Q: Who has been your greatest influence?
A: There are some tremendous teachers who have influenced me directly, as Mr. Chekhov did for many of his students. Wynn Handmann, who is 95 and still teaching, has been the single greatest teacher in my career. He championed a collective understanding of good thought in the theatre, as opposed to one exclusive method. I was later introduced to Mr. Chekov's techniques. Thanks to Wynn’s approach, I was able to incorporate those techniques into my own work with classical theater and the creation of new works.
Q: What has been your favorite role in your career and why?
A: I've been fortunate to play some wonderful parts in different styles of theatre. We've produced a good deal of Shakespeare. The roles of Henry the Fifth and Hamlet were both such a tremendous experience. Tor was a fantastic role in our company's biggest hit The Norwegians and I had a lot of fun exploring the character. Kowalski, in Orange Is The New Black, was my first recurring television character and being part of a series family was a wonderful experience.
Q: When working on a production of Shakespeare, where do you draw your inspiration from for staging and direction?
A: I've been inspired by teachers like Handmann and Richard Easton, a fantastic actor with whom I studied at the Old Globe. However, my greatest inspirations are Peter Brooke and The Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont. I couldn't imagine two more disparate inspirations, but they remarkably have a great deal in common. Brooke speaks of collecting ideas and gathering everyone on a creative project into a cauldron of guided experimentation. Each time I approach a play, I believe I am entering into an organic process of bringing myself in touch with all of the elements necessary to realize it fully.
Q: Why Ridgefield?
A: In Ridgefield we are endeavoring to continue the legacy of Michael Chekov who originally discovered the artistic sanctuary of the town. Chekhov came from Russia and wanted to create a meaningful theatre space apart from the commercial epicenter of Manhattan. He realized that artists need to be geographically close to where they can find employment. Many things have changed since Chekhov did his work in Ridgefield, but the need artists have for sanctuary has not. Ridgefield's proximity to New York City hasn't changed either. When you add to that, the tremendous community of artists who have made Ridgefield their home over the years, it seems a logical choice to develop work here. The community in Ridgefield responds to new and exciting choices in art.
Interview Conducted by RJ Carey.
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Michael Chekhov Theater Festival