Rhapsody, “Pretense”, and reflections on purpose

Thursday was an excellent day.

Finished filming Day 2 of 3 on “Pretense” (working title).  Short film by Amir Assad.  Great script.  I have the pleasure of working alongside Yarden (Jordan) Shoval, a phenomenal actor.  You can find more about her on her website.

I play a well meaning, albeit callous young man who’s finally discovering himself after coming out of the closet.   This comes at the expense of my relationship with my ex fiancee  of seven years.  Oops?

Also met up with my Rhapsody group again on Thursday afterwards.  Michael Bradley Block is killing it on the script – got chills at the end of the first read. He’s our fearless leader at Rhapsody.  You can read his blog here.   Ben Martin is our brilliant director, not to mention a kindred spirit when it comes to musical taste.  Also have the pleasure of working with Jeffrey Roth, Marion Le Coguic, Julia Yarwood,Cori Hundt, and my long time friend Andi Aldhadeff.  We’re going to have some killer stuff by the time we’re done here.  Big fan of these folks.

In addition to directing, Amir also styles a mean haircut.

Recently had a discussion with Andi Alhadeff about the implications of identifying as an artist.  I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t something I’ve struggled with.  When people ask “What do you do?”, they’re asking about your job.  I think there’s a massive correlation between identity and occupation, especially in Western culture.  Am I only an actor if I’m able to make a living acting?

Recently I wrote a mission statement for my Esper Studios application, and dealt with a lot of this – I carry some shame about calling myself an artist.  Less these days than I used to, now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that theatre can be a force for social betterment, but it’s still there.  For example:  My entire family is composed of lawyers.  You go after someone who has hurt someone else, that’s good.  You get cash for those who’ve been wrongfully hurt so they can try and get some semblance of compensation for the pain they’ve endured, that’s good.  It’s a very concrete, easy to grasp, results oriented occupation.  Less so with acting.

Where is the social good in prancing around on stage in someone else’s clothes saying someone else’s words?  Well, here’s what I’ve come to realize.

1) Messages are powerful.  Words have weight.  If I can be a vessel to carry a poignant, honest, resonant message to an audience and in doing so alter the behavior of that audience towards something more human and caring, then I’ve done good work.

2)  Theatre can heal, it can be a form of catharsis, it can be empowering.  When an audience member identifies with a character, they rejoice at their triumphs and hurt at their losses.  They put themselves in the shoes of the character.  Now, if that character can overcome an obstacle similar to something the spectator is dealing with in their own lives, not only does it deliver a feeling of closure and of strength, it can inform this person of possible action to be taken to enrich their own lives.

3) Talking about spectacle gives people something to bond over.  Water-cooler talk is a way to form relationships with others, and TV, sports, film, music, theatre, etc is often the subject of that talk.  Thus, through the discussion of something I’ve been a part of, people have an opportunity to develop interpersonal connection in their own lives.

When I was 15 or 16, I was in a play with Seattle Children’s Theatre’s Summerstage program entitled “The Return of Captain Blood”.  I played the evil french pirate Levasseur, complete with incredible purple robe and atrocious accent.  It was a lot of fun.  Fast-forward two years, I’m about to leave for college.  I’m walking through Seattle Center, and this little blonde kid stops me.  He was maybe 13, 14.  He recognized me from that play I’d done two years ago, and told me how that was his favorite play, and that he loved pirates and sword-fighting and thought I was really cool.  He then asked me for my autograph.

I was incredibly humbled that someone would remember something I’d done two years prior.  I think the idea of “the personal hero” is incredibly powerful.  I can remember looking up to actors in my youth (I still do), and thinking about how I thought they were amazing and how I wanted to be like them when I grew up.  I think people need something to look up to.  I’m not necessarily saying I’m the person to fill that role, but again – if I have the capacity to be a part of something that gives some 13 year old kid something to look up to, just as I looked up to so many actors in my youth, then I have done something worthwhile.