Backstage with Evalyn Hansen
"Maybe it's the schizophrenic in us all that just wants to be everybody all of the time."
— Mark Barsekian, Oregon Cabaret Theatre actor plays Ruby Twankyin Ali Baba
EH: So you're basically an actor?
MB: I love to explore life through the characters I perform. Acting is my retreat. It's when I don't have to be me. Maybe it's the schizophrenic in us all that just wants to be everybody all of the time. Any life that I want to live, I can, just by picking up a script, and doing the homework and dedicating my self to a character and to an author, and being true to what I see: in life and in the text. Because we portray life, we are communicating lives to our audiences, people that they know or will never know. That is one of the gifts of acting.
EH: Tell me about your theater studies.
When I studied Drama at Rogue Community College, John Cole gave me meaty stuff to work with. But most students took the class because they were scared of speaking in front of people. So they took the drama class instead. It makes perfect sense to me. Be someone else and perform, and then you can be yourself. I used to have horrible stage-fright; I still do, when I give speeches or a toast. But you let me put-on some make-up, or someone else's clothes, and someone else's hair and I'll take off my glasses, and stand in front of one-hundred-and-ten people and be someone else, and it's like a comfortable pair of shoes. It's weird, acting is weird.
When I transferred into Southern Oregon University, I took the acting series with Dennis Smith, which is movement, voice, and speech then period styles which starts with the Greeks and moves into Shakespeare, Restoration, and Comedia. I took Shakespeare from Robyn Rodriguez. She taught us techniques that strip away everything that you could possibly think about so all you have are words and emotion. That was amazing
Maggie McClellan's movement class really broke my mold and really showed me what the body does to an actor and how you can alter and mold the body to fit any project. So for instance in Comedy of Errors, I was able to go from a crotchety somewhat debilitated old man to this hoodoo Indian witch doctor that has to move like a dancer and a snake and then turn around and play the old man again.
EH: What is it, about locking into a character?
MB: It's part of the process for me. I've had people ask me what makes it happen. For Instance my character, Ruby Twanky in Ali Baba, hit me full force when I put on her shoes; they're ridiculous, like cupcakes. I had already done the body work that the part entailed; and you know Ruby is not an intensely deep character. But she is a woman to be dealt with. She's not some light flippity nothingness. She's strong, single, widowed, with a mute daughter, living in the desert, making it work; she can't pay the rent, but man does she look good.
Sometimes it is shoes, sometimes it's drilling. Sometimes you wake up from a dream and you're there. It could be an old man I've known throughout my life, that I watch, and observe, and create. You have to cultivate those roles. That locking mechanism, it's different for every part.
EH: Do you have a musical show that would like to do?
MB: I'd love to do a Spotlight at the Camelot Theater. Sinatra would be great; I love Sinatra, or Dean Martin, or the jazz greats or crooners. But for musicals, I'm playing the MC in Cabaret next summer at the Camelot Theater in Talent. I'm bursting out of my shell for that one. It's going to be great.