I’m resurrecting my blog so as to keep a journal of my experience in the LSU graduate Theatre program. Everyone has a story and I hope you find some value in mine. My name is Alan R. White.
The year is 2013 and I have the world in my hand. I’m a working actor in Theatre Espresso, The Freedom Trail Foundation, and City Stage Company. My reputation in the theatre community, is that I’m professional, and reliable. Between the three ongoing companies and occasional work on the main stages in Boston, I can sometimes go for 2 years without a survival job and I own the studio apartment of my dreams. Everything is perfect.
But, then I went to see Twelve Years A Slave and I saw everything differently. There was a moment, in that film that changed my perspective of my entire artistic life. It wasn’t the emotionally wrenching scene where Chiwetel Eijofor’s character Solomon Northup, is forced to torture Patsey (played by Lupita Nyong’o). Its a different moment, or rather two moments that are worlds apart and very alike. When we first meet Solomon Northup in the beginning of the film, he’s walking in a park on a bright sunny day.
People are engaged in leisure activities around him. He is confident, and relaxed with his head high and his step sure. He’s secure in his world and in himself. And then, toward the end of the film, there is another similar scene. Solomon is walking on the plantation where he has been enslaved for twelve years. Its another bright sunny day. People are engaged in back breaking labor all around him. The composition of the scene is similar to the earlier one, but Solomon is transformed. His walk is stooped, and small as if every step is an attempt to be invisible. His gaze shifts from side to side like one who is in a constant state of fight or flight. He was still the same person but so changed from the one we met 2 hours earlier.
When I see this scene, this moment, this walk, I’m longer lost in the story. For the first time I’m able to see both the story and an actor’s craft as it plays out before me. Watching Chiwetel Eijofor in the moment, walking. Every one of my performances over the past thirteen years rushes back to my mind and I start to cry. Compared to what I see in just that walk, every all of my performances, are mediocre.
Something must change.
You may find these letters a bit annoying to read. But I am at present reading “Letters to a Young Poet” by R. M. Rilke and for the fun of writing have decided to the write the next few posts in a meandering wordy style. I implore your forgiveness in this age of efficient targeted messages. I must confess that as I working actor I can not tell you if you are any good. Nor can I tell you how to be a success. All I can do is share with you my experience in the hopes that perhaps something I have learned will be in some way of some benefit to your future goals. As every actor is a unique individual with a very personal practice and path to success what is factually true for myself will be categorically false for others. So if you find that something I have writing strikes you as complete and utter bull shit trust your instincts just as you should trust your instincts if you feel something rings true for you. In the end you must be the final judge. Enclosed are the statements I would give to my younger self knowing the roads I have traveled and the path that has brought me to the position of ambition and contentment I now occupy.
As Rilke advised the young poet. Ask yourself if you must act. Find some quiet time where you can be alone. Quiet your mind and stop all the thoughts of the day-to-day hustle and buzzing. Look deep in to yourself and ask if you must act. Ask if it is need deep within you that must be fulfilled. Ask if it is a part of your very being as necessary for survival as your, heart, lungs and breath. If you’re answer is a resounding “Yes” then go forward in your endeavors with enthusiasm. You need not know this answer for life in the moment. The first 7 years of my acting on the same date every June, I asked myself if I wanted to do this for one more year. Every June my answer was “yes”. In time I stopped asking as I now know this is not just my career but my way of life. So dear actor answer for yourself, and no one else do you need this way of life? Look within, Look deep and find your true answer.
A lot of people have asked about my experience training at Double Edge Theatre. It’s been a little hard to navigate that because of the nature of the training and because part of the work is not to talk about what you do so that you don’t over analyze it. So this post is my reflections on it that I am able and willing to share.
The most common thing you’d hear me and most other people say about the training is that it’s very physical. That’s what everyone told me when I asked. That’s a fact but it doesn’t even scratch the surface. I could also offer a list of some of the skills that we worked on like, stilts, or dramaturgy, and design, but that is still no deeper an explanation. The training is physical, emotional, energetic, and a little bit dangerous. The training leads you in to strange lands and leaves you to accomplish what you thought impossible. The training takes you to a place where you succeed and fail at the same time. Training is change.
This is perhaps the best description I can offer. The training is such mutable thing, the description would have to change based on who was asking and his or her world view.
I can offer one final thought: the experience of the training is very individual and so while what little I have said here is true for me, it may be entirely untrue for everyone else.
See you soon.
When I went to see Girl Talk Theatre I didn’t know if I would enjoy it or not. Lately I’ve been to see some theater that was very transforming and helpful to the people creating it, and or a small part of audience but not as relevant to the rest of us who were there. I support the use of theater in healing and transformation one thousand percent, and I will sit through theatrical works of this nature because I believe the audience is an essential for the cyclical energy of live performance to exist. I’ll continue to watch these things even if I enjoy them less than more polished productions created by professional artists. I can support it for what it is even if I only mildly like it.
This was not the experience at Girl Talk Theatre’s Shelter from the Storm The production was made up of a series of mini-plays, spoken chorus, mock interviews, and stories told by an ensemble of women who were ,and are homeless. The first mini-play “The Bed Lottery” introduced the audience to the some of the realities of homelessness, both the bleak and the bright all of which were unexpected. As we follow a woman new to the system the themes of compassion, and gratitude surface time and again. We get a glimpse of how confusing the homeless shelters are, how the system is a maze of twists and turns, with so many rules. We also see how and why the rules keep everyone in the care of the system safe. The relationship with the rules is summarized in the line “The rules are our enemy, the rules are our friend.”
The most powerful part of Shelter from the Storm Is that it pulls draws out your soul and not only touches but merges you with the souls of the performers. Regardless of your ethnicity, gender or background you can see yourself as these women. You feel like you take their journey as they share it. Anyone who lives in the city encounters homeless people on a daily basis. Most of us have developed an emotional armor that allows us to go about our daily lives without being overly effected. Maybe some of donate to charity, or occasionally give some spare change. Shelter from the Storm quietly and gently shatters that emotional armor transforming the audience to being of pure empathy. Becoming homeless is something I have always been afraid of, in this state of empathy and not armor the answer to facing my fear came. The Piece Yvonne’s Boots brings us on a woman’s journey from how easily she lost everything to when she gets her new home. The story carried me right down the long dark tunnel of my fear and out the other side. Which is a gift I never expected.
The ensemble were not professionals, and their art was raw sincere, powerful, charming, and so very human. Its some of the best theater I have ever seen. If you have a chance to see Shelter from the Storm or another Girl Talk Theatre event you should definitely do so.
My first visit to Provincetown began at Long Wharf waiting for the Ferry. It was a little chilly. I had a Ticket for the boat, a big suitcase and my backpack.
My cast mates arrived just moments before we disembarked and sailed down the coast of Massachusetts.
For 90 minutes the ferry sailed on the ocean. We weren’t far out to sea but in a way it still felt a little isolated.
Until we reached Provincetown. Then it felt like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The place was unfamiliar but we were met by familiar faces. And it seemed like The last cheer of summer had hung back in this part of the world.
Everywhere you turned there seemed to be someone friendly who knew why you were there and was able to help. It was one of the warmest welcomes I have ever experienced. It felt like the entire community of Provincetown is part of the festival.
It is a gift to be a part of it. The artists technicians and scholars come from all over the world. They are at the tops of their craft. They walk and work among the most notable persons in theater and film.
I kept wondering Who thinks that I deserve to be with these people? And I was very grateful someone did.
It’s been a great few weeks!
In one week I filmed an industrial in the coolest setting ever the New Bedford Ocean Explorium, and shot a CT lottery commercial. The commercial shot the night before I road tripped down to Asheville NC for my friend’s wedding. It was a great time had by all. We were surrounded by deep rainforests, ancient mountains, and true southern celebration. For me it was all strange new, and culture shock in best possible way.
While I was still down south I was booked for another commercial for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of R.I. Rhode Island friends keep an Eye out for that one!
The year before last I decided to change how I showed up in my career. I want to be seen as an actor worth leading roles in meaningful projects. I’ve been pretty successful but I want more challenging parts. I’ve been working toward that goal since then. Getting more training, and putting it to the test. And believing I am ready for the roles that I really want instead of my old mindset of “I’ll take anything I’m offered.” The other day I was on set with a friend and we were catching up about what we’d been working on. I described my recent project The Van Meder Trust, a play about identity, family loyalty and racial bias, and A Member of the Wedding, a play about adolescence, love, homosexuality and isolation. After I described them she told me she really liked that I was working on projects about issues we’re still working through today. It was one of the nicest things anyone said to me. It also makes me feel like I am moving in the right direction as far as how I want to be seen