Greg Younger’s visionary play “Just Cause” was given a dramatic reading last month at the Ashland Playwrights Actors Atelier, a monthly workshop that allows local playwrights to hear their work. It was received by a delighted audience. Even though acting has been Younger’s primary career for decades, he considers himself first and foremost a playwright. We chatted on the terrace of the Nom Yen bubble tea house on Siskiyou Boulevard one sunny afternoon.
GY: I read recently that every playwright should have a group of people; that’s definitely the case, you need one. I’m very fortunate for the Atelier reading, although performance is a different animal altogether.
EH: Why are some of us passionate about theater?
GY: It’s the creative spirit. There’s very little banality in it; and it’s exciting. That’s why I’m there, to create, to get invested. I’m not putting on product. I’m putting on something that will move people in one way or another.
The Greeks understood that the stage was the window of the soul. To examine one’s humanity, and relationships, and what that’s all about, is one of the greatest reasons that we’re here. I find it the most grounding thing ever.
Theater allowed me to examine parts of myself I never would have been able to do in any other venue. I certainly couldn’t do it in any of the zillion jobs that I’ve had to support it. Going to the depths of your soul and screaming from there: Delight. There is just a joy that I feel when I’m present and alive on stage which is unequaled anywhere else. The same is why I write theater.
Theater is about spatial relationships. When you see the actors in person, there is a dynamic; the distance between them speaks. That is something that you cannot put on the page. So it takes a very astute reader of plays to know what a good play looks like, rather than a talking drama. I advise every single playwright to get on the stage and do a show.
Paramount is the play. The play is more than the script; it’s more than the actors; it’s more than the director; it’s all those together. It’s give-and-take. It’s very much a communal process. There’s a saying, “When you enter the rehearsal hall, leave your hat at the door.” It’s not about you. It’s about the play; it’s about what we’re creating. Leave everything behind.
EH: What makes a great actor?
GY: Versatility, openness, humility; the mind of a psychologist or a psychiatrist, somebody who is actually interested in the human condition, interested in other people, and curious.
For me, the ultimate actor is the Lawrence Olivier type, who stretches his boundaries, who can do anything.
The ability to witness: put awareness above and back of yourself. The ability to inhabit a world, inhabit it in front of other people and respect what that fourth wall is all about.
EH: The imaginary world?
GY: When you’re on stage, it’s not imaginary. It’s more real than this world is. It’s more profound, it’s deeper, certainly, and it smacks of poetry, the best kind of poetry. It’s not: “I’m just pretending on stage.” No way. Acting is being. What is essential for great acting is that you understand that: This is heightened reality. You’re in the thick of it, and it’s a beautiful thing. But it’s not pretending.
The Ashland Playwrights Actors Atelier brings together Rogue Valley writers and actors to read and analyze new plays. Readings take place the last Monday of each month. The next scheduled reading will be 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29 in the Gresham Room of the Ashland library with “The Angel Capone” by David Copelin. For more information, visit http://playwrightsatelier.org.