A CELEBRATION OF UNIONSHIP BY ADAM NELSON
Happy 100th Birthday Actor's Equity Association. I lucked into my card in 1991 through the Philadelphia Drama Guild's production of Macbeth at the cavernous Annenberg Center. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer "The title role played by a black actor is a fact that made the show somewhat of a landmark in Philadelphia's theatrical history". Directed by Mary B. Robinson and starting Andre Braugher (Glory), I played a series of small, spear holding roles. But in Act V, Scene 5, through the haze of a bright white spotlight I was cloaked in the role of Seyton; a combination butler / military officer. Seyton doesn't have much character but his name sounds like "Satan". He also gets to utter the tragic news that "The Queen, my lord, is dead" setting up one of the world's most profound statements of mortality ever recorded:
"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
Happy Birthday, great union. For protecting the rights, sounds and stages of our American theater.
BACKSTAGE THE PERFORMING ARTS WEEKLY | DOWNTOWN SENSIBILITY by Sherry Eaker
There's a group of actors that I define as "downtown performers," though the term has very little to do with the location of any of the theatres where these actors might be performing. It actually has more to do with a certain sensibility that they share. They tend to work at the same theatres, doing less-than-traditional fare and, instead of constantly being on the hunt for agents and doing showcases with the sole intent of attracting agents to come see them, these independent spirits make the art of their business their number-one priority.
Adam Nelson is a typical example of an actor on the "downtown" scene. Currently featured i n the Adobe Theatre Company production of "Notions in Motion" (which, coincidently, just moved Uptown to the Raymond J. Greenwald Theatre on W. 26th Street after receiving terrific reviews while playing at the downtown Ohio Theater on Wooster Street), Adam has also appeared i n production at New Georges, Cucaracha, Playwrights Collective, Manhattan Class Company, and the now-defunct Malaparte and Workhouse theatre companies.
"I just want to work ," Adam told me over the phone the other day wh en I asked him what his goals were. "I want to eat three times a day, sleep on a bed ... and do the kind of work that I can be proud of," he stressed. "I'll take anything; the challenge is always there: find ing the director's vocabulary, figuring out the way the writer is thinking ..." You can tell that Adam really gets into his roles.
Adam wanted to perform ever since he was a kid. Born in New York, he spent a lot of his growing-up years in Houston with his mom and brother and sister where he attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, taking such classes as stage combat , voice, movement , and scene study. But adolescence was a difficult time for Adam and he didn't do very well i n school. It wasn't until he got to the University of the Arts i n Philadelphia that he began appreciating his studies. "I had a thirst for knowledge that I never had before ," Adam told me . "I devoured as much as possible." His extracurricular studies included two three-month private programs, one at Yale in 1989, and one at Oxford in 1990. The courses got him to meet and work with head s of theatre departments and well-known actors. After graduating in '91, Adam came to New York, but within a few days head ed to Maine for the International Film & TV Workshop , his first real professional job. Work ing with film-industry folk further enhanced his networking opportunities.
I asked Adam if he ever worked with an agent. Actually he did. It was in L.A., where he was "stranded" for a while following their earthquake. He got an agent the fourth day he was in L.A. The agent booked several jobs for him, none of which Adam felt took any talent or education: "All it required was patience and good looks." Realizing that he wasn't cut out for L.A., he returned to New York ; counting on some of his acquaintances to open some doors for him . Yes, it was easy for him to make first-time contacts with several agents in New York, but the agents weren't interested in him, telling him that he was too "down town-looking, too ethnic ." "They told me to call when I was in something, which I did, but they never showed," Adam noted .
Does he see having an agent as a plus? "They pro vide the opportunity to go into an audition, to be seen for film and TV work , on stages such as the Roundabout, the Public ...I want to be able to work on Broadway, Off-Broadway, at the Public-I want to be able to do Shakespeare in the Park," Adam told me. "But," he continued, "I could spend my whole life doing the business of the art. I won't stop doing what I'm doing now."
And so, to fill the time, Adam wrote and performed his one-person shows, doing one here in New York at the Workhouse theatre right before the theatre closed. Adam was with the Workhouse for four or five years , and cal led himself an "orphan" now that it's no longer around. "I lost my true home. The Workhouse is where I grew up, where I learned; it gave me an identity . It gave me a cachet.
Adam described the appeal of working with ensemble groups like the Workhouse or like the Adobe where he is presently . "There's this incredible working relationship , a vocabulary that you begin to share. The work is far more rewarding."
Adam has also just completed work on a film which stars Scott Glenn, John Turturro, Amy Brenneman, and Elizabeth Perkins. "Lesser Prophets " was written by Paul Diomede, is being produced by Richard Temtchine and directed by William DeVizia all independent filmmakers, working under the banner of October Films , and doing a major studio film for the first time.
So, if moving to an uptown theatre and working on a major studio production doesn't quite fit the image of Adam that I just described, he asserts, "As long as it's not taking me away from my original navigation.
Adam is the first of a few "downtown" artists that Back Stage will focus on in an upcoming issue.
SHOW BUSINESS WEEKLY THEATER REVIEW:
SEX AND LIES | SEDUCTIVE ACTS
By Guy Giarrizzo and Scott Manus Directed by Guy Giarrizzo
Theater 3 | Review by Nicholas Moore
Every time you glimpse up at an apartment window, imagine two people are inside, engaged in hot, unholy sex. Wait, you don't have to imagine, it's really happening . . And these two commit this act in the face of one very simple truth: sex and love in the city can be a dirty business. For those brave enough to hunt it down (like our bedroom lovers) and join the emotionally exhausting rat race, filled with shame and bitterness, Seductive Acts, smartly directed by Guy Giarrizzo, will gladly indulge any of your anxieties and/or paranoia concerning the matter. Martin (Adam Nelson) and Paige (Andrea Maulella) met in their therapist's waiting room and fell in love kind of. Well, they're both desperate and coming off bad break-ups (as opposed to good ones), and they do have great sex with each other ...sure, they fell in love. In actuality, that's just a word for it; both are a little self absorbed and distracted, so they're not quite sure what they've got yet.
The desperately neurotic duo live in a sitcom-like world swarming with love-starved singles willing to swallow their bitter frustrations and hold out for true romance. If that's even one of the options. It's a city where your friends, thankfully, are more screwed up than you, and answering machines talk back, making sarcastic quips at your feeble, failed efforts to find somebody to love. The script, co-writ ten by Scott Manus and Giarrizzo, is light and enjoyable live television. Each scene is fueled by just one idea which is usually dragged a bit too far,
But the play's clever moments are nailed by a terrific ensemble cast headed by the quirky, manic performances of Nelson and Maulella.
It deals with three Manhattan couples: Bill (Michael Bassett) and Danielle (Dana Bledsoe) are devoted to sex. Jonathan (David Folwell) and Blythe (Malindi Fickle) are devoted to love, while Martin and Paige haplessly drift somewhere between the two. And they're all a little mixed up, try ing to sort out that sometimes dis turbing prospect of an authentic romance. Each actor in the cast has a unique charm and comic timing of their own. They find the bittersweet chemistry within each relationship and rise above_ the light weight of the material, bringing life and blood to otherwise stereotypical characters.
Seductive Acts dutifully tries not to overdo its down -to-earth intentions and fails on that count only when the relationships lapse into repetitive, diched melodrama. Still, Giarrizzo's direction keeps the pace relatively brisk. In the end, he delivers a slick, tightly packaged, slice of life and love in mean Manhattan. If you happen not to have cable television and were curious about HBO's new series, Sex in the City, check it out live and in the flesh at Theater 3.