Monday, September 29, 2014

Meet the cast of #blessed: Jared Graham

As we move in toward #blessed, the first show of our second season (running October 17th - November 2nd at the Evergreen Theatre), we thought it might be fun for everyone to meet the cast. Check out the blog every Monday and Wednesday for Q and A's to help you get to know our company a little bit better!

Jared Graham - Orson
Hello! What's your name, and what's the role you are playing in #blessed? 

My name is Jared Graham. I'm playing Orson Parnelle.

Where are you from ? What do you consider to be your hometown?

I grew up in middle Tennessee in a town called Tullahoma. I lived there for 18 years, and now my folks reside in a town about 15 miles from there called Manchester, where they hold Bonnaroo every summer, so that's where I go home to visit now.

What first drew you to acting?

The attention [laughs]. I did a school play when I was in the third grade and got to play an evil mayor type and just loved the reaction of the audience, so I just kept at if from age seven on.

Where did you receive your training?

A few places. I graduated from the University of Memphis with a B.F.A. in 2008. Before that I had actually studied a year at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. I spent a year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York doing conservatory training there and I also got to spend a semester at the Accademia Dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy before I graduated with my B.F.A. Post-graduate, I went back to the Accademia Dell'Arte and earned my M.F.A. in physical theatre.

Who were your mentors? Who do you admire and look up to, either on-stage or in all aspects of your life?

Real or imaginary [laughs]? I had a lot of really great instructors in Italy that have really kind of changed the way I think and feel about art in general. Scott McGehee was really one of the first people who challenged me to think about what "making art" means in a social and a political context, so ever since taking his courses I've had a deeper appreciation for the role of art and what part the things I can create play in that larger role. Michele Bottini was my acting teacher. He taught us Commedia dell'Arte and really expanded our minds on what it means to be a physical actor or any kind of actor and the kind of awareness and training that goes along with it: the fine tuning of the body that goes into a well rounded actor. Susan Chrietzberg at the U of M was one of my early influences and I really loved all the classes she provided. I took mask-making with her. That was my first experience making masks, which I still do. Movement classes, stage combat: she was a very influential person in the University's program at the time that I was there and she wrote my letter of recommendation when I was applying for grad school, so I've always been very appreciative of her.

What's your favorite part of the theatrical process?

The rehearsal room. Trying new things and seeing if they stick.

What's your least favorite part?

Auditions [laughs].

What are some of your favorite past roles?

One of my earliest, actually my first Shakespeare role was Mercutio (from Romeo and Juliet)  and I'd love the opportunity to play him again. Ensign Pulver from Mister Roberts was a real favorite. Peter Quince (from A Midsummer Night's Dream) is a lot of fun. Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing is also a really fun one.

How would you define your style. What do you like to focus on as you prepare a character?

Well, having a master's in physical theatre, I like to approach my character from a physical standpoint first: how he stands, holds his shoulders, if he's got good posture or bad posture, his age, the weight of the character. I really concentrate on making those decisions first, so I can feel the character in my body and let everything else kind of stem from that.

When you're not working with Threepenny Theatre, how do you spend your time?

Well, I work my make-money job from 8-5, so that takes up a lot of time, but what I love to do in my free time, which I don't have much of, is comic books, video games, art, I draw when I have the opportunity and I watch a lot of TV series [laughs].

How do you like the Threepenny process?

This is my first experience with the Threepenny process and so far I really enjoy it. I think spending a good amount of time with the text before getting on our feet informs a lot of decisions that happen in the rehearsal room. So far the training we've been doing has been beneficial, I think, for myself and for the other members of the cast. I've been privileged to be able to teach the Elemental Body Alignment System (EBAS) to this cast, and I think incorporating large amounts of training into the process is going to be really beneficial for the company as a whole.

The "Big" Question: why do you continue to do what you do onstage, and once you are all said and done, what would you like to have accomplished with your art, not just in this show, but in your life?

When it's all said and done, I want to have inspired and taught others. I want to share the knowledge and technique that I have acquired and continue to expand it throughout my life and hope that I've been able to share my ideas with others who inspire me and, hopefully, have taken some inspiration from me.

Anyone you'd like to send some love out to?

My folks: Tony and Debi Graham, they have supported me every step of the process, probably more than I deserved, and I couldn't be a luckier boy to have them for parents.

Always be closing. Any final words to people about #blessed?

Just come see it. It's going to be a lot of fun.

 And to wrap up, some quick-fire "Inside the Actor's Studio" questions!

What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeic
What is your least favorite word? Moist
What turns you on: creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Seeing others dive into their work and take risks.
What turns you off? People who think they have all the answers.
What sound or noise do you love? Nature, the sounds of the forest
What sound or noise do you hate? Yappy dogs.
What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt? Comic book artist
What profession would you not like to do? Sales of any kind.

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"We've got an open mic night starting up in an hour... and we need a M.C."

Thank you, Jared. Check the blog on Wednesday for another interview!