Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Internationalist (part 2)

My (heavily edited) interviews with Lauren Bloom, Harold Pierce, Michael Barrett Austin and Nick Sholley (+ their favorite plays). This is the last weekend to see The Internationalist at the Ashby Stage!

Lauren Bloom; photo by Jay Yamada
LB: My name is Lauren Bloom, and I play Irene and Anonymous Woman and Anonymous Old Woman (laughs).

UP: What was your favorite part about this show and what do you think makes this show special?

LB: The people have been really really fun to work with. It’s challenging material and it’s been great to have a group of people who are really skilled and really talented but also really fun and willing to play around and be crazy. The language makes it definitely different. That’s a really different and interesting experience for an audience: to relax to accept that they’re not supposed to understand what’s happening.

UP: When and how did you become involved in theater?

LB: (Laughs) I was twelve, and my mom insisted that I would like it and sent me to an audition for The Sound of Music, a choice she has regretted ever since.

UP: And what has it meant in your life? What keeps you going with it, because it’s not always easy.

LB: Because I can’t stop. I have tried, and it doesn’t work. I don’t know why exactly. I guess it sounds cheesy but I’ve been doing it since I was twelve, so it has become a lot of who I am. The people in my life and my community are all based in theater, so I don’t want to leave it.


Harold Pierce; photo by Jay Yamada
HP: I’m Harold Pierce and I’m involved in the show as an actor [he plays Nicole], and I also wrote the song that Lauren sings.

UP: So what was your favorite part about working on this show?

HP: Finally having it memorized! I’ve never had a harder time learning my lines. So, aside from the pleasure of performing this show, honestly my favorite part was being done with the memorization part of the show and getting to just step up and do it.

UP: I’m curious, were all those gibberish lines written into the script?

HP: Yeah.

UP: Wow.  

HP: When we started the show I wondered why Anne Washburn didn’t just give us a rough framework of what was happening and just let us play together. I think she was right in her choice. Now that we’re performing it, I think it could have gotten sloppy with different audience reactions, because we’ve had very different houses. I think it would really affect how the show ran. But when I was trying to sit down those first couple times and memorize just an endless string of syllables, I thought there was no way.

UP: I am curious about your character work because your personality is very different from your personality in the show.

HP: Well, I’m acting, now (laughs).

UP: It’s hard for me to believe that you were that person [Nicole], because now you seem so different and soft spoken.

HP: Yeah, he’s a very different dude. I don’t know, I don’t work too hard. Seriously, the work on this show was whether I was going to memorize the lines or not. And I think she wrote great characters.

UP: Was it like getting to play with an alter-ego?

HP: I suppose so. I have dark, angry tendencies inside of me that I choose not to play out in my life. I don’t think back to a time when I was angry and use that on stage. I just release it. And so at the end of the night there’s a cathartic experience.

UP: So, what do you think makes this show relevant to young adults?

HP: I think this is a play about politics: the politics of this guy showing up in this strange place and trying to negotiate his way through it. And there’s nothing more hierarchical or more political than high school. I think back to being in high school and it was just a maze.

UP: So, can you give me the one sentence version of how and why you got involved in theater?

HP: I love Jon [Jonathan Spector] and Molly [Aaronson-Gelb]. Period.

UP: And what has it meant to you, in your life. What has kept you going?

HP: I’ll echo something that Lauren said, it’s just the thing I can’t put down. I can’t leave it, and I tried for a long time. I went to a college intending to become an actor and after the first year I decided that I didn’t want to do that, so I left and did everything else under the sun. Then, three years out of college went to this show and I saw this actor on stage, and I thought she was doing a great job and everyone else sucked. I thought, I could do better than those people, and I want to do what she’s doing. And so I started doing it again and dammit I can’t stop. It’s actually something I was thinking about this morning, “This is the last one, right Harold? Because you really need to move on with your life.” But I don’t think I ever will. I think in whatever capacity, I will always be an actor. It’s the thing that you are and the thing that you do, and it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it on the stage or in the middle of the street, it is what you are.


Michael Barrett Austin; photo by Jay Yamada
MBA: I’m Michael Barrett Austin and I am Paul and Simon.

UP: What do you think makes this play special? You helped select it, so what drew you to it?

MBA: Right! Well, the nonsense language thing is really interesting. The playwright went so far as to make up a language and carefully script it. It’s written out word for word, and they’re supposed to memorize it exactly. She even came in during our rehearsals and re-wrote parts of it. To her it was very important how it sounded, and yet she didn’t translate it. So she left it up to the actors to decide exactly what it is they were saying.

UP: So what do you think would make this play relevant to young adults?

MBA: Well, I think that it’s really great when theater tries to do something new. The world of theater, unfortunately, worries a lot about where its audience is going.

UP: When and how did you become involved in theater?

MBA: My first play was when I was ten. It was Peter Rabbit, but it was sort of a class thing that we all had to do. I was the narrator, so I thought I’d be a star. The narrator had a lot of lines, but it turned out that there were a lot of narrators and I was very disappointed. Anyway, I got into it in earnest freshman year of high school and I really don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t found this world. I did OK in high school, but I just didn’t really find people that I thought were like me, that I could connect with and communicate with well at such an awkward time. And [through theater] I was thrown in with these people and we got to work together towards a common goal.

UP: Great. What has kept you going through all of it?

MBA: It’s the feeling that you’re making a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s that ensemble thing. What I love about it is putting all these individual ingredients together and coming up with this thing that’s so interesting, that wouldn’t be the same without any one person.


Nick Sholley; photo by Jay Yamada
NS: I’m Nick Sholley and I played Lowell.

UP: And what was your favorite thing about working on this show?

NS: I loved the process of working with other people and watching what they did with the language. They inhabited the world and I got to sort of play in it and be lost in the language. It’s always changing in the way that it affects me. I find that each night it’s a different performance because I come in with a different emotional baseline.

UP: What do you think makes this play special?

NS: It captures, in essence, what it’s like to be in a country where you don’t know the language and you’re kind of left out of the jokes, left out of the stories, left out of what essentially makes for a human relationship in a world of words. Clearly, if it were all in gibberish it wouldn’t be a play, but the fact that it’s written the way it is kind of straddles both worlds.

UP: What do you think in this show would make it relevant to young adults?

NS: It’s about finding your way in the world. That’s sort of a huge part of coming into the world as a person. I also think that, in addition about trying to fit in. It’s also about trying to make your mark in the world.

Plays They Recommend

Lauren Bloom: Measure For Measure. It may be Shakespeare, but it is some edgy, edgy stuff when done honestly. And from a dramaturgical perspective it’s very interesting because of when he wrote it and what the change in the head of state did to art. Just in its bare bones it is a fascinating and really provocative play and it is four hundred years old and it’s all about the Church and sex.

Michael Barrett Austin: I love Amadeus, by Peter Shaffer [he played Mozart]. He’s a really fantastic, smart writer. I also love the play Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard. It’s maybe a little too smart for it’s own good. People make that complaint about Arcadia, but I think with that one he really got the balance right. There is a lot of heart under the intelligence, and it is just so smart.

Harold Pierce: American Idiot! No, I’m just kidding. I thought it would appeal to the high schoolers. I was in a play that no one will ever read or see again and it was called The Hermit Bird. I got to play this podunk kid who may or may not have had a mental disability. The character was completely ambiguous. On the page you just didn’t know what was going on with him. And so I just got to make a human being.

-Saskia Levy-Sheon

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