February’s “Actor Stealing the Spotlight” (ASS)
Why, hello, there. Welcome to a new feature at TBO. Each month, we’re going to highlight an Actor who is currently Stealing the Spotlight (or, the ASS). This is someone from our community who particularly stood out for their performance or body of work the previous month (obviously from the shows that we actually reviewed). We thought it would be fun to shine some light on those who continue to make the Baltimore theater scene just fucking great. If this goes well, we will also add some sort of director and/or scenic design thing.
AND THE ASS FOR FEBRUARY 2014 GOES TO:
LISA PARK BRYAN
Lisa Park Bryan has been on my radar for a hot minute. This sly fox has been burning up the stage at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory and every time I see her, I take notice (don’t be pervs, y’all, I notice her acting). I really loved Lisa’s take on Alice in February’s Tales of Ordinary Madness over at Fells Point Corner Theater. Here’s what I said about her in the review:
” I was also fascinated watching Lisa Bryan’s Alice, a slinky minx oozing around the stage whilst giving new meaning to the phrase “eye fucking”. God, does that child give good nuts.”
I caught up with Lisa this week and she agreed to dish.
What are you up to?
Right now just enjoying a quiet Saturday morning.
Doing anything fun today?
I’m in a reading later tonight at Fells Point Corner Theatre; a new play called Crash and Burn. I think, but I’m not sure, that FPCT is producing it next season. It’s funny, I just got the script today, Barry [lFeinstein] called and was like “Can you do this tonight?” and I said “Why not?”. I want you to tell everyone that I’m really excited to be your first piece of ASS.
Done! So. Tales of Ordinary Madness. Such a fucking bizarre play. It’s almost never done in the United States and honestly, I totally see why. It’s super…Soviet. What drew you to the script? Do you usually go in for post repressive regime comedies? Is that your thing?
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m drawn in particular to Soviet-style humor or have an affinity for post-repressive regime comedy but I Instantly liked how funny the script was and thought it was a really unique play. When I saw the sides [at the audition] I liked how involved all the characters were. So dark.
You found the play dark?
Oh, definitely. It was not as lighthearted as ads implied. They were all “It’s just like Seinfeld!” and I was like “No.”.
More like Seinfeld from hell.
Right. The play tapped into an environment where everyone’s way of life has been totally altered. These people went from a completely controlled system to basically nothing. They lost their whole structure. It’s like being released from prison. All of the characters are just reaching for whatever could give them pleasure. For Alice, it’s sex. For George, it’s art.
Did you know you were going to be cast as Alice or were you initially going for another part?
Well, the audition just worked really well, Rick [Lyon-Vaiden, who played George] and I are already a couple-
Oh, no shit. Really?
Yeah. So Barry asked Rick to audition and he said “Hey, my girlfriend is an actor too.” Barry was interested so I came down. Tucker [Foltz who played Peter] had already been cast so we read against him. I read for Jeanette and Sylvia too but it was obviously really natural to be making out with and yelling at Rick, so it just worked.
So I take it screaming and then wild sex is a snapshot of your actual relationship?
[Laughs] No, not exactly. More like it would have been harder for total strangers to create that kind of intimacy.
What did you think about the audience response? Did anyone have a hissy or walk out? Any fainting violets at the penis blood part?
Oh, we had walkouts. There was an elderly group where half of them left before the first act was over and the other half during intermission. It wasn’t for everyone. For the audience who actually stayed through the whole thing, though, they liked it. My family and friends who came enjoyed it. At first their reaction was all “You and Rick were fucking hilarious!” and then it was sort of serious discussions about post-Communist Prague. It took a few days to process.
I’m not surprised – this play is awkward. I mean, I love it, but it’s awkward. What was the weirdest thing you had to do for this part?
I think that would be simulating sex on stage with my boyfriend in front of my family. That was pretty damned awkward.
Yeah, no kidding Did you have to do, like, stage combat for that? What were rehearsals like?
Well, Barry’s initial direction was for us to start making out on the couch and, as it got heavier, actually flip the couch over backwards. But it just wouldn’t work. The structure of the couch wouldn’t support it. I got a couple bruises. I actually ended up improvising a line: “Get behind the couch!”. So we did it that way. From Tucker’s angle it probably looked hilarious since all he saw was us crouched behind the couch screaming and banging on the floor.
When I saw the play I was really struck by your physicality. You sort of looked like a sexy unhinged hairless cat with broken hips. How did you develop Alice’s movement vocabulary?
The first act was all about seduction. From the moment Alice enters Peter’s apartment she’s focused on him. It was a good motivation, that determination on both George and Alice’s part to get Peter to observe the sex act, although Alice flirted more (Rick saved most of his flirting with Tucker for the dressing room). I actually took a lot of inspiration from the character of Maude in The Big Lebowski. She’s so enticing and seductive. It’s hard to keep your eyes off of her. The second act was much different. Alice is furious with George. One of the ways I tried to put that across was pointedly never being on the same level as Rick. If he sat, I stood. If he stood, I sat.
Wanna talk some shit about anyone in the cast or crew and have it attached to your name forever on the internet?
No. But I appreciate the question.
Who do you think is the best actor in Baltimore?
Me. Safest answer.
What do you think about the Baltimore theater scene?
Here is what I would say to the scene at large: Please start paying your talented pool of actors. I love the community so much but it’s frustrating that there isn’t compensation or even benefits like parking. I mean, I’ve been there. I’ve worked on the other side of community theater and I know how tough it can be. I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to work. And I would never turn down a role just because it wasn’t paid. But it’s a dream of mine to be able to pay the rent acting. That would be nice.
You know, that’s kind of a crusade of mine, to get community stages to make some allotment for actor stipends. I mean, even a little bit helps, right?
Absolutely. It helps so much. One-fifty, two-hundred dollars. Have actors sign a contract, have consequences for missing rehearsals. What I really appreciate here in Baltimore is the talent. It’s great finding a circuit of strong actors that you see again and again.
Got any good gossip for us? Anything scandalous? Or catty or petty? You don’t have to name names, people LOVE the fact that my blog is vague and anonymous.
No, not really. I wanted to say that I enjoyed your review and your blog. I really like your style of writing.
I really like your style of acting.
Any shout outs? Places you’ve worked that you love?
Sure. Fells Point Corner Theatre, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Vagabond. Go Baltimore!
Where can your stalkers find you next?
I’m rehearsing for Amadeus at Fells Point Corner. It opens May 2nd.
Got someone you’d like to nominate for next month’s ASS? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.