10 Questions for our Collaborator : Jeffrey A. Wisniewski
Posted by collaborativestages on May 3, 2010
Name: Jeffrey A. Wisniewski
Show(s) with Cs: Somewhere in Between
Job for Show(s): Actor – Joshua
1. Where are you from originally?
2. What do you consider to be your favorite theatrical experience and why?
1) – Blood Wedding at Allegheny College. It was the first time that I worked with the concept of making choices with the text as an actor Also, it was one of the first shows that I realized that there was no need to be so nervous about remembering lines….I simply had to go on stage and live the life I had created during the rehearsal process…simply want something when I went on stage, and listen and react to my fellow actors/characters. Finally, there was a strong incorporation of the Argentinian Tango in the production-at the climax of the show we had a very sensual and emotionally intense Tango between myself and the female lead, which was then followed by a fight sequence of choreography based out of the Tango as well, a sequence after which my character was eventually killed. I could feel the power of the story that was told up to that point coming to its head in those dances. It was so powerful – to the core – tangible magic was in the air. 2) – Also, there was Osama the Hero at the Cleveland Public Theatre. I had not been on stage in more than two years due to some personal transitions I had going on in my life before that show came around, so when rehearsals began, I was just so hungry to get to work. I was very proud being part of the regional premiere of the show, and to be working on a Contemporary script that made a statement about our society’s culture of fear. I remember being very emotional during the final show’s curtain call. I was so grateful for having been back on stage, for being part of such a powerful and grounded story – a story that audience members were talking about in relation to their current lives when they left the theatre. It made me think of Tom Hanks talking about wanting to ‘Entertain, Educate, and Enlighten’ the audience with his work. I think that happened with Osama the Hero. With both of these shows, there was such a wonderful coming together of all aspects of the process….all involved with each show were on the same page…the same team.
3. If someone gave you access to all the money and resources you could ever need to do any show in the world, which show would it be and why?
I have never been good at answering this type of question, or any of these questions in this entry actually…ha! Um….Hamlet, definitely. It is the part of all parts. It is…uuuhh….it speaks for itself….it is Hamlet. That being said, I definitely think I need more life experience in me to give Hamlet what he deserves out of my psyche. There is a part of me that questions if I would ever have what it takes to honor that role appropriately. You never know. I guess the unlimited funding would allow me to surround myself with the appropriate creative team to bring the most out of our production. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea has definitely been on my recent radar. I am very much drawn to the story of these two people needing someone…eventually, one another…each for their own personal reasons. Reading it recently, a friend said they are not characters on the page, but rather people, inside and out. I liked that. Those people speak to me. There is love, honesty, compassion, and brutal truth in that story. Yeah, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea makes me jazzed.
4. What is your favorite sundae topping?
Today it is butterscotch.
5. What is your favorite word?
Today it is’ discombobulated’.
6. Who was your theatrical mentor? Why did they have such an impact on you?
Several come to mind. Beth Watkins, my theatre professor/director at Allegheny College, in Meadville, PA. She was the first person who taught me that theatre was an art form – with much more size, meaning, and strength to it than just entertainment. I often think of her in rehearsals. She always loved rehearsals. She love exploring, messing up, and making discoveries in the process. I always fought against that because at that point I was always looking for the end result. The process was useless to me, I wanted the achievement of the finished product! I thought of her during the run of my recent show with Collaborative Stages. She once told me never to worry after a first dress rehearsal – they are usually a train wreck. You just have to get it out of your system, regain your footing, and show up the next day to give it another go. Another mentor is Jim Sumerfield, the Assistant Technical Director at Allegheny College. He, uh…he is a very important part of my gutteral connection to the work of acting. From the many discussions that Jim and I have had over the years about people, theatre, and acting, his voice has always been a constant in my head, always telling me to stay the course in going after what I do and love. Yes, there are challenges, frustrations, and doubts, but you just have to “keep slugging.” Also, working with him and Scott Choffel, Allegheny’s Technical Director, in the scene shop gave me such a strong appreciation and respect for the technical production side of theatre. It always amazes me how shows actually make it to production with there being so many pieces of the puzzle needed. Finally, there are Carol Rosenfeld, Victor Slezak, and Ilse Pfeifer with whom I studied at HB Studio during the summer of 2009. I only studied with them for six weeks, but now while working on a script or watching acting, their voices are constantly in my head. Concepts such as truthfully taking an action, being honest and available in the present moment, and having a divine respect for this work have become very integral to my inner dialogue about acting and are things that I am constantly challenging myself to strive towards. They said my work is to keep showing up, again and again. Just keep showing up. I truly hope to work with Carol, Victor, and Ilse again.
7. What is the hardest part of your job (as an actor)?
This question makes me think of a quote by Robert Prosky: “… an Actor must have the hide of a rhinoceros, the courage and audacity of a lion, and most importantly, the fragile vulnerability of an egg.” I often struggle with those things as a person, let alone as an actor, exposing oneself in public. But I guess, you just have to keep showing up time and time again…being honest, available, vulnerable…in the constant pursuit of the truth, all in the presence of others watching, analyzing, and critiquing you.
8. What is your favorite part of your job (as an actor)?
Since the majority of my experience has been on the stage, I again think of words by Robert Prosky: “That time when the human beings onstage interact with the human beings in the audience and together they create the event of performance. It’s one of life’s most civilized experiences.” I think it is simply magical when a story/life is being told/lived in the present moment on the live stage. Sparks fly with between the actors and among the audience. There is an indescribable honesty there. A purity. It is an honor and a privilege to be on the stage, searching for those experiences in the new given moment that presents itself. I also have a great appreciation for the teamwork that goes into a production. The work and process of the director, the writer, the cast, the designers, the production crew, all comes together in the melting pot, with the single shared purpose to tell the story.
9. Have you ever gone cow tipping? If not, would you ever?
Never been. I guess it would depend on who I was having a drink with that night
10. If you could collaborate with anyone who has worked in the entertainment industry, dead or alive, who would it be?
Viggo Mortensen or Anthony Hopkins
Big thanks to Jeff!!
‘Til we meet again,