Monday, June 3, 2013

Interview with Freehold Faculty Member Andrew McGinn

We are excited that Andrew McGinn has joined Freehold's Faculty and will be teaching with us this summer at Freehold.  Andrew will be participating in Freehold's workshop of Henry IV this summer in preparation of our Engaged Theatre Tour of the production in 2014.

You have an extensive background in the performing arts including getting a degree at Julliard. When you look on your experience at Julliard what are a few highlights of your experience there?

To be honest, the real highlight at Juilliard was learning to be ready to be knocked around inside of plays, and whatever comes into the imagination because of them.  It was an incredible, and hard earned experience to really get what people mean when they say 'don't do things, but be in the moment!'.  You hear that all the time, all the time... while at Juilliard we had these super-long exercises with expert guidance where basically your ego and fear would become exhausted and all you could do was be at the mercy of the impulses that hit you purely from the fiction.

Congratulations on your recent graduation from the UW's MFA in Directing program. What surprised you and/or inspired you in the training you received there? 

Thank You!  Directing and Acting are really extremely different in practice, but of course the aims are the same: to serve up a good story.  The benefits of training really are all about becoming conscious of the elements that make good stories so you can strengthen them.  It's essential to being able to develop a process you and others can depend on.  The richness of UW was that you had actors, directors, designers, and scholars -when we could get them- all becoming conscious together of what their jobs were and what they needed to do to support the story.  My biggest take away aside from an increased understanding of plot construction and composition, was that everybody's job to tell the story goes through supporting the other elements and making them shine on the plot.  And while that's my favorite particular sort of personal discovery, the key point is that training makes you conscious and mindful of how you're working and why.  I suppose that's what they call skill, and if you don't train for it but have it than you're a Martian genius and God bless you.

You have worked in film, theatre and commercials.  Can you talk a little bit about your approach and process to the work you do in those areas and how they are similar and how they are different.

Between theater and film, most actors make their great leaps in one medium or the other and then that medium forever feels like 'truth' for them.  For me it was theater and it took a while to become conscious that I could still be truthful in that camera frame, and all I was lacking was technique.  The techniques are different, and the creative environments of the two really are like night and day.  But, while someone may be more temperamentally fit for one or the other it doesn't mean it can't be learned, and should continue to be learned until the end of days.  An obvious example is the voice: in theater you have to be louder and in film you have to be quieter.  Some voices are louder or quieter than others so they may feel more 'truthful' in a particular medium, but that doesn't mean the other medium is less truthful for that person not being in it - or that that person couldn't make the other medium truthful with training and practice.  

I understand you lived in NYC and worked as an actor there for a number of years before coming to Seattle.  Could you share a little bit about your experiences as a working actor in NYC? 

New York has a narcotic feel to it because 'something huge could happen at any moment!' that will make you rich and famous.  That draw is special, and fun.  But being an artist is absolutely the sole most important thing to the actors out here.  The integrity is astounding.  On any given night in NYC, there's 100 plays happening and 10 are good.  In Seattle there's 20, and 10 are good, and that I think is a direct result of how much people care about what they're doing in Seattle.  Theater is so, so good here.

You are going to be performing in Henry IV as part of Freehold's workshopping of Henry IV this coming summer as part of our Engaged Theatre program.  What are you looking forward to as you head into rehearsing?

Yes I am, and I'm thrilled about it.  I'm really interested in getting to explore first-hand the relationship between Falstaff and young Henry.  It's this cross-generational, cross-class, and in our case cross-racial friendship that really has no business existing because of the differences in their circumstances.  Falstaff has shunned the aristocracy and blown his cash on booze, meanwhile Henry is the Heir Apparent and has the weight of the nation at war on his shoulders.  But there's this wonderful thing that brings them together, that when we really stop and look at it is one of the tenderest, and most precious things in life: fun.  They have so much fun together!  I'm sure we'd all agree that many of the best and most meaningful times in our lives were fun as hell, and it makes us sad to see them go.  So, the way Shakespeare looks into really how essential fun is to us is an exciting mystery for me that I can't wait to get into with Robin and Reggie.

Andrew McGinn will be playing Falstaff to Reginald Andre Jackson's Prince Henry in Henry IV, directed by Robin Lynn Smith.

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