Monday, July 6, 2015

An interview with G. Valmont Thomas

G. Valmont Thomas, one of our newest faculty members, has had a lively and legendary career in Northwest theatre (and beyond!) since the 1980's, and was once dubbed the "hardest-working actor in Seattle." We were lucky enough to interview him for the blog this weekend. G. Valmont Thomas will be teaching Voice Over with us this summer! Read on to learn more about him.

Freehold: Tell us a little bit about your background as a director and performer. How did you first become involved with theatre?

Well, If I go into detail about when I FIRST got involved with theatre, that story will take up too much space, so I will just say, it was in high school.
And I will name the woman who developed in me a love and a discipline for actually WORKing so that I could PLAY! Her name was Virginia Heidbrieder and she taught at Clover Park High School in Tacoma, WA. This woman saw something in me and worked to instill in me a love for this art form that hasn't been equaled by anything else since. I had the great luck to attend WWSC which is now WWU, in Bellingham, starting in 1977, the first year of teaching there for a man named Tom Ward who created a company there and taught us all that EVERYbody was needed to make theatre work. I have been extremely lucky in my career to have been part of a number of companies: The Bathhouse Theatre Company, The Seattle Group Theatre Company, The Empty Space Theatre Company, and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Acting Company. My BA is in Theatre Arts from Western Washington University, My MFA is in Directing For The Theatre from Penn State University.

What brought you to Freehold?

Believe it or not, I have been in talks with Robin Lynn Smith for quite a few years to join this group of teaching artists! We just always discovered that our schedules either conflicted, or never matched up. Finally, it worked out for both of us!

Can you share with us a memorable onstage or backstage moment?

One indelible memory took place in Ashland, OR on September 11, 2001. As soon as everyone learned what happened in New York City, we came together as a company to discuss whether or not we should perform that day. Many of us believed that performing was not a good idea. We cancelled the matinee performances to talk and finally decided to go on for the evening shows. Libby Appel, our AD at the time, reminded us that "People have traveled a long way to be here with us. We are the closest thing many of them have to family here in Ashland." We began each performance with a silent candlelight ceremony where we walked onstage as a cast and just stood with lit candles and everyone, actors and audience, focused on what our country had just gone through. I was in the Bowmer Theatre, and in the Elizabethan Theatre was a production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE wherein the first line was spoken by Antonio, "In Sooth, I know not why I am so sad." Every line we uttered sounded different that night, than it ever had before or ever would again.

Do you have a favorite project that you've been involved with? What are you working on at the moment?

One of the favorite projects I have ever been involved with is PARTY PEOPLE by a group of artists called UNIVERSES. I have been fortunate enough to perform in it with them at two theatres, OSF and Berkekley Repertory Theatre. It deals with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and The Young Lords. There is music, dancing, poetry, ensemble work, and incredibly poignant scene work. It is just indescribable. They are currently re-working it at Martha's Vineyard in preparation to perform it at The Public in New York. I am looking forward to a production of WATER BY THE SPOONFUL with Theatre 22 in September and October at West Of Lenin. That play takes place mostly online! Should be fun. Then in January I will be appearing in David Mamet's AMERICAN BUFFALO produced by TRUE COLORS Theatre in Atlanta, GA.

What has been your favorite voice over role?

Well, there are two, really. The first one is the "Day-O Guy" from the late, lamented Bon Marche's One Day Sale Radio and Television ads. It made folks smile a lot. The other one is one where I almost didn't accept the job. Blackstone Audio had secured the rights to O.J. Simpson's hypothetical account of the last days of the two people who were murdered at his home, called IF I DID IT and wanted me to narrate the audiobook. I decided that if I was going to do it, I would just have to "go there." It was very tough, but I have heard from people who could stomach it and people who couldn't. Either way, people got mad at the CD player while listening. I count that as a success.

What are you looking forward to teaching in your Voice Over class this summer?

Well, I am looking forward to helping each student identify their strengths and weaknesses when looking to convey emotion persuasively using only their voice. There is a certain frame of mind that one has got to discover for themselves to allow them to find success in the recording booth. Not only that, but there is a usually forgotten relationship with the engineer. As professionals, we don't often talk about it, so in this class, we are going to make a foray into the voice talent/client/engineer triangle that exists at EVERY AUDITION. Very often it is this triangle that wins or loses the job.

G. Valmont Thomas' Voice Over class starts this weekend. Sign up today!

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