Peter Alzado (Oregon Stage Works’ former Artistic Director) is engaged in the creation of a new theater called the NEXT STAGE Repertory Company. One afternoon, we met at Medford’s Craterian Theater, where Alzado is currently in rehearsal for Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, “Talley’s Folly.” We then settled down with tea at nearby Grilla Bites.
EH: What makes a good director?
PA: I think great directors want an ordered world. They need to be able to have a real feeling for space, and how to communicate through space. They need to have an empathetic response to their actors. And they need to have a real sense of literature, and how to communicate those themes through the words that the writer has given them.
I’m not a big fan of, “Let’s do a concept.” I can see the value of it on occasion, but I’m much more aligned with getting out of the way and letting the material speak. If you find a way to allow the material to speak for itself the ideas that you have will enhance the material, and you’ll be dealing thematically with what the play is about. If you do that, I think you’ll have a real visceral impact depending on the writing and the themes. If you don’t do that, the impact and the audience response is intellectual and self-congratulatory. I sometimes find it off-putting. It’s like having somebody in an audience laugh at everything a friend does. I think that directing now is very much aligned to the technical aspects of the theater and less so to the acting.
EH: What makes a good actor?
PA: I think good actors have a strong empathetic response to the world and a desire to express that something. They also have the work ethic to develop that response into a skill that can be expressed and communicated to people. It’s about a skill that allows that feeling for life and people to be honed into an expressive tool.
EH: How do you begin directing a play?
PA: I read the play a lot, and then I start working with the actors. I find that working with the actors and the material in the moment-to-moment reveals itself as you go, and it becomes a series of problem solving in how to communicate the material in the most effective way. I really start with the actors, the situation, and the space that they’re in. And then it kind of reveals itself. Of course the designers are important. But I really start with the actors and trying to find the most concise specific human truth in the text in any given moment. The emotional component becomes a part of that. If you approach a scene in the right way, you’ll find that whatever the emotional component is, whether it’s funny or tragic, it’s a much more powerful effect if it comes though the text than if it’s layered on.
Plainly, you have the set, the lights, the costumes, and then you have the actor. The actor is the deal. That is who is going to communicate. The actor and the writer, that’s where the play lives. And if you can get the actor to stay in the truth and express it, you’re on the right path. You may be impressed with the directorial flourish, but it is the actor. The actor’s the deal.That’s who is going to bring it home.
The NEXT STAGE Repertory Company will kick off its four-play season with the romantic comedy, “Tally’s Folly,” at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Sept. 8-10, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford. For tickets and information, call 541-779-3000.