Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Meet the cast of Brilliant Traces: Michael Khanlarian

If I must be wrung through the paradox, - - - broken into wholeness, wring me around the moon; pelt me with particles from the dark side. Fling me into space; hide me in a black hole. Let me dance with devils on dead stars. Let my scars leave brilliant traces, for my highborn soul seeks its hell - - - in high places.

Individuation by Avah Pevlor Johnson

Hello everyone, Threepenny is opening a new show this Friday when we present Brilliant Traces by Cindy Lou Johnson, running June 19-June 28th at TheatreWorks, 8:00pm start time for Fridays and Saturdays, 2:00pm on Sundays, and a performance on Monday night, June 22nd at 8:00pm.

Brilliant Traces is an short two-person show with a very strange premise. Henry Harry is a reclusive man living alone in the Alaskan wilderness. His isolation is interrupted during a snow storm by the arrival of a woman clad only in a wedding dress and flimsy satin shoes. What follows is an intimate look at the power of trauma and the difficulty in finding real human connection in this world. Let's meet the actors.

Michael Khanlarian - Henry Harry

Welcome to the blog! What's your name and who are you playing?

I am Michael Khanlarian, and I'm playing Henry Harry.

Michael, this is your first show with Threepenny Theatre. How did you find the company?

Well, I have been working with Matt Crewse, the artistic director of Threepenny for a very long time now. We met in college and we worked together at Tennessee Shakespeare Company, and we've done several independent projects around town, so I have a very good working relationship with Matt. The only Threepenny show I've been able to see so far was Long Day's Journey Into Night, which I was very impressed by (editor's note: Michael recently returned to Memphis after living in Los Angeles).

How did you get into acting in general?

I actually had no intention of acting when I was a kid or even in high school or in college. In fact, the only reason I got into acting at all was that I was in college, and I was just kind of swimming. I didn't really know what I was going to do, because I was just told to go, you know? I was told I was supposed to go to college, so I was just kind of hanging out, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, and I was walking by the theatre building one day... and I saw a girl. She went into an audition... and then I followed her into the audition, and that's pretty much how it started and I've just sort of rolled on from there. I forgot about her and fell in love with acting.

That's almost kind of romantic, man.

It is kinda romantic! *laughs*

How do you like to prepare for a role? Do you have a particular way you like to perform?

It's different every time. I mean, I'm used to doing Shakespeare, especially the last couple of years, or narrative theatre. So with that, I start with the language and the text. But with every role, especially one like this, it's different. It's always different. I don't have a set way of doing things. I just try and connect things to me in some way.

Brilliant Traces is an interesting show. It's only two actors, you and Meghan Lisi, so what's it like doing a show where there aren't a multitude of characters to engage with?

It's difficult. I've never had such a hard time with lines before, and I don't think it's because we have so many lines, it's more that both of our characters lie a lot. We lie about a lot of the same things. We both have these specific traumas that we lie about, and we lie about it in different ways, so it makes it difficult to keep things straight. But working with someone like Meghan, once you have the lines down, it's really easy. I enjoy it. I brought this play to Matt's attention, so I knew this play was right for me.

It's interesting you used the word "trauma," because I wanted to ask about that. This play, when I read it, it just strikes me that it is all about trauma and the nature of what causes trauma. How do you think a play like this is beneficial to Memphis audiences?

Well, I think the cool thing about this play and what really draws me towards it is that it is about two people who are... how do I put this... weak is not the word... they are vulnerable. Vulnerable people, as we all are. And you get to see these people be real with each other. It takes a while, but they are trapped in this space together and they have to deal with each other. And it's a man and a woman, and I don't think that's an accident. It's that dynamic, and Cindy Lou Johnson does a really good job capturing that tension between a man and a woman when they HAVE to deal with each other when all pretense is gone. It starts of with them having to try to deal and be polite, but then the gloves come off. These two people have trauma in their lives, and the title, Brilliant Traces, is a reference to a poem written by Cindy Lou's mother. "Brilliant Traces" are the scars that we carry in our lives because of the traumas we endure. And Henry Harry, the character I play, he's a walking scar, and his counterpart, Rosannah DeLuce, is an open wound, and she comes into his house and he has to deal with these wounds. So I think Memphis audiences can find something emotionally moving in watching these two people be vulnerable with each other. You get to see a man and a woman being open and generous with each other, and with Meghan, who is so open and generous with her performance, you get to see two actors at the top of their game.

Any last words to audiences coming to see Brilliant Traces?

I think this play is not to be missed. If you want to see two actors at the top of their games being open an present with each other, and being vulnerable, you can't get better than this.

Thank you Michael! Be sure to check out the blog Thursday, when we sit down with the other half of this show. And we hope to see you all at Brilliant Traces, opening this Friday at TheatreWorks. Every show is Set-Your-Own-Admission!

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