Actor/director Peter Alzado plays Joe Keller in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” now playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. A veteran actor of Broadway, television and film, Alzado spent five years as artistic director of the Actors' Theatre (now the Camelot Theatre) before founding Oregon Stage Works, where he served as artistic director for 10 years. We met at Pony Espresso one sunny afternoon.
EH: Why is “All My Sons” pertinent today?
PA: It’s about responsibility to the greater good. Just being responsible to yourself and to your family doesn’t cut it. Individually, we have a responsibility to the world. If we disregard that responsibility, then it wreaks havoc. You’re creating a world of divisiveness, hatred and anger. And it’s a world that doesn’t have basic equality to it. Eventually it wreaks havoc on the people you’re trying most to protect, which is your family and people you love.
EH: How do you develop a play?
PA: To my mind, it’s all about words and action. There are themes: One has to be aware of what those themes are, and how to interpret those themes, so that they are accessible to everybody. What often happens now is, directors are layering things on top of the script that have absolutely nothing to do with the script whatsoever. It’s just coming out of what they think could be creative, but it doesn’t take into consideration the writing. People recognize subliminally (and sometimes consciously) that they are not being told the truth. That “truth” is found in the writing, and if you start layering things on top of the text, people stand up, applaud, say that it’s great, and it meant nothing. It’s an intellectual pretense. That’s not the effect that you want to have in the theater or in any of the arts.
It’s that quest for what is true and common to all humanity. When you can express that — in the writing, the acting, the directing, the painting, the music, the dance — you’re doing something. Then there’s a value to the expressive arts. And if you’re not doing that, not searching for that, and not trying for that, then it’s just a vanity. It has very little meaning — except to gratify people’s need to feel that they’re intellectually in the know.
We are about offering insight into written material. We are in service to the writer. A lot of times, directors feel that they want to throw some concept on the play, or something that is going to be an expression of how creative they can be, that has nothing to do with the material at hand. It’s unfortunate. I think it keeps people away from the theater. It’s boring. It’s just someone’s personal agenda being laid on top of a play. It doesn’t illuminate anything.
Sometimes you can see the director at work on stage. You don’t want to. You want to see the writer and the actor interpreting the writer. It’s not happening without the actor. The actor’s the deal. That’s who’s going to give you the experience. The director’s job is to offer the actor some insight into the moment, and you go moment, by moment, by moment.
You’ve got to know what it is — that’s important to you in the theater. Then you’ve got something to shoot for. Whether you hit the target or not — at least you know there’s integrity to what you’re doing.
If you can touch people’s souls with the writing, directing, and performing — then you’re doing something.
Camelot Theatre’s “All My Sons,” written by Arthur Miller and directed by Mark Schneider, plays through Nov. 12. For tickets and information visit www.camelottheatre.org or call the box office at 541-535-5250.
—Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog at ashlandtheater.wordpress.com. Reach her at email@example.com.