Douglas Young is performing in Theatre Convivio's production of "The Fantasticks," opening Thursday at the Bellview Grange in Ashland. Young works in the computer industry; but with a bachelor's degree in theater and his love for acting, Young often can be seen on stage in community theater productions. We chatted at Ruby's Neighborhood Restaurant one summer afternoon.
EH: What attracted you to acting?
DY: It was the ability to explore the inner workings of people very unlike me, that exploration of other people in a very real way. I embodied them. I had to think about, "How do they feel, and how would they represent themselves externally to other people?" It's almost a physical knowledge of another person and how they might behave. It's still my imagination, but it's informed by my study of this other character.
I found it very intriguing and very fulfilling to explore other people. It helped me to be a nicer person, too — more understanding of others. When I was young, I had some very strict ideas of how people must behave. Exploring theater was a way for me to broaden my allowances for the kinds of people who were OK in this world.
Good actors have a good understanding of character. They're not looking just at the surface; they are grounded in a character's real desires and real needs. That's what I try to do as an actor. As you memorize the lines and start to understand some of the inner life of the character — and the interactions with the other characters — things start to click. It's very exciting to see these people come alive as the playwright may or may not have imagined.
EH: What makes a good director?
DY: I like directors who give just enough structure to encourage me as an actor to organically grow the character and the connections to the other characters in the play. As an actor, I can do a lot of work in interpreting the character, but there's an overall story that individual actors sometimes miss. The director can see it, to make sure the story comes out, and to bring to life for an audience those characters that are on the page.
There are directors who I can trust. When I'm exploring, I can go big with something or I can go understated. The director can help me find the balance for the production.
For me, it's important that we focus on the positive: "What's good about what we're doing, and how can we make it better?" It's more important in a rehearsal process to explore and find what's good — the bad will drop away.
EH: As an audience member, what do you find compelling about live theater?
DY: When I'm watching a play, I'm part of it. I laugh, the performers hear me, and they may adjust their performance based on what I do. Although they have the same script, and may not vary their words, the rhythm of it may change because of the way this audience is reacting. That's very exciting to me as an audience member, because I can go to see a show twice and say, "Wow. That was different; that felt different; I got different things out of it the second time." As an audience member, I have to respond to the changes because the show actually changed. Every performance is unique that way.
Theatre Convivio's "The Fantasticks," written by Tom Jones with music by Harvey Schmidt and direction by Richard Heller, plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, Aug. 1-18, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Aug. 11 and 18, at the Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road, Ashland. For more information, visit www.theatreconvivio.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 541-708-1817.
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.