The C Douglas Stephens Infusion Series
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Judd Lear Silverman for Blue Roses Productions
January 9, 2013
What is your job on this show?
I am a playwright/director/actor in the four evenings of readings..
What is your show about?
The C Douglas Stephens Infusion Series is four evenings of new work, created both by friends and members of Blue Roses Productions and also by a selection of Alaskan Playwrights.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
At a very early age, I knew this is what I wanted to do--be it from seeing a puppet show or my first Broadway play at age 9, I'm not sure, but I know that at an early age I started dressing for Halloween as Tevye from FIDDLER (which was not the norm in my Connecticut town), and when my parents' friends would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was known to say "I'm going to grow up and be a starving artist in New York!" Little did they know that, even then, I was a man of my word.
Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I'm not going to say I WOULDN'T do film or TV if the right occasion arose, but I do know that I love the theater format best. Theater is a living, breathing event in which all that are in the room participate. It is a communal dream, a shared experience. Emotions are reached and ideas are expressed in a confined space that require acknowledgement, any kind of reaction. In today's world, film and TV are produced for mass consumption, with most rough edges sanded off and glazed over to make the journey appealing. But in live theater, you can really sit 50 or 100 or 1,000 people down and really ask some pointed questions, raise some real inspirations and doubts, get people actively excited. Serious theatergoers are open to having their minds awakened, and that kind of interchange between artist and audience is priceless.
How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
While I've lived in New York for more than half my life, I had to travel to Valdez, Alaska to meet my current collaborators, who are fellow New Yorkers! Erma Duricko, the Artistic Director of Blue Roses, is a regular panelist and director at the Last Frontier Theater Conference, a spectacular week-long event where writers from Alaska and all over the country have their work read and performed by a core of fabulous actors before highly intelligent theater audiences who value the exploration of new ideas and new idioms. Erma invited me to become involved with Blue Roses Productions, the producer of The C Douglas Stephens Infusion Series, and I am participating in this event both as a playwright with two pieces (POINT OF DEPARTURE and THE LAST HOLDOUT), as well as a director of three of the readings. The splendid company will be reading in numerous roles, along with some special guest artists who have been invited to participate. And in this Infusion, many of the amazing and wonderful writers we've met at the Conference in Alaska are having a chance to showcase their work in a very different location and environment.
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
Good--someone else who thinks it's time for another Marx Brothers revival! Well, ordinarily I would say Groucho, being a great lover of wit and words, and yet the open-hearted silliness and devotion to beauty that Harpo shows is also to be valued. There are times that I would like the world to come to a temporary standstill from the chaos, so that we can have a moment to just celebrate the beauty in a harp solo--then, it's back to bon mots, quips and stings.
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
God, I'd like to think so. There's something about raising a question in a living, breathing environment, when audiences have to face REAL people, that plants a seed and allows the roots to take hold. Also, having taught theater to young people for many years, I know how transformative it can be to find your voice and a constructive way to use it. Blue Roses, of course, is to a huge degree inspired and driven by the work of Tennessee Williams, and no American playwright before or perhaps since has used poetry and emotion to explore our deepest yearnings and our strongest drives. His works make us recognize our humanity, our flaws and our majesty, and once you hook into that deeper understanding, then society really does begin to evolve, change, and hopefully flourish.