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That Poor Dream

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Edward Bauer
June 18, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Actor, co-creator.

What is your show about?
A modern-day parable of the difficulties we find in going back home, set in a liminal space between where we are now and where we grew up. Oh, and it is based on a Dickens novel you probably had to read in high school.

What do you do when you’re not working on a play?
I'm an avid gamer of all kinds: board games, video games, and (the crown jewel of high nerderie) tabletop roleplaying. The last of those is probably the most closely linked to my love of theater, as really it's just a form of cooperative improvisatory storytelling. That's definitely what keeps me coming back to the game as an adult, and I honestly think it's a great contributor to the limber sort of imagination that's required in devised theater. Plus, you know, the dragons, wizards, owlbears, &c.

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
I'd say that this is exactly the kind of false hierarchy that The Assembly tries to break down in our process. Sure, there are going to be particular plays wherein one figure takes precedence over the other, but why does one need to be more respected or prized as a general rule? It's notable that the question doesn't even mention designers, who are all too often shunted to the side as little more than craftsman, when their work is so frequently an integral part of a play's storytelling. More and more I think the theatrical community is learning to embrace the fact that each artist holds their sway over a particular aspect of the performance, or moment within the development process. The crucial question for us to ask is not "Who is more important?" It's "How do we learn to value every contribution, and most effectively pass the reins from one artist to another when the time is right?" It's about community, not competition.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
Well, gosh, I certainly hope it's until the wee hours. One of the many reasons we're so excited to present "That Poor Dream" at The Ice Factory is that it's a venue that's so very supportive of works in progress. It's a festival that exists so companies like ours can try new things, and potentially even fail! Not that I expect us to, mind; we're super proud of everything we're presenting. But the fact of the matter is that too much theater these days is built in little creative vacuums. What we value in The Assembly, and what The Ice Factory provides by virtue of its mission, is a dynamic conversation with our audience about the work we've made. So after you see "That Poor Dream," by all means grab us and drag us to the bar for a night of discussing what you've seen: what you loved, what you hated, questions about our dramaturgy, our process, our direction going forward. This is only our first step on the road of developing the play, and we hope that everyone who comes will be a big part of it.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Audra McDonald?
Ang Lee. The letter would inform me that I had been cast in his re-re-boot of the Hulk franchise: "Hulkback Mountain 2: The Brokening."

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Pretty damn important. Art, theatrical or otherwise, is almost necessarily about the human condition, right? The spectrum of humanity is pretty incredibly broad, particularly in this city, and let's be honest about the fact that mainstream theater (and television, and film, and so on) is still very male and very white. (Cough cough, these new all-male Shakespeare productions coming to Broadway, ahem ahem). I'm a big proponent of theater that expands the horizons of the audience's empathy for the characters, for each other, for the people they bump in to on the street after the show. And I think actively embracing a diverse theater is one of the most effective ways of putting that aesthetic and moral idea in to practice.