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BADA Newsletter October 2014

 


BRITISH AMERICAN DRAMA ACADEMY NEWSLETTER

October 2014


Spotlight On: Savio(u)r Theatre Company

Paul Costello, Carolyn Sands, Zoe Swenson-Graham, Ian Wooldridge, Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan (LTP Fall ’05 – Spring ’06) and Zoe Swenson Graham (LTP Fall ’05) formed Savio(u)r Theatre Company in August 2009, dedicated to presenting work by American playwrights in the UK, programming new writing alongside relevant revivals.

Since then they have produced many shows in London and Edinburgh, including At the Broken Places, written by BADA alumnus Joe Horton (LTP Spring ’06), which won the Hopwood Award for Drama, a grant from the Farrar Memorial Playwriting Foundation and was nominated for six Off-West End Awards.  Their 2013 production of Our Town was chosen in The Guardian’s Top 10 Productions of the year.  BADA took this semester’s students to their latest show, the English premiere of Neil Labute’s Autobahn at the King’s Head Theatre.  Tim and Zoe kindly agreed to participate in a Q & A session in the theatre after the show.  Below is an edited transcript of that session.

Can the two of you talk a little bit about how you got from BADA to here on the stage at the King’s Head?

Tim Sullivan - BADA is where we fell in love with London and its theatre.  There’s really no place like it in the world. So we knew we wanted to come back.

Zoe Swenson-Graham – Tim and I had met before, in passing, as we both went to USC; but then we came really close at BADA and we decided that we were going to move back to London to do theatre – and we decided we were going to do Twelfth Night. We posted it as a show online – with no money, no venue, no rehearsal space – and we woke up the next morning to 600 applicants!

Tim So we said “we’re going to have to do it now!”

Zoe – that was our first show and we made enough money on that to put on another, and it went from there, growing all the time.

Tim – The theatre company’s been going for about five years now and we’ve done 12 productions.  The low point was when we were doing Our Town in a warehouse in Peckham which nobody was coming to see.  We were running out of money and saying “this is our last show – we can’t afford to carry on”; but the Artistic Director of the Kings Head came to see it, wanted the show, and it transferred.  This a phenomenal venue to be at, it’s got a great reputation… and this is our third show here.  So you never know what connection is going to come about or who’s going to come to a show and think it’s good!

Could you talk about how you approach the themes in a play like ‘Autobahn’?

Tim - I think that probably the biggest theme connecting all seven plays is not being able to express what we feel - somebody says something and they trip on their words. Neil Labute’s such a brilliant writer in the way he uses language – there’s so much between the lines that’s not said.

Zoe From the acting perspective, Neil’s difficult to learn as there’s a lot of pauses and “um”s and “I guess”s - so for me the focus was trying to get it to sound like a natural conversation - he’s stylised but it is the way that we talk, unlike Shakespeare where there’s a natural rhythm which helps you learn the lines.  It would be easy to paraphrase with this kind of play but the script’s so beautiful and precise, I wanted to do Neil proud and keep true to the text.

Do you have a favourite character you play on stage / a favourite scene you directed and why?

Tim - Well they’re all like my children!  What I love about these plays is they’re all very different.  The trickiest was the paedophile scene [‘Road Trip’] – finding the right tone there proved quite difficult – but I decided you just have to let it be what it is, trust the words.

Zoe – They’re all fun to do in different ways.  I like the make-out scene [‘Bench Seat’]– you’re reading it on the page and thinking “this girl is crazy, nobody does that!” but then you start to think about people you know … a friend of a friend of ours was telling us she was engaged to a footballer and he cheated on her.  So she went round his house with her mother and they cut open all his couch cushions and stuffed them with shrimp then sewed it back up, so there was this rotting smell he couldn’t locate! She was telling the story so casually as if of course he deserved that for cheating on him, and we like “Oh God”!  That’s what so good about Neil’s writing – you read it the first time and you think “people aren’t like that” and then you realise some are!

Out of every play in the world you could have picked, why this one?

Tim – We met Neil through BADA a few years back.  He’s a great writer and always been personally supportive of us and our work.  I e-mailed him and he suggested Autobahn as it hadn’t been done in London and it’s a different side to American culture.  I was particularly excited as it shows all kinds of Americans, on “the open road” but trapped in their cars - there’s no way out, they can’t pull over – and how that situation can bring out a part of ourselves that we don’t like to look at often at.

Have you encountered cultural barriers working in the London theatre community?

Tim - From critics rather than audiences.  They think that British people couldn’t understand this play, where in fact they’ve loved it.  Sharon [Maughan, another cast member], describes it well - “it’s not about Middle America, it’s about Middle Anywhere.”

Internalising characters can sometimes cross over into your personal life.  Is it harder or easier playing multiple characters than a single character, from that perspective?

Zoe - That’s a really great question.  I like switching because I like character acting – though occasionally I’ve caught myself saying a line in the same way as a previous character!  I am not a method actor - I totally respect people who are, but I’ve never had a problem “leaving it in the theatre”.   The way Tim staged the transitions helped, giving me those moments of getting out of the car, changing the jacket or doing my hair - for me it’s like a clean slate, then you can turn around and get back in.

Do you guys only do American plays?

Tim - Early on I was doing whatever I felt like!  We had to market ourselves to grow as a company and that was the angle we chose - doing something no-one else is doing.  Our Town, for instance - pretty much every American knows it but audiences here have never heard of it, which I find incredible! 

Zoe – We market ourselves as an American company doing new American writing and relevant revivals of American playwrights.  We don’t ever see it as pigeonholing ourselves - as Tim said, it’s exciting to bring plays to British audiences that might not be done over here otherwise

As an actress, on the first day of rehearsal, what did you bring to the table reading?

Zoe - I like table reading, especially with Tim as he’s really smart, so hearing what he thinks about it opens my mind to different things.  My advice would be ‘let yourself be surprised’.  When you work with someone you respect, you can find these moments that you didn’t even think about.  Also don’t be afraid to say you don’t know - it’s OK to say “I have absolutely no idea”!  Finally, when you find people - through BADA, universities, high school or wherever you go - that you really trust and work well with, hang on to them.  It’s so rare and wonderful.  Find someone you trust and you’ll fly.


Interview with Norman Ayrton

Norman Ayrton, age 90, has been a central part of British, American and Australian actor/singer training for the better part of sixty years.  BADA’s first Dean, he continues to hold master classes to this day and his stories of earlier theatrical times, reaching back as far as the 1930s, enchant and instruct students as young as sixteen for whom such iconic figures as Laurence Olivier and Edith Evans would otherwise be dim, distant mysteries.  If anyone exemplifies the BADA tradition of passing the baton on from one generation to the next, it is this most gentlemanly of gentlemen, with his impeccable posture and neat mustache.  Though he himself fears he may be considered a “fossil” by the younger generation it would be the ultimate mistake to dismiss the life experience he brings to bear in the classroom as quaint or irrelevant.  The acting training he received in the 1940s and ‘50s from the trailblazing – and, at that time, extremely controversial -- combination of George Devine, Michel St. Denis, Glen Byam Shaw and Litz Pisk at the Old Vic School molded him into the pioneer he himself became as a teacher/director in his own right.  Contemporary actor training is inconceivable without a link between Now and Then.  With one foot in each era, Norman Ayrton remains a conduit for an ever-vital truth:  great teaching, as with any art, is timeless.

Norman shared stories and insights with BADA’s David Byron over a cup of tea in Magdalen College, Oxford earlier this year.      

DAVID:  I understand your early life began in quite an appropriately dramatic fashion.

NORMAN: [laughs] Well, yes, I grew up in North London during the Blitz.  We shored up our house and lived in the cellar during the night and played endless games of whist with my grandmother.  Then I was evacuated to Bedford very near Bletchley during the worst of it.  My sister would take the train into London and come back and tell us that entire buildings and parts of the city were gone, just gone.  And we did have an occasional bombing in Bedford.  We were in a pretty tight position.  One wondered every night when the invasion was coming.

With so much real-life drama surrounding you, I suppose it’s not surprising that it was around this time you first fell in love with the theater.

A bit earlier, really.  I wanted to go into the theater since I was eleven and saw George Robey as Falstaff at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1935.  Sybil Thorndike played Mistress Quickly, Lewis Casson played Henry and a young Gwen Ffrangcon Davies sang “David of the White Rock” in Welsh in the Owen Glendower scene.  That did it for me.  I mean, the smell of the theater, the smell of the greasepaint -- I was just hooked. I thought, “This is the life!”

Was the performance style much different from today’s?

They delivered a great deal of it out front.  And I remember hearing every word of that play -- and we were at the back row of the gods.  No microphones, of course.

Was it the first play you ever saw?

Oh, no, but it was the first Shakespeare I’d seen and it changed everything for me.

A few years later I saw Tyrone Guthrie’s extraordinary production of Twelfth Night with Jessica Tandy playing Viola and Sebastian.  And Laurence Olivier playing Sir Toby and Alec Guinness playing Sir Andrew.  Guthrie was extraordinarily imaginative.  He had a sort of Irish imagination, his productions were always distinctive, with a lot of humor.

So were you able to see a lot of the productions from the early days of the Old Vic?

Oh, yes everything – everything, at least once.  I saw Olivier as Malvolio and Vivian Leigh as Olivia.  Everything Sir John [Gielgud] did and Ralph Richardson.  I saw Olivier’s extraordinary tour de force, playing Oedipus in the first part of the evening and Mr. Puff in The Critic in the second part.  I’ll never forget his howl of anguish in the first and then his silly entrance on a cloud in the second.  I saw those two performances five times.

How did all this theater-going eventually translate into a desire to have a career as an actor?

Well, I was very lucky that my parents allowed me to go to the theater, little suspecting the blow when it finally came [laughs].  I had a great friend who owned an art shop in Bedford who finally said, “Oh do stop whining and go do something.  This wonderful school is opening at the Old Vic with Michel St. Denis.  Go and do an audition for it.”

So I wrote to them and they gave me an audition and I went.  There, behind the table, were George Devine and Glen Byam Shaw and Michel St. Denis.  I did Iago, which was totally unsuitable, and Richard of Bordeaux, which I had seen Sir John do; that was a bit more suitable.  Then I was handed a piece of paper saying, “You are in a crowded street with a disobedient dog” and I had five minutes to prepare it.  Luckily the stage was slippery and I ended up falling flat on my face and got a little laugh.  To my total astonishment I got a letter saying, “We are delighted to offer you a place.”  That was 1947.

Then I had to tell my family.  And that was an experience I don’t want to relive [laughs]!

It was the very first year of the school; we inaugurated it.  We all gathered on the stage of the Old Vic, which still had bomb damage, and the Minister of Education and Olivier declared the school open.

It was a fantastic experience, but it was very controversial because it was so different, emphasizing total training of the actor, which hadn’t been done before. The training opened up our minds and bodies.  We did Movement and Voice every day, and then Mime class and Acrobatics and jumping off of a cupboard and tumbling into a somersault and all sorts of things.  Before that, actor training had just been, you know, “Anyone for tennis?”  This was quite radical and controversial.  There were letters in the paper saying, “These students are being psychoanalyzed!” 

Tell me about the triumvirate of legendary teacher/directors.

St. Denis we called “God”, you know (behind his back, of course).  He knew he had a sort of charisma and he used it to frighten us, but he was an amazingly imaginative man and did some wonderful productions.  When I was later invited back to be on the staff of the school I started as his assistant.  I very clearly remember the first time I had to call him “Michel” and it very nearly killed me!

George Devine [who later founded the Royal Court Theatre] was a much different kind of man, much more of the people.  We did comic masks with him, which was another thing people objected to because it was the first time they had been used in actor training and people were very suspicious of it.

Glen was sort of in the middle.  He was very, very English, very good-looking, very proper and a wonderful director. 

What a synergistic mix of personalities and energies.

Well, that was the great thing, you see, that was the attraction of the school.  But the school had many enemies because it was so cutting edge and because it took acting very seriously indeed.  The Ministry of Education, especially, were suspicious of what we were trying to do and finally they withdrew the grant after about five years and the school closed, which was a disaster.  What a loss!

Until then, though, I was on the staff of the school and had been acting in the company at night.  I played the lead in The Wedding, opposite Dorothy Tutin, and various other things.  But it was Glen who said, “Keep being an actor if you like, but you’re a teacher.”  So I was the assistant to [Movement legend] Litz Pisk and eventually taught Movement on my own. 

I went into Rep for a short time and then I opened my own studio.  Glen Byam Shaw was, by then, at Stratford.  He decided that the company needed Voice and Movement classes, he had this idea that everyone in the company needed to be kept up to scratch, so I’d get the train to Stratford on Friday evenings and then teach all day Saturday and all day Sunday. It was quite demanding, but one worked with some wonderful people:  Dorothy Tutin, Joan Plowright, Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales...  They suggested I open my own space, said “We’ll come and see you,” and so I did and they did!

Wasn’t it around this time you started up at LAMDA?

That’s right.  LAMDA was very run down, with old dears teaching Elocution and so on, and so Michael Macowan was asked if he could give it new life and he said he didn’t like to work alone and needed someone to share the job, so he took me onboard as his equal and we ran it together.

I became sole Head of LAMDA – Principal – in 1965 when Michael retired.

During those years were you also working in the professional theater?

Oh yes. Theater and opera. I was asked to go to Australia and do a report for the government on the teaching of artist training in that country.  I was asked to be the new Head of the Victoria drama school, but I turned it down; I didn’t want to live in Australia, though I loved the country.

And I was asked to do some opera while I was there. I had a call from the head of Covent Garden who said, “We have a very talented young woman in the company who comes from Australia and she has a wonderful voice that could be world class, but she doesn’t know how to walk across a stage.  Would you take her away and see what you can do?”  Well, the young lady was Joan Sutherland, who became a very dear friend for forty years.  We were devoted to each other until the day she died.

I’d also gotten a phone call from someone in Dallas, Texas. There was this voice: [does a broad Southern accent]  “Is this Mr. Ayrington?  Could you come to Dallas for the weekend to meet with us?  We want you to do one of Shakespeare’s lovely plays.”  That was 1967.

Dallas in those days especially must have been a different planet from what you were used to.

Oh, it was, it was.  I was invited by Nieman Marcus, the department store mogul, who subsidized an international fortnight festival every year and turned the ground floor of the store into Hampton Court.  Money was no object.  They did absolutely amazing things.  So I flew over and got there in the middle of an auction intended to raise money for the theater.  Well, it was an auction the likes of which I had never known:  two Cadillacs, several polo ponies… 

They wanted me to do Twelfth Night.  They gave a reception for me at one of the banks [laughs], so there were all these bankers, and they said, [broad Southern accent] “Mr. Ayrington, thank you for directing this production for us.  Would you care to say a few words in British?”  [laughs] So of course, I immediately got frightfully British!

It was staged in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater and it’s frightful because everything is curved, even the steps, and if you don’t know you fall headlong onto your face.  Wright objected strongly when they wanted to put lighting in, so it’s a crazy place!  All the sound goes straight up, so I had to do a sort of Persian production with lots of drapes.

There was a couple sitting in front of me and after the first act the wife turned to the husband and said, [deep Southern accent], “Harry, I can understand Shakespeare!

The ultimate compliment!

I suppose so… Anyway, I’d been working with Sutherland all this time on a revival of the production of Traviata at Covent Garden.  It turned out to be quite a success, so it sort of launched a new career as an opera director.  Also, Manon with Renata Scotto.

How did your tenure at Juilliard come about?

I left LAMDA in 1972 to go to Australia for 6 months.  I just wanted to be a free agent for a time – and was until ’74. John Houseman and [BADA governor] Margot Harley (who’d been a student of mine at LAMDA) invited me to Juilliard to teach Movement and Acting.  I was in the Drama department for several years before transferring to the Opera department, so I was there for something like eleven years all told.

The students were hugely talented kids and they worked extraordinarily long hours, I mean nine in the morning until ten at night.  Kevin Spacey and Val Kilmer, Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone and Mary Lou Rosato, who was wonderful. I did a production of “The Way of the World” for the Acting Company which toured for 2 years. I loved every minute of it and I loved New York, but around 1985 I finally thought, “Where am I going to be pensioned?”, so I came home at that time and became Director of Opera at The Royal Academy of Music for seven years.  I also went back to Australia to do Lakme with Sutherland and various other productions.

And how did BADA finally enter your life? 

In ’86, Carolyn Sands [BADA’s co-founder and current Associate Director] and Tony Branch [co-founder and former Director] invited me to design an acting course for BADA and so I became Dean of BADA for 10 years, the first Dean.  I was with BADA from the beginning and built the acting program from the ground up.  And I’ve been with BADA now for 26 years. 

When you were devising the new curriculum at BADA did you draw on what you had learned from St. Denis and George Devine, Litz Pisk and the others?

Of course, of course.  It was ongoing.  I mean, just to give you one example, Barbara Caister, who taught Movement at BADA for a time was a protégé of Litz Pisk.  All the faculty were – and are -- doing variations on and have been influenced by the work begun by the Old Vic School founders in the ‘50s.  It’s a tradition that’s passed on, you see, from one generation to the next, quite a rich one.

Has acting overall changed much over the years?

Oh yes, it’s changed dramatically and not altogether for the better.  I’m sick of people saying to me, “I went to the theater the other evening and I couldn’t hear half of the actors.”  A few years ago I went to see Brian Cox [recurring BADA Guest Artist] who was a student at LAMDA when I was running it.  He was in the Stoppard play, Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Duke of York and we had a cup of tea in his dressing room.  I said, “You’re the one person on stage who, when you come on, one relaxes because one knows one will be able to hear you, every word you say.”  Also, his energy level.  It was as if the stage was more illuminated when he was on because he wasn’t doing television acting.

The sad thing is that there is no repertory in this country any more.  I mean, when I started in the theater, in rep, I did twenty-nine plays in twenty-nine weeks.  There were repertory companies in almost every town in England and that was a vital training ground for actors.  Now they train on television.

Looking back, do you think you’ve made a contribution to actor training and to Anglo-American theater?  And, please, no English modesty!

[hesitates] Well… yes, I think I have made a contribution.

How?

By sticking to my standards.  And that’s all I shall say about that!  [laughs]

In the end, what do you think an acting student needs most of all to be a good student and, eventually, a good actor?

A realization that there is no end to how you can develop.

A bit like life?

Quite so.  Quite so.


Interview with Will Cooke

It’s possible that if F. Scott Fitzgerald had met BADA alum Will Cooke (Midsummer in Oxford, 1984) he might have thought twice before writing: “There are no second acts in American lives.”  If there’s anyone who embodies the credo that life begins at fifty, it’s Will, whose story is a testament to playing the hand you’ve been dealt, going with the flow, making lemonade out of lemons, and any of a number of other Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans-style adages.  An older student when he attended BADA and when he later went on to attain an MFA, he was fifty-six before he had the freedom to embark on an acting career, but has been making up for lost time ever since.  He has a few thoughts, shared with BADA’s David Byron, for those who, like him, may be embracing their life’s passion late in the game, but only with that much more dedication.

DAVID:  We’ve always had older students in the BADA summer program at Oxford, but unlike many of them, who are already actors, you took a more circuitous path to your current career.  How did that play out?     

WILL:  Well, I graduated Georgetown University in 1973 and was accepted into two or three law schools.  But my father was very ill and died in December after I graduated, so that changed everything.  I was the oldest of six children, my mom needed help, so I decided not to go to law school and see if I could sell cars in the family business in Ithaca, New York. I promised my brothers and sisters they would get through college as I had. 

Meantime, I had done four plays at Georgetown and it was a lot of fun and I hadn’t forgotten how much fun they’d been.  I had no intention of running off to the circus, but I did a couple of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and was very comfortable hanging around with these crazy people at Cornell or at the Hangar Theatre.  I did it very sparingly because I had too many responsibilities and was working closely with my grandfather, whom I loved, but he thought it was crazy to be getting dressed up as a modern major general.

How did BADA come into play?

I was in my early thirties, had been selling cars for ten or eleven years, and saw a small ad that appeared in the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section and my blood stopped.  I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great?”  Then I did my best to forget about it, but it was compelling, so I started working on my grandfather, who was not onboard, but he eventually came to understand.  I took myself out to New York, quaking in my boots, did what I was supposed to and was quite blown away when I got in.

Weren’t you in the very first summer class at Balliol?

We were the maiden voyage!  Everyone who went on that program had a very romanticized view of Oxford because of the Brideshead Revisited series, which had recently aired.  I was no different. I didn’t carry around a teddy bear or anything, but I sure did sink into the magic of the place.  It turns out that John Mortimer, who adapted Waugh’s book for the series, was one of our teachers!

Also, Lindsay Anderson, who’d just finished acting in Chariots of Fire.  Simon Callow was one of the regular teachers and was with us for a couple of weeks, then he got a call that they needed him in Prague to play his part in the Amadeus movie. Peggy Ashcroft held a Q&A. And Derek Jacobi, Graham Chapman (of Monty Python fame) and Judi Dench were all with us that summer.

Oh, and Dr. Jonathan Miller.  I got to know him well enough that that following fall I was in New York City, saw him on the street, walked up to him and reintroduced myself and we actually had lunch.  It was extraordinary.

I was one of the older students at the time (age 32) and was one of the three that was married. I was back to carefree, undergraduate days just that fast at The Buttery [Balliol’s pub].  Then my wife, Carol, showed up looking peaked and told me she was pregnant.  Deliriously happy as this news made me, it required a quick 180 that almost killed me! 

When you left, it must have been difficult for you when  the coach you’d been riding in returned to being a pumpkin.

Well put.  I went back to Ithaca and the dealership for another twenty-two years.  When I took over after my father’s death we had Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Toyota and in the intervening years we added Chevrolet, Subaru, Volkswagen, Audi and Volvo.  We were big fish in a little pond, but very successful.

Then, around 2006, I was under intense pressure from the franchises.  As a franchisee you fundamentally have no rights.  They wanted several million dollars and lots of construction and risk and bank loans and all the rest of it and I had, at this point, three children and none of them had any interest in the business, so at the very height of the booming economy, pre-recession, we were lucky enough to sell the whole thing.  We closed in January 2008 and literally six weeks later the stock market lost about forty percent of its value. 

Between leaving BADA and selling the dealership did you continue doing any acting?

I was in seven or eight plays at the Hangar Theatre, directed by people like [Broadway director] Michael Mayer before he was Michael Mayer, as well as Bob Moss, late of Playwrights Horizons, NYC.  I’m certain that the BADA certificate legitimized me as someone who should be given an audition, as opposed to simply being the guy down the street who sells cars.

Anyway, while we were waiting to close on the sale of the business I applied to the Academy for Classical Acting, which is an intensive MFA conservatory program out of George Washington University in D.C.  It runs a full calendar year, 5-6 days a week, all-day, every day.  I was accepted to a class of fifteen.  A few of my classmates had MFAs already and a couple were Equity actors.  You’re taught by people like [former BADA teachers] Michael Kahn and Floyd King and people from the Shakespeare Theatre. I was Floyd’s “date” to the Helen Hayes Awards when he was nominated in two categories. You can’t imagine the ribbing I took from my classmates on that one!

That’s extraordinary.  After all those years of putting your dream on the back burner, more or less, suddenly to find yourself in a prestigious and intensive program like that at the age of 56.  Was it heaven?  Agonizing?

More of the latter, I’ll tell you.  I really got the daylights beaten out of me, certainly for the first third of the program.  I was, once again, the oldest.  Most of the others were in their 30s, one or two in their 40s, and then me: 56.

So when you sold the dealership did you move straight to D.C. specifically to be part of the ACA program?

We were going to anyway.  My wife and I met here and both our daughters were students at Georgetown at the time.  D.C. was going to happen anyhow, it was just a great thing that rather than just move here and play golf and go to theater a lot I actually had a good reason. 

It’s a great city and for those who don’t know there’s a hell of a lot of exceptional theater there.

That’s right.

What kind of work have you done since graduating ACA in 2009?

My first job was with Studio Theatre in D.C. (I’ve been onstage in two different productions there and understudied one.) As fate would have it, the building itself was originally a Chevrolet dealership, complete with Service Department and Body Shop! I had come “full circle” if you will!

I’ve also understudied at the Shakespeare Theatre in three different plays and it’s been interesting stuff.  I had a sort of mini-crisis in which I said to myself, “Self, you’re becoming a professional understudy and I don’t know if I really want to do that,” so I’m wary of understudying these days.  I also spent the summer in Williamsburg, Virginia in A Man For All Seasons, which was really fun.  I also, just about a month ago, did what I call “a tiny, but insignificant” part in The Dresser at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre, which is a terrific place to work. And I’ve been in a production with Taffety Punk, which is a theater company made up of a lot of ACA graduates.  As their name implies, they do the classics, but with a very modern and punk rock sensibility. I’ve done a number of TV commercials and just last week did a training video for the U.S. Department of Justice in which I played a federal judge, which was a lot of fun.  I’ve also done a lot of voiceover work.        

Oh, and I was actually a Helen Hayes Award nominee. Well, OK, it was for “Best Ensemble” [Studio Theatre’s 2012  production of The Habit of Art, by Alan Bennett].  We didn’t win, but when I retreat into cliché by saying it was an honor just to be nominated, I really mean it!

I’ve been onstage just about every place that I want to that’s on my bucket list except Ford’s Theatre.  I’ve had a wonderful time.

Do you have any advice for men or women who are turning to work in the theater later in life, as a kind of second chapter?

My immediate advice to younger actors is, well, I’m a little bit of an Eeyore.  It’s an insane business.  I beg them to get an education in accounting so they can live.  I’m in a wonderful position that if I don’t get cast after an audition the rent still gets paid.  I worry about some of these younger actors for whom the rent doesn’t get paid. 

As far as someone my age, I would say get whatever training you can.  Certainly around here, all the major theaters have conservatories.  It’s also a wonderful networking tool. 

Someone once asked me what the most significant thing was that I took from my time at BADA and from my MFA. It was the belief that, given my training, I deserve a shot at every audition I go to; that, actually, my auditors have a problem  --  and I’m the solution. Obviously, you don’t always book the gig, but that kind of well-earned confidence can make all the difference in the long run.

The other thing: If you do like it, do it.  The good Lord only gave you so many heartbeats, so use them well.


Other News

Recently: Anna Gunn (LTP '88) won the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work on the final season of Breaking Bad. Ravil Isyanov (MIO '98, '99)  appeared in multiple episodes of TNT's The Last Ship as Russian Admiral Ruskov. Chadwick Boseman (MIO '98) and Nelsan Ellis (MIO '03) starred in the James Brown biopic Get On Up, released in August. Zoe Kazan (MIO '02) just starred in the romantic comedy film What If with Daniel Radcliffe. Sarah Rafferty's (LTP '92, MIO '92) hit tv show, Suits on USA, was just renewed for a fifth season. Michael James Show (MIO '08) was cast in the recurring role of Papa Midnite on NBC's new show Constantine.
 
BADA Liaisons: Do you live in Chicago or Boston? Are you interested in helping BADA plan events for local alumni? Contact Seth Dranginis if you are interested in lending a hand. 
 
New AFBADA Honorary Board formed: We are pleased to announce the formation of the first Honorary Board for AFBADA. A warm welcome to Maria Aitken, Norman Ayrton, Brian Cox, Melissa Errico & Patrick McEnroe, Julian Glover, Rosemary Harris, Hal Holbrook, Michael Kahn, and Tracie Thoms!
 
Upcoming Events: We're expanding our events for BADA alumni and friends this fall! 
 
  •     If you are in Los Angeles, please join Dean & Director Ian Wooldridge for a drink  at the Luxe City Center Hotel at 6:30 pm on October 16th. 
  •     Join AFBADA to see The Tempest at LaMaMa in New York City on October 30th. 
  •     AFBADA will also be in Washington, DC on November 9th to see faculty member Zoe Waites in Michael Attenborough's production of As You Like It, keep an eye out for more information soon!
Welcome:  BADA would like to welcome new staff member Seth Dranginis. Seth has joined BADA as the new Alumni Relations and Development Assistant.
 
Keep us Updated!  Thanks to everyone for sending us all your updates - wherever possible, we will post upcoming shows and events on ourFacebook page, where you can also see exclusive pictures of our latest productions. Please remember to let us know if your e-mail address changes (when your college e-mail expires etc), so that we can keep you informed about upcoming events and other information.You can also click through to the AFBADA website here.