July’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.
AND THE ASS FOR JULY 2014 GOES TO:
I was so excited that I nearly wet myself when I found out someone in Baltimore was going to be taking on Marat/Sade and doubly so (you can def doubly wet yourself) when I found it it was going to be Annex. I was so into the show that I fainted (you can read about it here) and one of my favorite parts of a real good thing was the performance of Trevor Wilhelms, who joined in spirit with a porcelain bathtub to bring us an insanely good Jean-Paul Marat. Here’s what I said about him in the review:
While Doccolo is amazingly good and studied, it was Trevor Wilhelms who stole the show for me, admittedly by a very small margin. His Marat by way of paranoid cut my heart apart with his eyes. I swear to God at times I thought I saw SMOKE rising from his body, that’s how fucking hot his performance was (from that damned bathtub, no less). He’s so crazy he’s sane, so smashed he rises above. I felt like he had electric wires running through his skeleton that were jolting him around like Frankenstein’s monster. It. was. cray.
I seduced Trevor into an interview, so here’s what he said:
Treeeevoooorrrr…what’s going on?
I’m good, I’m good. I’m up on my roof right now taking a break from rehearsing for the Fields Festival, which is happening in a week, so I’m a couple of days behind. I’m really excited, I’ve never done a festival like this, out in the woods.
Are you just glad to be out of the bathtub? You sort of spent July sitting in four inches of dirty water. That’s a good first date story.
Yes and no. I miss it. I haven’t bathed or cleaned myself at all since being in it. It will be my eternal protest at leaving the bathtub.
One of things I really loved and responded to in the show is that you guys really went for it with the bathtub. It was so gross, with the dirty, bloody water.
Totally. Due to a couple of issues, we started working with it a little late, but once I got in there it was wonderful trying to figure out how the other half (well, other than Simone, of course) of Jean Paul worked. His porcelain womb, if you will.
So. Peter Weiss. Marat/Sade. One of my very favorite plays, an ambitious undertaking for a space like the Chicken Box. Had you seen or read the show before you were offered the role of Marat?
Absolutely. The first time I came across it I was in school which happens whenever you’re studying theater. So I’d known about it for awhile and I was really really excited when it was proposed for our season.
Did you do any research into 18th century French revolutionary history or anything or did you just, you know, take a swan dive into the asylum?
We did research on both the latter revolution, the 1808 world of France and that perspective but also the height of Jean Paul’s influence in the 1790s. We also did a fair amount of research on mental institutions, specific mental health afflictions, especially the ones presented within the show. You know, Weiss is so smart. There isn’t a thing that’s not considered in the construction of his piece, so to address one side [of the research] without the other is like trying to walk without your pinky toe, you’re not in balance. One informs the other.
Do you like the show?
I love the show, I think it’s amazing. It’s poetic, it’s dark as fuck. It exists in this amazing time flux. It’s like a roller coaster. Like the moment de Sade is giving a speech about death and his hatred of nature and he says in the midst of this wonderful monologue: “Haven’t we experimented in our laboratories before applying the final solution?”. There’s so much of the twentieth century there, you blink your eyes and snap your head back and think about where and when we are and you ride that roller coaster. It’s fun and disorienting and terrifying.
One of the ways I know something is really, really good, really effecting me, is when I sit down to watch it and I’m like “I want that. I want to own a piece of that. I’m jealous that I wasn’t involved with that production.” This show was one of those moments for me.
I think it was Marta Graham that said that artists are driven by divine dissatisfaction.
Yes. And critics DEFINITELY are. What was the most challenging thing about doing Marat/Sade in that space?
We’re very lucky because our biggest challenge is also our biggest strength: getting the audience into the space, selling as many tickets as an organization as we can, but still having room for the performers to do the show. Annex faces this challenge with everything we do. It’s fun. It’s like how do we redefine the spectator/performer relationship in this small space to the best of our ability? And Marat/Sade, as far as spectator/performer…oh, what’s a good analogy? Like a piece of cotton candy wrapped in a Snickers bar inside of a Twizzler, turned into a Skittle and then melted down in vodka to be drunk at a pool party. Intimacy is integral to the physical impact, the storytelling. And so is the fear. The fear is such a real part of all the worlds we’re existing in, the 1793 revolution, 1808 asylum, and, of course, the corner of North Avenue and Charles in our little fried chicken restaurant. You have people you probably know performing in front of you but you’re also existing in a state of fear in terms of how this show will be presented, how far everyone on stage will go. It was a gift to have that relationship defined by our space.
What was it like working with Philip Doccolo and Sarah Heiderman? Did you respond to their direction? I sure did, I loved the shit out of the show.
It was great! I love Sarah and Phil, they’re great friends of mine. They really brought together an amazing ensemble of performers. They let us play, explore, fuck up real hard, and also let us grow from it and discover each of our unique inmates. From the beginning they established a space where you can take risks and make choices. It’s pretty rare. I’ve never been in a situation where the entirety of an ensemble was willing to make off the fucking wall weird choices from the very first rehearsal. They did a wonderful job of leading that charge, opening those doors and pointing us in the right direction.
Were rehearsals with you and Philip really intense? I felt like you could light a fucking firecrackers with the eye contact between you guys.
It was really fun. It was great to rehearse with Phil. I remember towards the very beginning of the process we were sitting and talking about one of our scenes and we just sat there and tried to understand every word Weiss had written. We talked through every little thing. It was really great from the first moment. It was wonderful working a scene with him, I would throw something his way and he would catch it and send it back to me at, like, three times the temperature, and it was like “Ohhhhh, this is how it’s gonna go.” We’re both goofy loud guys who like to laugh a lot and we had that moment where we were like: “All right, if we’re gonna do this, we’re REALLY gonna do this.” And it was beautiful that it didn’t need to be verbally expressed. “Yeah, we’re going to fucking do this!”. Couldn’t ask for anyone better than Phil.
Who is your favorite character in the piece other than your own? Why?
Ohhhhh…that’s tough. Everyone’s really fun. I guess in terms of the written characters the quartet is amazing. They serve such an incredible purpose. They are this one being split into four souls, it’s just so fascinating. I guess when I’m thinking “favorite” it’s what else I personally would like to play. The Herald is wonderful. Charlotte is so beautifully written and was performed amazingly in our production.
It’s hard, right, because Weiss wrote his show like a symphony.
Exactly, that’s it. With the soloists and melodies coming in.
Why do you think Marat/Sade is relevant to perform RIGHT NOW?
It does exist in this very plastic understanding of time. The great and awful thing about this play is that it will probably be relevant at any point in the future. It’s just got that dark spark of continuum that is always always going to be relevant. There’s always going to be the conflict between the revolutionary and the reactionary. Debate between violence and discussion. I actually wish it wasn’t so relevant but I think in our cultures in the West, there’s always going to be a discourse between Marat and de Sade. They will always be present, they will always be speaking. They’ll just have different names when you turn on CSPAN.
What is the best theater company in Baltimore?
Annex Theater. Without a doubt. But, I should say, that’s coming from, not that it needs qualifying, but it’s my opinion. The beauty of Baltimore is that you can find anything you want here.
Wanna talk some shit about anyone in the cast or crew and have it attached to your name forever on the internet?
Yeah, I do!
Wow! Really? Making Trevor the first person to ever answer that question!
Yeah, yeah! I have something to say. Something to say to the ENTIRE INTERNET. On stage, every single night, there was a giant mirror. One night, I stepped on it and slashed the bottom of my heel open. I want the whole internet to read this: FUCK THAT MIRROR. It hurt! It hurt really bad! I bled real blood for this show! I refuse to work with that mirror ever again.
Oh, I’m gonna get e-mails.
From the mirror?
Mmmhmm. And the mirror’s friends, and everyone who has ever worked with the mirror, and it’s just going to turn into a giant shitshow. Thanks, Trevor.
Just tell them to contact me. I’ll take this one.
Anything you’ve been dying to say to the Baltimore theater scene? You can scold and holla.
HI. It’s me. Trevor. I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t call the other week. I was busy with my bathtub. So don’t tell my bathtub we’re talking, ‘kay? I want to let you know I really appreciate everything you do and I hope I can give you everything that you give me. YouknowwhatI’msayin’? I’m sorry I got so drunk at your Mom’s house. Everyone says it stains but it doesn’t stain. Just tell your mom I’m sorry and give me a call. Or Snapchat me.
What’s coming up next for you?
The Fields Festival will be held on August 22-24th [www.fieldsfestival.com] and I’m performing on the 24th at 4:00. It’s a thirty minute solo performance, it should be fun…ohohoh! This is big. There’s an Annex fundraiser at the Windup Space on August 28th so keep your eyes and ears open for that. And there’s a wonderful Howard Street project going on, we’re just waiting for the mayor to sign off on it. So if anyone knows the mayor, tell her that this project absolutely has to happen. Not in a threatening way. In an enthusiastic way. Annex also has some great shows coming up, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover at the Canteen will kick off the season, so go to http://www.baltimoreannextheater.org. HI MOM! HI DAD! I’m glad you got a new cat the other week. What else is coming up for me? I’m moving out of my apartment so if anyone wants a realllly heavy sleeper sofa, they can call me, but they have to get it out of my apartment. My foot itches. I don’t like being stung by bees and, oh, HI, MOLLY! Put that in.
Got someone you’d like to nominate for next month’s ASS? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.