"There is no safety net and you are out there on the wire." - Ian Swift
Evalyn Hansen: What is it that is unique about theater?
Ian Swift: I think it’s something you don’t do by yourself; it’s something that you have to involve others in. Even if you are doing a one-man show, you still have a producer, a light crew, sound, whatever. It’s a team effort. It’s unique in that respect. It is a team sport. With painting, composing, writing — it’s a solo thing.
What goes into theater is extraordinary. You come together to do a play, and it’s like a bunch of folks put on an elevator. And the elevator gets stuck. And you are with these human beings for a very intense period of time, for five or six weeks of rehearsal. You see them almost on a daily basis. Theater also calls for putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Otherwise I don’t think it makes for a good actor.
"Maybe it's the schizophrenic in us all that just wants to be everybody all of the time." — Mark Barsekian
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.
Let me tell you about my “non-traditional” theater student experience at Southern Oregon University. I originally visited the campus while ushering my son, Cole Robinson, around to various college campuses as he was getting ready to graduate from Newport High School on the Oregon Coast. He chose University of Oregon, and for myself, I chose SOU. I applied for post baccalaureate status and moved to Ashland.
Wandering into a drama in Western culture class one sunny day, I met the professors, picked up the books, went home and read the first plays assigned, Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound” and then “The Oresteia.” When I put down the plays, I was smitten. It’s been a peek-a-boo romance with academic theater ever since. It would have been total engagement, except for the usual problem of making a living.
Over coffee and root beer at Bloomsbury Coffee House, Doug Ham described the theatrical team experience.
EH: Theater is life-giving, in a way, isn’t it?
DH: The first show I was ever in was during the height of the Vietnam War. People were afraid of being drafted. I was a mess. At the end of the show this couple came up to me and said it was so cool for two hours to come into the theater and to be able to laugh out loud and to and forget about all that is going on outside. I thought, “Well this is what I need to be doing.” It can be an escape and it can be a teacher.