Choosing the right role

Actor Marshall Gluskin is preparing for the Southern Oregon Theater Auditions now being held at The Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Gluskin played Malvolio in Cil Stengel’s brilliant production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Rogue Community College. He recently toured in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” We visited over tea at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company.

EH: What’s an ideal director?

MG: A good director keeps things on a nice calm level, does not get too personally involved with the work, and carries through the intentions of the author. He has to know the craft and how to treat actors to get the best performances out of them. If everybody treats each other with respect and you have a situation that is relaxed, everybody can be themselves. Then you’re free to be the character. Rehearsals are places where you have to be able to fall on your face, and not worry about being embarrassed or called out for it. You’ve got to have that relaxation, professionalism, knowledge, and experience. It all comes into play.

EH: What kinds of plays do you like to perform in?

MG: I’ve done so many plays of varying kinds; it’s hard to say what my favorite is. Vladimir in “Waiting for Godot” was certainly one of my favorite roles, but so was Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” When you’re playing a role there’s always some area where your personality and the character’s personality intersects, and you try to capitalize on that. Even if you’re playing a serial killer, there’s always something. Laurence Olivier used to say, “Find a hook to hang your hat on.” That’s what I’ve always tried to do.

EH: Tell me about your training at Mountview Academy of Theater Arts in London.

MG: They wanted us to have a thorough understanding of the craft and not just focus on the Method, which was just one way of looking at it. We had a lot of improvisation, mime, movement, dance, stage fighting, and the politics of theater. It was very comprehensive.

EH: How do you prepare for a role?

MG: It depends on the requirements of the play. I don’t think I approach any part the same way twice. I familiarize myself with the script: I understand my character’s relationships within the play. I try to figure out what he’s like outside of the play. Who is this guy in the street? Who is he when he’s at home? I try to love the character, to open myself up to the character, to understand him as a human being.

All the characters are totally different. I try to accept them for what they are. And that helps me to become who they are. If they behave in a way that is totally unlike anything that I would do, I try to understand internally how they got to that point: What it is that they’re expecting from themselves, and what they’re trying to do.

EH: What makes a great play?

MG: The truth of the humanity, the language, the situation; people have to be able to relate to it. There has to be something in the characters and in the situations that people can latch onto, and say, “That’s not too different from my life.”

Sometimes it’s sheer entertainment, and sometimes it’s very deep and probing and psychological. But whatever it is, I try to find the core of it and engage myself to the depth that’s necessary for that particular production. You wouldn’t engage as a heavy Method actor in “Guys and Dolls.” The requirements of that sort of beast are totally different than if you were doing “Hamlet.” That’s the joy of theater, it’s so expansive, and the range is virtually infinite.

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