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.
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.