Using acting craft to change people’s lives

Simone Stewart will be playing in “How the Other Half Loves,” Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy about marriage and infidelity, which opens Feb. 24, at the Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. I met Stewart for lunch at the BricktownE Brewery in Medford.

SS: There are so many places to be an actor in the Rogue Valley. The theater community has gotten bigger and stronger; it has grown and blossomed. There is so much going on. It’s funny how you do a lot of Community Theater here.

EH: What’s unique about Community Theater?

SS: You learn from each other. Everyone comes from a different background. You learn what other people do to prepare to go on stage. Actors have such weird superstitions. Some actors bring in a totem for good luck, whether it’s a Buddha statue or a rabbit’s foot. A lot of us say mantras before we go on to get ourselves centered.EH: What’s your mantra?

SS: “I will give the best performance, and I will give the audience something to remember.” I want them to leave the theater having been changed. That’s the purpose of theater, to have an experience that actually changes you and how you approach something in your life.

EH: How do you prepare for a role?

SS: I always write a character analysis. I studied the Stanislavsky Method at Cal Berkeley. It’s being authentic, knowing who you are and where you came from. You create a background for your character. You know: when you were born; who your parents were; where you went to school; your situation growing up; and what the triggers are for you, as a person.

You want to be a real person on stage. The audience needs to be able to relate to you, to have some empathy for your character, and what your story is. The Stanislavsky Method is knowing who you are and where you were before the action started; then, where you’re going to go with it, because of who you are and what your experience is, as the person on stage, not the character, but as the person.

Actors work very hard. We make it look easy, but we work hard. The reason I like being an actor is that you get to work on so many different projects in a given year. Last year, I worked on four TV commercials, three films, and three plays. That means I got to be a dozen different people, different characters experiencing different lives. It’s so much fun. You never know what’s going to happen next. You have to live life to the fullest. One way to do it is to play different characters in different situations.

I don’t have any fear of taking risks. As an actor, that is probably the most important quality to have. All of acting is about putting yourself out there and baring your emotions. Fear stops a lot of people from doing what they should be doing, living their lives. Fear doesn’t really exist. It only exists in your mind, or it manifests itself physically, like a quickly beating heart. People always ask me, “You don’t get stage fright?” The opposite happens. I get a euphoric feeling, especially just before an entrance. I can use all of that energy (what would be nervous energy for other people) and focus it into the performance, getting into that character, being present in that space. It’s all about taking that risk, and not being afraid.

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