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His Majesty, The Devil

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Colin Pip Dixon
July 6, 2013

What is your job on this show?
actor, composer, co-producer.

What is your show about?
A mysterious gentleman visits a young terrorist on the eve preceding destruction; wit, wisdom, foolishness and drama intertwine with violins, questioning injustice and violence in our world.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I am a classical violinist and composer who grew up in the theater with actor parents. For years now I have been working on finding innovative ways of bringing music and theater together. So-called "Classical Music" can seem very foreign for many people and is often presented in a way that ends up alienating audiences or even killing the spirit of the music itself. I have found that taking music out of its usual context, in surprising ways, mixing it with theater or stories makes it come alive and exciting for so many people who never would have expected to be touched by a single violin or "contemporary, classical music". I love theater which blurs the lines between concert and theater – bringing actors into concerts and musicians into theater. This production is very exciting because the actors themselves are also the musicians and the music is not only accompanying the play but it is an integral part of it.

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
I created the Elsewhere Ensemble (which is producing this show) because I believe in a process where the whole is greater than each part. I am struggling to work in such a way that each person involved in the creative process gives their best and is supported in their best by the others. But in the end, I am not so much interested in one person shining more than another, but I am personally moved by seeing a group of artists who join together in such a way that you feel each one is shining more BECAUSE of the others and not IN SPITE of the others. This is what interests me in art. It is important that each one have a clear role. But anyone who's worked long enough in the theater knows that the director and the playwright and the actor aren't very important at all if there are no lights on them on stage, or if someone wasn't working like crazy to get an audience. How do all these elements join together, that is what is most important for me.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
This show is a very personal project for me. My mother, who was a wonderful actress and playwright, passed away suddenly three years ago. She was a true artist and gave so much to anyone and everyone she met. She didn't have much time left over to promote her own work. So, it was the most natural thing in the world to continue her work with her, but in a different way, with this play of hers. What could be better than to come together with my father, who is a wonderful actor, with this work? I wanted to add music to it because I felt it needed another dimension beyond the words. Little by little others joined us in this adventure, and it was now about something much more than just my family. I am humbled by how much each person involved has given everything of themselves. This play has something very important to say today. It deals with questions of terrorism and finding meaning in our world. We live in an age where so many have been disillusioned by religion, politics and cultural traditions. What can we believe in? Inspired by Dostoyevsky, this play addresses these questions brilliantly without giving quick and easy answers.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
I would have to pick two words: Smart and Surprising. This play is intelligent and I'm hoping it will stimulate audiences' thinking, awaking their own intelligence. It is also very surprising. The devil of this play is like no other devil we've ever seen. He is funny, endearing… and a bit ridiculous. I think the way the music has been integrated into the play is also unique and surprising.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Yes, theater can bring about social change. Unfortunately, today, theater and most of the arts have become much more concerned with entertainment. We live in an age where people spend much of their lives in front of a screen – computer, telephone, television. All of these inventions are wonderful tools, but I feel like the balance has shifted so much in one direction. Theater offers something more essential now than ever – human beings communicating directly with human beings about human beings. I often feel like theater is trying to compete with film, and concerts are trying to compete with recordings, forgetting that the unique importance of these forms is their messy humanity, their aliveness, and the physicality of being with real people in an enclosed space. Theater helps us feel for and understand people that we may have trouble connecting with in our own lives.One of the main questions in the world today is: Are we all going to realize that we are all human beings sharing this planet together – no matter what our differences may be? Theater, at it's best, is often about this. As Albert Einstein wrote in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto: "We appeal, as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest".