The Creation Game

I can’t really explain what it is that keeps drawing me back to the theatre. Why do I spend so much time thinking about it? Why don’t I ‘just’ be an actor and ‘get into movies’ as most people tell me.

“Just focus on one thing.” they say. “You’re spreading yourself out too thin!”

This, to me, is a faulty–and fatal–argument. Very few actors exclusively act, and even fewer act all the time. Even huge names like Clooney or Spacey also take on roles as producers, writers, directors. I’m willing to bet that House of Cards would not be happening if Spacey didn’t have some experience running The Old Vic.

And anyway it’s not who I am. I’m an actor, yes, but I have to get up every day and do something, and that’s not always going to be acting, no matter how talented, famous, or wealthy I may be. I’m also restless–that’s the nice way to put it–so why not put time and effort into furthering the art of the business that gets me up in the first place?

Also: it’s fun! It’s quite thrilling to talk to realtors about finding a place where Dr. Faustus can be ripped apart limb from limb. Accountants become rock stars when you discuss long-term financing, and even bureaucrats become a bit interesting when they begin to consider the value of a theater to the community.

So that’s what I do. I build. I work on projects. I play the creation game. Anyway, acting is building, so it’s just an extension of that. In the long view, acting is about building a performance. Yes, yes, we all can get behind Mamet and ‘keep it simple’, but still, the art of theater is the art of repetitively sculpting a performance. On camera acting, of course, tends to be understandably focused on ‘flash-in-the-pan’ creation, but theatre is a different beast. Related, but different.

I think I should thank my grandfather, a brick mason, for getting it into my head this idea of ‘building’ and ‘craft.’ (I can thank my grandmother for my ability to talk.) He espoused the value of learning a trade, and he was right. I’m proud to be an AFL-CIO member as he was (AEA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO). Actors are laborers, crafters, and artisans.

But of course I can’t do it alone. If we want to be, we have to be a we.

It all started with a what if, or what some former teachers from the Moscow Art Theatre called ‘The Magic If’. That ‘Magic If’ was, for me, ‘If I could create a theater where we can do the kind of work I know will thrill an audience…”

And so it began… at first it was a few beery talks with friends, then a blurted out private website, a few too-long emails… now a business plan, semi-regular blog, incorporation and board-building process, lots of coffee, and of course meetings meetings meetings.

It’s a long-term project and thankfully the ‘I’ has remarkably quickly begun to grow into a solid ‘we’. Not only is there Marc Sirkin, who recently wrote a wonderful piece in support of our project, or David Jacobs, a fellow actor who helps to keep me sane, but every day, more and more passionate and talented people are getting involved.

Behind any stage is an entire ecosystem. A small civilization. Theater is a celebration of life itself.

So it’s not the the royal we, but an actual we. Adding fuel to the fire is the burgeoning and exciting theater community in Rochester. I’m thrilled to once again be a part of it. To add to it. To grow it.

Creating a theater is a very complex and thrilling business. There are so many moving parts! People often think of the actors, then maybe the directors, but let’s not forget the rest of the people (and jobs, and money) involved: producers, secretaries, lawyers, technicians, carpenters, customers, designers, salespeople, marketers, web developers, electricians, retailers… audience…  the list goes on and on and on. Maybe that’s what continually draws me back to the theater: the community, and the sense of a shared goal.

Back when I was an undergraduate studying Biology, I would often dream of acting on a stage. I only did it occasionally between microbio and orgo, but when I did, it was a thrilling experience. It wasn’t until much, much later that I began to realize the infrastructure that goes into the creation of a blank plane in front of rows of seats, that simple set up known as a stage. Behind any stage is an entire ecosystem. A small civilization. Theater is a celebration of life itself. And while individual shows and actors come and go, the world of any great theater persists.

So I guess I was wrong. I can explain what draws me back to theater, and I guess that’s the crux of it: a theater is an entire world.

Billy Shakes famously said “All the world’s a stage.” He was right, of course, but allow me to indulge and add my own two ducats: all stages are worlds.

Let us know how you can help create this world with us.