Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A THOUSAND WORDS- Interview with actor T. Stacy Hicks

As promised, here is another interview with a cast member of A Thousand Words (opening February 16th). This time it is actor  T. Stacy Hicks, who plays a total of three characters in this production. Here he offers insight into the experience of working on the show.

What has it been like for you to perform in the world premiere of a new play?

It's been a very exciting process originating not one but three new roles.  It's required a certain amount of dexterity and ingenuity to create three distinct characters, each with their own voice and personality.  Working on a new play allows the actor to have a hand in developing the piece, to make suggestions and to have input on how the play will finally take shape, not just in this run of the play but in all subsequent incarnations.  The product that the audience ultimately sees is usually a collaboration between the writer, director, and actors but a new play is even more so.
What is it like to have the playwright in the room to watch the development of the show?  How has this process affected your performance?

This is the second new show in a row on which I've worked and it's been a pleasure to have the playwright in the room both times.  I imagine, if one is a playwright that it's very easy to get too emotionally attached to the words you've written: too close and personal to maintain objectivity.  Fortunately that was not the case in either playwright with whom I've worked.  In both cases the author was open to changes and suggestions made by the cast and the director.  I imagine that a strong playwright would realize that having a group of smart actors work on their play would provide them with an opportunity to make improvements in the text.  Having the playwright in the room has been helpful in clarifying the intentions of my characters and allowed me to know the inspirations used in writing the words I get to perform.
 Do you have any thoughts about the progression of the show as it moves from Madison to Milwaukee?

It's still a working, growing piece which is very exciting.  We continue to make changes so the show the Milwaukee audience sees will be a different one than the Madison audience saw.  We learned things in Madison that will affect how the show is presented in Milwaukee.  We're also putting the show into a slightly different, somewhat more intimate space in Milwaukee so that's going to change how the scenes play and where we'll place our focus.  The Milwaukee audience will have different tastes and aesthetics so I'm really excited to see how they might react differently and what resonates for them, how certain ideas land and are received.

This play is very topical in our current socioeconomic climate. What are your thoughts as an actor as to why this is a positive piece to be pursuing right at this point in American history?

I was somewhat taken aback in Madison by how one of my characters was viewed for that very reason.  Our Madison audience was passionate and often down right defensive when it comes to the subject of funding for the arts and who gets to profit from the work created by others.  I was heartened by their willingness (though I think it was somewhat misguided) to circle the wagons around and defend the creative process from those they saw as exploiters of creativity.  This is a very topical issue as more and more artists and arts organizations are stripped of their government funding and left to their own devices to supplement their work.  I also think, because of the duel time lines in the show, we really get to examine the ideas of intellectual property and controlling our image that have arisen as a result of the social media driven society in which we now live, issues that weren't even considered at the time in which Walker Evans was working.

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