A new summer theater program in Carmel trains young actors to have their stage cake and eat it, too.
Thursday, July 25, 2002
Photo: Forward, Troupes- John Farmanesh-Bocca (far right) applauds cast members of Othello and Romeo and Juliet at the close of a previous year''s season.
Depending on the point of view, John Farmanesh-Bocca and his young troupe are either breaking new ground or unearthing the oldest traditions of theater. The Performing Arts Conservatory of Carmel, which is presenting performances of The Medea Project this week, is now in its fourth season of providing career training for young acto ah Strike that. Artistic Director Farmanesh-Bocca and company are looking to do a lot more than train actors.
"The training is about multiple disciplines," he says. "A joke we make is that a monkey can sing, act and dance. We want to do ten things. We want to write, we want to produce, we want to paint We ultimately want to be creators, not actors. Actors are wonderful but, at the end of the day, they are wonderful only as part of the collaborative process."
PACC''s multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach to the art of theater is making an impression in the world of academia. Members trained by the company have been accepted to some of the finest drama programs in the country, including Harvard, Sara Lawrence, Trinity and NYU, where they receive more traditional theater training before returning to PACC during the summer to continue their training here.
The productions mounted by PACC over the last four years (including renditions of Hamlet, Othello, The Maids and an original script titled Karm-Hell) demonstrate the company''s philosophy. Performances are very physical, looking as much like contemporary dance concerts as they do "traditional" theater productions and movement is almost balletic. The acting is more stylized than in most contemporary theater and the emphasis on the use of the voice as an instrument with a dynamic range is evident.
For Farmanesh-Bocca, these are the skills of any good actor.
"An actor is an athlete of the mind, athlete of the heart, athlete of the body and athlete of the voice. Absolutely 100 percent of you is being used. These are the kind of actors that give you an adrenaline rush when you see them."
Creative and personal interpretations of scripts are also obvious, as this week''s production points out. The Medea Project is a three-playlet production centered around Maddie, the company''s interpretation of Euripedes'' tragedy of love and revenge. It also includes The Alchemist and Africa, the latter an original story based on one student''s quandary over whether to continue in school or join the Peace Corps.
"Each plot kind of has a crossing," explains Farmanesh-Bocca. "Other than that they have nothing to do with each other except that we tell the stories through stories of travel."
Farmanesh-Bocca says the production will highlight the young company''s approach to theater.
"There''s a lot of movement, a lot of music and a lot of non-traditional storytelling using the body," he says. "But it''s weird to me to say non-traditional, because I think this is the way stories started. Cavemen came back and told their stories, and they didn''t use language all the time."
The backbone of the company''s approach to its productions is a spirit of collaboration. Unlike most theater and film where everyone, from actor to lighting technician, has a specific role (and, as a result, a closely guarded turf), PACC looks to incorporate a broad range of member input.
"Theater to us is not about agendas," says Farmanesh-Bocca, "it''s not about imposing our will on a situation or another person. It is about listening, giving and coming from a place of compassion and love. The ego-based world of theater and film is all about will and agendas, and there''s a real lack of allowing space for things to happen. So, of course, those are problems that theater is going to have-just as any business or family would have when there''s a lack of compassion and listening."
While PACC''s approach flies in the face of more mainstream theater practitioners, and sounds like it could lead to chaos, Farmanesh-Bocca says the result is quite different.
"It''s like jazz; when one instrument takes the lead, the others fall back and support."