[on stage with Bonita Jackson, in "RACHEL" Off-Off Broadway]
There’s something so familiar and primordial about it. It’s the starting place. The unfiltered chasm from which artistic purity leaps forth. This is all just a lofty, hoity-toity way of saying YOU CANNOT FUCKING LIE ON THE STAGE.
When you’re all out there in the jungle, alone (or not), house lights down, stage lights up - no special effects, no director yelling “Cut! Let’s try that again,” no stunt double, no masterful editor in a dark room, splicing together a performance for you - you have to put up or shut up. You plant your feet, hunker down, square off, and you tell the fucking truth.
As an actor who lives in Los Angeles, I’ve realized there’s not often many solid opportunities to work in the theatre.
There’s lots of film and gorgeous television, but L.A. isn’t a theatre town, and that’s okay. Because of this, I’m constantly doing my best to go back to my firing kiln. Back to the stage. It challenges me. It rejuvenates me. It reminds me - that my full body - this 5’6, 138 pound, brown-skinned sack of bones, tissue, organs, scars, and blood - is a beautiful instrument, that, if wielded with truth and specificity, can make wonderful music. I’m always seeking out opportunities to return home to play my instrument, and this year, I found an amazing bandroom to do my best ode to Duke, Nina, Mingus, Monk, and Trane.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to spend some time in Chicago this summer, working with the ICONIC Steppenwolf Theatre Company, in their 2018 “School at Steppenwolf” Summer Training Residency.
Taught by members of Steppenwolf's world renowned ensemble and guest teachers intimate with their work, The School at Steppenwolf is a ten week residency for experienced actors who want to learn more about the ensemble traditions, values and methods that make Steppenwolf unique.
Two and half months.
500 hours of intense, passionate, rigorous training - in one of the top theatre cities in the world, with one of the most illustrious theatre companies on the planet. Past instructors have included:
Jeff Perry (Scandal, Nash Bridges)
Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, Apollo 13)
Tarell Alvin McCraney (Oscar-winning writer of Moonlight, The Brother/Sister Plays, Head of Passes, Choir Boy)
Tina Landau (director, Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePants musical, Superior Donuts)
Joan Allen (Tony-winner, 3x Oscar nominee)
And so many more!
Y’all, I am BEYOND humbled, thrilled, excited, and nervous AF to be invited on this journey.
Now! The logistics, and why I’ve set up this GoFundMe. I’m an artist, working and living in Los Angeles. I’m not rich. I (unfortunately) don’t have a trust fund set up, that I can stick my hand into whenever I want. I also don’t (unfortunately?) have a rich sugar daddy I can bat my eyelashes at to get my way. That said, a lot of folks via social media and in “real life,” have asked how they can support me in my dreams and career. So many have done so for years, and continue to do so. We artists wouldn’t have the careers we have, if not for the people who support us. I’m asking for some help because I believe deeply in the power of community and tribe, and I understand that I may “come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.” There are so many shoulders I stand on, and I strive to have folks who call my shoulders their footrest. We’re all in this together. We’re all we got.
The program, in total, costs $4,000. That covers tuition for the ten week training residency. Steppenwolf offers a partial scholarship, which I am also applying for, but beyond that, everything else is on the actor. Room and board, travel to Chicago, day to day, etc. I have some means on my end (savings, family help, etc.), but I’ll need help wherever else I can get it. So I’ve set my goal at $6,000. A lot of money, yes. But in the grand scheme, worth it.
If any of you are led to give, in any amount (seriously, no amount is too small), I will be eternally grateful to you for believing in me, and supporting me. I’m just an artist with some dreams, and this program is a stepping stone in the direction of them. If you can’t give anything, it’s all good. I promise! Sharing with your circles is just as helpful. Facebook, Twitter, email blast, etc. You never know who out there is interested in helping!
I’m gonna leave some links and info on the program and the theatre below, in case you’d like to look deeper into what I’m getting into and what you’d be supporting.
I truly appreciate each and every one of you. Whenever anything good happens in my life, you all are there to congratulate, hug, high-five, pray for, and send good vibes to me - and that doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. I hope I do and continue to do the same for you.
I heard a quote the other day, apparently by Bob Dylan, that I fell in love with instantly - “I'll let you be in my dreams, if I can be in yours."
I love y’all, and thanks for everything!
SCHOOL @ STEPPENWOLF
Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry met as sophomores at Highland Park High School north of Chicago and fell in love with acting under the tutelage of an inspiring drama teacher, Barbara Patterson. In 1973, Gary and fellow classmates from HPHS started a community theatre in Highland Park. Jeff then met the rest of the first generation of Steppenwolf's ensemble of actors and directors in the Theater Department at Illinois State University.
Their training at school was defined by gifted, wildly opinionated teachers steeped in various versions of Stanislavski's acting technique. After graduation, Jeff and 9 others continued working together in this way. They wanted to expand the freedom they had tasted at school while working on plays they loved in an environment that they controlled. Some would grow into directors and some would become writers as well, but in the beginning they were above all else actors who shared a conviction that the best way to create great theater and to grow as individual artists was through ensemble work.
About 17 years ago Jeff was bitten by an idea for a Steppenwolf school. He wanted to share this actor-driven ensemble work and share something personal, authentic and pragmatic about its values and methods. He began brainstorming with some of Steppenwolf's most trusted mentors; Artistic Consultant Sheldon Patinkin, Artistic Director Martha Lavey and ensemble member and Associate Artist Anna Shapiro. Before long, they had fashioned the first draft of a 10 week 'ensemble studies' curriculum. It is a curriculum designed for actors to intensively practice their craft with and through each other, inspired by values that Steppenwolf believes informs not only great ensemble work but great acting: the ability to act spontaneously, instinctively and with joyful abandon, while maintaining the specificity and discipline required of great dramatic writing.
As we approach our 17th summer we continue to evolve the shape of the school's offerings. Amy Morton has recently worked to identify our core curriculum- Meisner, Viewpoints, Improv and Text Analysis - and we are working to ensure that everything we teach is in support of these classes. Steppenwolf's teachers are experienced, passionate, and talented. For all of the ensemble who receive continuing inspiration from teaching, the School at Steppenwolf epitomizes the best of our theatre's many joys. Not only is it a place where trust and risk lead to growth, it is a beautiful reminder of why we fell in love with acting in the first place.
A CHICAGO THEATER COMPANY IS BORN
In January of 1974, in Highland Park, Illinois, Rick Argosh and Leslie Wilson approached their former high school classmate Gary Sinise about staging a production of Paul Zindel's And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little. Sinise had recently graduated from high school, and Rick and Leslie had one semester remaining. Steppenwolf co-founders Jeff Perry and Gary Sinise had met and become friends at Highland Park High School. Jeff was then attending college at Illinois State University where he had met co-founder Terry Kinney.
Gary agreed to be in the production of Miss Reardon, and sought out a space where he, Rick and Leslie could produce the play. Through a family friend, Gary secured the rights to perform in a Unitarian church on Half Day Road in Deerfield, Illinois, and the trio staged the inaugural production of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The name Steppenwolf came from the book by Herman Hesse, which Argosh was reading at the time.
Three more plays were produced that year under this first incarnation of Steppenwolf. Grease, which Sinise would produce, direct and act in; The Glass Menagerie, which Argosh directed with Sinise appearing as Tom; and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, also directed by Argosh, which was the first teaming of Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry and Gary Sinise, Steppenwolf’s three founders. During this production, in June of 1974, Kinney, Perry, and Sinise decided that when Kinney and Perry finished college they would find a permanent space and start a professional resident ensemble theater company.
In 1975, Steppenwolf incorporated as a non-profit and produced one play that summer, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds. In the summer of 1976, with a newly formed ensemble that included founders Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, Gary Sinise and H.E. Baccus, Nancy Evans, Moira Harris, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf and Alan Wilder, the company took up residence in a vacant basement space of the Immaculate Conception Catholic school in Highland Park and produced its first season of plays. In 1980 the company moved from Highland Park to the city of Chicago into a 134 seat theatre at the Jane Adams Center and expanded the ensemble.
Over the course of the 1980s, the company continued to expand, producing plays that went on to receive national and international attention. In 1991, Steppenwolf built its current theater at 1650 North Halsted Street in Chicago. Steppenwolf has now grown into a company which includes forty-four ensemble members, whose strengths include acting, directing, playwriting, and textual adaptation. Now in its fifth decade as a professional theater company, Steppenwolf has received unprecedented national and international recognition, including a series of Tony Awards, and The National Medal of Arts.
- Prince Ton
- Edwin Brown III
- Nicole Van Denburg
- Donta Morrison
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