An artist’s responsibility to say something

Actor/Writer Cynthia Rogan will perform in Camelot Theatre’s next production, “Calendar Girls,” opening Feb. 8. Based on a true story and popular movie, the play tells about the making of a pin-up calendar by photographing ordinary middle-aged women. Rogan, a former blues singer from Mobile, Alabama, writes, acts, and performs improvisational theater in the Rogue Valley. We met at Starbucks on Bartlett Street in Medford.

EH: Tell me about your experience with improvisational theater.

CR: That is some scary stuff. You have to know when to start on something else. If it is not good, it is horrid. When you are in the moment, you don’t always know if it’s not working.

H: What do you do to prepare?

CR: Practicing with the people you’re working with is all you can really do to prepare for it. And even then, you never know what the audience is going to throw at you. The group you’re playing with has to be your net. If someone starts to fall, you catch them, and you give them something else to look at, to keep the members of the troupe going and to keep the audience interested. Improvisation is exhilarating.

EH: What’s the difference between improvising and acting in a play?

CR: Doing a play is so much easier, because you have one character. In improvisation, you never know who you’re going to be or where you’re going to be. Improvisation is really free-style stuff.

With acting you know who you are, and what you’re going to say. It is easier in a lot of ways. But then you do get stuck in a character. The upside of improvisation is: if you do play a character, you’re not there for very long.

I think that acting in theater gives you the opportunity to explore where someone else is coming from. When my daughter was in high school, she was in the theater department. What really impressed me was how the kids would open up. When they got to step outside of themselves, examine someone else’s point of view, and then act as that person, their empathy and their growth were just phenomenal.

EH: Tell me about your play-writing.

CR: I’m funny, but I’m also serious. You have to poke fun at yourself. If you write something, and you want the audience to laugh, they have to see something funny in themselves. If you can get their attention by making them laugh at themselves, they become part of it, and so they are open to the serious stuff you have to say. It helps them identify if they can laugh.

As an artist, I believe that when I’ve got someone’s attention, I feel a responsibility to say something. Theater has the ability to change people’s minds, make them think and make them feel things that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to feel or think without it.

Theater is more life-like than any other medium. It’s a living thing. That ebb and flow comes from the audience too. They’re looking at you, they’re listening; you have got their attention. It’s such an intimate kind of setting. It’s intimate between the person in the audience and what is going on onstage. It’s such a personal thing. Sometimes, when I see a show, it takes me at least until the next day to process it. I have to think about where it took me. It’s big.

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