Actor, director and associate professor Jackie Apodaca directed Jose Rivera's "Marisol," which is playing this week at Southern Oregon University's Center Stage Theatre. The production's sensational staging, ensemble acting and stage movement blend bizarre and beautiful elements to create a compelling theatrical experience. Jackie and I met over breakfast at Greenleaf Restaurant in Ashland.
EH: What is unique about the theater experience?
JA: It is the live experience of it. Everyone is experiencing the exact same moment and will have the shared experience. There is something exciting about that fleeting and momentary experience. And you experience it as the actor, as the director, as the stage manager, as the run-crew, and as the audience. The experience is so close and intimate between the audience and the performers in that way.
Whereas in film, everyone experienced something, and then someone took it away, changed everything about it, and brought it back and showed you what it was. Film seems more intimate in that you see the actor's face close up, but it has gone through so many processes before you got to see it. Did you really get to see what they did? Probably not.
I worked with filmmakers when I taught in the Film and Media Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I loved that, but film is completely the medium of the director and the editor. We would change the actor's performance in the editing room. And we would talk about how we could make them seem to be doing different things. There is so much that can be controlled outside of the actor and outside of the moment. In post-production, the moment is gone and completely changed.
EH: What does a theater arts education give young actors?
JA: I teach a business of acting class at SOU so that they have some preparation for what's coming. The reality of how much you are at the whim of other people, to do the thing that you consider your art, is really shocking. It can be a hard situation.
In theater training, in acting training, you learn to work in ensemble, with a group of people. Working in a group is complicated and difficult; and you learn to do it to a degree that most people don't get an opportunity to prepare for, in any kind of a way.
You learn an incredible work ethic in theater. You learn basic human requirements for being a good worker. You also are working towards a common goal with a group of people, making this goal paramount, and getting it done. You learn to work towards a specific goal rapidly and with complete focus.
It's true that most of them won't go on to be professional actors. What we are giving them will make them successful doctors and lawyers, whatever they decide to do, more than pre-professional disciplines. If you pretrain for something, and you are only training to get into the profession, and you have not looked outside of it, it can be very limiting.
People are attracted to acting because they are interested in humanity; and they're usually quite empathetic people. A lot of them go on and become social workers or psychologists because they care about people. In theater arts, we're looking at the human condition and learning hard work and group dynamic skills that can take you far in whatever profession you decide to apply yourself to. To allow that kind of exploration is fantastic.
"Marisol", by Jose Rivera, plays at 8 p.m. today through Saturday, November 8-10, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov 10-11, in the Center Square Theatre at Southern Oregon University. For tickets and information, call 541-552-6348.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.