Michael Bordwell: A seasoned pro schools us in “What Do We Do About Walter”

Michael Bordwell Interview

 There are exciting things happening at The American Theatre of Actors and Michael Bordwell is a part of them.  You can see him in the Irving Greenfield play, What Do We Do About Walter.  Let’s meet this multi-talented performing artist and designer who is no stranger to the ATA.  “I am someone who loves creating and playing in the sandbox. As an artist, I am truly happy when I am working collaboratively with others. I was bitten by the bug in a community theatre production of Peter Pan over 30 years ago, and never stopped. I have been fortunate to work as an actor, writer, director and producer for several companies and venues throughout NYC including ATA, FringeNYC, Frigid New York and Manhattan Theatre Source. I also periodically dabble in design elements when possible. I studied performance and set/costume design at Hofstra University with some AMAZING individuals.”

 What Do We Do About Walter has educational themes that are relatable in current times.  “I was initially attached to this play when it was supposed to open in April 2020 and obviously, that didn’t happen. The play is very timely. Although the play takes place at the turn of the most recent century, the issues that are brought up are reflected in many of today’s educational institutions. Working in education, I see a lot of these topics coming up…and yet I worry about revealing too much and spoiling the play.” 

This play talks about rivalry in education.  As an educator himself, Mr. Bordwell has some very passionate thoughts on the state of education today.  “I’ll be honest, and again, as I work in education, I see many of the themes of the play echoed in our current society. As a result of the pandemic, education has taken a big hit and the way people feel things should be addressed. We need to remember that people in education are doing this for the students and their interests need to be put at the front and center. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and individuals are very quick to point a finger of blame. Education is not a business and sometimes individuals get lost in this. I know when I go to work in my school every day, all I think about is what am I going to do today to make sure my students leave with something new that helps them be an active member of society.”

Mr. Bordwell has had a long standing and positive relationship with the ATA and is thrilled to continue his work with them in this play.  “I have been working at ATA for about the last 15 years or so. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some incredible people and make some lifelong friends. ATA is a wonderful place for artists to play with little to no judgment. James Jennings is an instituion and I am proud to call him a friend and collaborator.”

 Laurie Rae Waugh is a creative fixture at the ATA.  She is well liked and highly respected by everyone who is lucky enough to work with her.  Having had the pleasure of spending time with her myself, I can see the appeal.  “This is my fifth time working with Laurie and I know it is far from my last. Laurie is incredible to work with because she knows how to strike the right balance between giving actors room to play and then shaping her vision for what the production should be. Not only is this my fourth time being directed by her, I have also had the honor of directing her in a production of the late James Crafford’s After the Hanging.”

This is not Mr. Bordwell’s first Greenfield play and he admires Mr. Greenfield’s work greatly.  . “And this is the magic of ATA that people keep coming together to create wonderful pieces of art. My first Greenfield play, which was also my first collaboration with Ms. Waugh, was P.O.W. where I played General Thomas Dunn. Prior to that, I had seen several other pieces of his that my colleagues have worked on. What I love about Irv’s work is how the themes are timeless and relevant. It has been nothing but joyous to work on this piece.”

Mr. Bordwell has a very positive take on what it was like to have the performing arts make a comeback.  “While I know we are still coming out of this pandemic, I am happy that the theatre world is coming back to life!!! I have been blessed to do several productions since the theatre world has re-opened and I can’t wait to do many more. Everyone just has to remember to be safe and respect their peers and we will continue having amazing theatre to see. Sounds cliche, but it’s true, and…is it ever cliche to speak the truth!”

After Mr. Bordwell is finished showing us what they did about Walter, he has a date with The Bard among other creative endeavors.  “I have a few things boiling, but scheduling will need to be sorted out. But, I am proud to be working on a Shakespeare compilation that will hopefully be produced in the late spring/early summer of 2023.”

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