Beneath the Surface of Russian Irish Alchemy

I love Antaeus readings. I love being in them, I love attending and listening to them. I recently participated in the “down & dirty” reading of Fathers and Sons by Brian Friel, initiated by Michael Murray.

It was really FUN–and this is always a good sign. For me, if I’m having fun, chances are I’m relaxing slightly from the neurotic precipice off which I am all too capable of dangling, and from which I examine every acting choice I make, from the creative to the business to the wardrobe, find nothing good to say about any of it, and spend the rest of the day rehashing how it all could have gone if I had said This instead of That. Familiar to any of you?

So much for being present, being open, being spontaneous –which I hear are good states to inhabit as actors. This was fun, so I think there was some real creativity and not too much self-abasement happening all around the table…(plus the fact that my character Anna falls in love with Bazarov, played by the dashing and handsome John Sloan, so this was going to be OK for me no matter what).

The play is based on the Turgenev novel (that famous one that’s been on my list of should-reads since high school), but from what I hear there are differences—some relationships emphasized more, others less or not at all….Michael says about the two pieces “These writers share the same sensibility–a sense of family, of nature, of the mix-up of comedy and tragedy”. The play was funny on paper; it was funnier when read aloud. In fact Michael was laughing through 90% of Arye Gross‘s lines.

Arye Gross, Antaeus Company Member

Much of the humor comes from people taking themselves extremely seriously, which should be a reminder to all of us to lighten up a bit in life because the universe as our audience is probably laughing its ass off. It’s a Russian story adapted by an Irishman. One of the things we discussed after the reading is that Friel maintained a sense of his Irish identity inside of this story–certain words and rhythms he uses are distinctly Irish. I like that—reminds me that one’s essence is always a part of what one does. Rather than pretending he was Russian and omitting everything about him that is Irish, Friel leaves it in, and it works.

I feel as actors when an audition comes along that seems very far from who we are it can be easy to think I should take the Me out of it because this character is Other, and forget that it’s exactly that Me essence that is so important and wonderful to bring everywhere. Trying to hide it is not only futile but detrimental—hiding what’s deepest and most true seems the antithesis of art, right? So Friel finds the alchemy between Turgenev’s Russian and his Irish, the commonality in their souls. I will do that when I’m cast in the 10th Lara Croft movie because Angie is on baby #11.

So back to the reading—-there is so much subtext in Russian literature and no, not every piece of it came out, but what was thrilling was to sense how much lies beneath the surface and how satisfying it would be to go hunting for it. That’s another great thing about these gatherings—we get excited as a group to get behind something. We sense its potential. Or collectively we feel it isn’t for us. We get enough alone time as artists. This ensemble participation is good for the soul and good for the spirit of the company. Those of us there left wanting more.

Melanie Lora & Richard Miro in Zastrozzi,a reading at Antaeus

Melanie Lora is an A2 member who last performed with Antaeus in American Tales. Now that the biggest production of her life so far, getting married, has opened and is running with rave reviews for 2 months now, she is ready to get back onstage.

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