, justifying each one of my actions, which sometimes means judging or seeing other characters in a very specific light. When I direct I need to see every character in this way. This means though that no one single character can be "right," but that instead they all are. In one moment I’ll be pushing one of my actors to do something terrible to another actor, telling him how justified he is, and in the very next moment, I’ll tell the other actor how justified she is to do something terrible right back. And in so doing, sensing the formation of that energy and tension that happens between actors, that invisible magical theater stuff that you can only feel and not see, is very exciting and satisfying.
4. What has been the best part about working with Erin Cronican and Brandon Walker as director to actor instead of actor to actor? Well, it’s actually been a very interesting setup. I worked very closely with the two of them in many ways this time around, since they were both producing the show as well as acting in it. So there were things that they as producers would walk me through and there were things that I as the director would walk them through. Theater can create all kinds of interesting situations. Food for another play I think! :)
5. What have you gotten from being part of Seeing Place Theater? I always value any opportunity I get to work artistically with like-minded artists, teasing and fleshing out the deeper meanings behind the words of great playwrights and attempting to bring some small truth to the stage. I am glad that I’ve had that opportunity here.