Alan & Tony: Renaissance Men

A featured event for the 10th anniversary THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY DREAM UP FESTIVAL 2019 is Abdication! Filled with gallows-humor, song, dance, and multi-media, the show is a triumvirate of short plays episode shows how abdication of a portion of human existence pulls a piece out of the house of cards that we call our lives: STUCK: what happens when virtual reality becomes a permanent option? LOVE LOBOTOMY: Don’t want a relationship – we have surgery for that! COLOR SCHEME I’d love to get to know you but I’m blue and you’re green!

I see the parables … how about you?

Performances will be at the Johnson Theater Space at 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), New York City on 09/03: Tuesday, 9pm; 09/04: Wednesday, 6:30pm; 09/05: Thursday, 9pm; 09/06: Friday, 6:30pm; and 09/07: Saturday, 8pm.

Five Star met the producers, director, and writer. The marvelous Meredith Rust was interviewed earlier, here in Showtones, so now let’s continue chatting with more members of the cast.

Alan CordoBa-Diaz started auspiciously in high school in Streetcar Named Desire. Not bad! It fueled him so much that, today, he is an accomplished actor … writer … director. Stella! Tony Scheer could’ve been a cardiologist. He’s all about the heart: “I just try to be as honest and vulnerable as I can. To me, that’s what lets you get to those places where the audience can really connect with you,” says Tony. He’s also an actor … writer … director. A common thread among the company is the Wednesday Repertory Company. Seems they create renaissance people who explode on to the scene.

OK, so, guys, what’s your creative process and how do you make the fantasy elements real?

Alan CordoBa-Diaz: Music plays a huge part for me in the creative process for me because a lot of the times, the right song can help you find an element in a character that you didn’t know existed. The other thing I do is kinda like the same as beating a lie detector test: believing what you’re doing. When I’m on stage, I’m in the story being told, I am that character and the events that are taking place are real. I know it may sound odd but it’s what usually works for me and it’s not overly complicated either. I love it when things are not overly complicated.

Tony Scheer: I feel that empathy is probably the most important trait a person can have. In life and onstage. I do my best to empathize with every character I play. No matter how unthinkable you might feel a character’s motivations or behaviors are, if you use empathy, you can bypass your judgment and realize that people typically do and say what they do because they think they’re right. Unless you’re playing a sociopath, inflicting pain is a side effect, not the goal. As an actor, you can’t accurately portray a character in all their intricacies if you’ve judged them to be the absolute wrongdoer. When it comes to playing such a character, I find it helpful to give him a legitimate, understandable (though not necessarily justifiable) reason for that. Maybe he’s had a rough childhood. Or his heart was broken. It’s layers like this that I feel create interesting characters that audiences are drawn to. To answer part two, I feel like fantasy elements are best rendered by treating them like they’re not fantastic at all. Because, in the world you’re creating onstage, they’re not. They’re the norm. An elf, if it existed, wouldn’t be surprised at its own existence. I’d say, go as crazy with characters and set as you want, then act like it isn’t crazy at all. 

How do you inject humor without losing the message?

Alan CordoBa-Diaz: I honestly do not try at all to be funny because the audience can tell when you’re trying to be funny and 9 times out of 20, it ain’t gonna work. A lot of the times, a ntural reaction to something can be the funniest thing, especially when you’re in the mind of the character you are portraying. 

Tony Scheer: For me, as an actor, humor is similar to fantasy, in that it’s most effective when feigning ignorance of its intention. The playwright can and will take their liberties, write whatever jokes they want, but the jokes are for the audience, not the actors. As an actor, you don’t want to beat an audience over the head with a joke. Also, by downplaying the humor, letting it be natural, you don’t remove the audience from the reality of the situation. It’s easier for an audience to receive a humorous moment then return to the play if the realism hasn’t shifted because of that moment. 

I’ve always felt that anything fantasy sci-fi or horror are cautionary tales. What’s your opinion?

Alan CordoBa-Diaz: When it comes to horror tales, 100 percent. Sci-fi? I’m still not sure but when the advancements in scientific research as well as technology, I’m leaning toward “yes” little by little with every year. But in every horror movie, there’s a cautionary tale in it in some way, shape or form. Hell, I’m the first person that automatically assumes a hitchhiker is actually a serial killer or something of that nature.

Tony Scheer: I think that fantasy, sci-fi or horror can be cautionary tales, but don’t need to be. In my opinion, these genres are, more than anything else, simply the manifestations of active imaginations. The real world we live in can appear mundane and repetitive at times. Dragons, aliens, zombies – they’re interesting because they’re not what we see every day. They’re the products of our minds (as far as we know…), and so there are no limits to them in any regard. They can do, say, or represent whatever their creator wants. So, to me, the presence of these elements doesn’t guarantee a cautionary tale, but it sure could be. And probably an exciting one. 

What next?

Alan CordoBa-Diaz: After Abdication? I guess you’ll just have to wait and see but you’re gonna definitely like what you see.

Tony Scheer: I’m going to be working on several different projects in the coming months. More so than ever before, I’m going to be focusing not just on stage productions, but also film. I’ll be directing a short film soon, as well as working on a web series. Stay tuned! Thanks to everyone for their interest and support! 

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