Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coffee Talk with Troy Anthony Young

Over the weekend at Melriches, I caught up with Troy, who we introduced last month in the One-Man Show post. Nocturne marks Troy’s first venture with Twenty-Something Theatre, where has tackles the role of “The Son.”

So rehearsals are going well?

They are. I’d love to have more! It’s been a really great process. We started out at the beginning of January and we meet every two days. It’s absolutely necessary with this play. The text is really dense and it’s very poetic. Sabrina and I coined the term, it’s like “modern Shakespeare” at times. Adam Rapp is really smart and the character he’s created is a very intelligent man who reads his head off. He’s a writer himself. And the text, it’s beautiful. It’s absolute poetry. I mean, it’s in prose form but it’s poetry.

Wow, cool. I can’t wait! So what are you drinking there?

Coffee. It’s just coffee. It’s been my fuel for two months now.

If we were at a bar, what would you be having?

Probably beer. Or maybe a good Irish whiskey.

Tell me about a really memorable performance or show you saw that really stands out for you.

When I was in high school, there was a theatre company in Edmonton called Phoenix. They’re no longer there though, unfortunately. They did this version of a play called “Road”, which is originally from England and takes place in Yorkshire. It’s about a bunch of very lower-class, working people. They had transformed this whole mechanics garage, which was their theatre space, into a street. They literally laid asphalt down on the ground and everything. You walked in and you were blown away by the environment. Though that wasn’t what really did it for me. What really did it were the performances – some of the best actors I’ve ever seen. And I’m fortunate to be friends with some of them. One of them was a teacher of mine, his name’s David McNally, he’s in Edmonton and he’s one of the best actors I’ve ever known. There was this one sequence towards the end of the play where these two young men and these two young women have been out partying, and they’ve come back to the house and they’re drinking it up, and they have one record to play. It’s Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” and they put it on, it’s all scratchy and 45 rpms. Nobody says anything. They just let the music affect them. I remember watching these four actors, without saying a word, you could see all the sorrow, and the anger and frustration these people felt in this working-class town where nobody has any money. And at the end of it they’re dancing. And it starts out only a little bit and then just develops and develops. And the dance is dancing out all their frustrations. Then at the end of it, the line’s “Somehow we must get out.” And it was just mind-blowing.

Tell me about your, “Aha! I want to be an actor” moment.

Actually, it’s kind of funny. When I was a very young boy – I was about ten years old – and there was a theatre school in my hometown, which is Leduc, Alberta. It’s a small, little city outside of Edmonton. The woman who ran the school happened to be more or less a friend of my mother’s, and she said that she wanted me to come to this theatre school. I really didn’t want to, to be honest. I didn’t have much interest in it. I actually spent the first year of classes pretty much just staying in the background and not doing much. I would actually pull the curtain instead of going onstage for the show. Stuff like that. At some point, I ended up having to fill in for somebody. It was a Christmas show. I don’t remember what the play was, but one of the kids broke his leg or got grounded – one of the two – and I ended up onstage. The lights came up and I did a song and dance number, and at the end the audience clapped. And it was like, “Hey! They’re doing that just because of what I did!” It kind of hooked me. I found this natural affinity towards it. I really enjoyed it and I was starting to really get into it, making some friends there. By the age of twelve I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

What do you think of the theatre scene in Vancouver? The good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is some really amazing theatre that happens in this city. Unfortunately, it tends to come from groups that don’t get seen as much as they should. Groups like Twenty-Something. Sabrina is one of the most talented directors in this town. She deserves to have her stuff seen. A lot of the best theatre I’ve seen in this city has been micro-theatre stuff, Equity Co-ops, and small theatre stuff. There are the big leagues; I mean you have your Arts Club and your Playhouse. You have Bard on the Beach. They do good work. Some of the stuff they do is really amazing, and some of the stuff is okay. I don’t want to put them down or anything because you need the commercial, the sell-able kind of theatre in the city. That’s a very necessary part of the community. But the stuff that’s really challenging, interesting, and really thrills me is all done by smaller groups. I just wish people would go more. It’s a weird thing about Vancouver. It’s hard to get butts in seats. About the only company that does really well, consistently, all the time is Bard on the Beach. I wish I could figure out what their secret was and market it myself.

Do you have any funny or embarrassing actor stories that have happened onstage?

I was doing a play, I’m not going to name the play, and as always happens with small, private companies, we were under-rehearsed. We were onstage. I think it was our second or third show. I was working with this other actor and I realized that he was completely lost. He had completely lost his lines. He didn’t know where he was in the scene, the questions he was supposed to ask me, or anything. I knew myself, just enough to try and wing my way through this. I started switching some things around, turning my statements back into the way he would ask the questions back at me so I could just answer, kind of an “Okay, do you know where we are?” Finally, he got himself back together and was back. That’s not really the embarrassing part, other than the sheer terror of wondering how I was going to save this in front of an audience. But it was afterward – when the director corrected me on my lines. The director was sitting there in the audience, watching the show and hadn’t realized what I was doing, and why I was doing it. The other actor then came up and said, “Wow, you totally saved my ass up there!” And then the director backed down. We all had a good chuckle about it afterward.

Tell me about the process of doing a one-man show. Do you work differently as compared with an ensemble piece?

The actor process is pretty much the same. The one thing about a one-man show that’s different is, well my belief in acting is it has a lot to do with how you’re affecting the other person and how they’re affecting you. When you’re doing this show, there’s no other person onstage. The other person is the audience and they’re not reacting – not in the way your co-star would react onstage. It’s a matter of projecting their reaction. Although, this particular play is very much storytelling. There are a lot of elements of very dramatic action, but there is a lot of storytelling. You still have to have the playable action in the role but there is just some really beautiful storytelling that goes on as well. Some of it is downright hilarious and dark, but hilarious.

Daunting at all?

Oh yes. I wish I had started working on this script about a year ago. It’s about sixty-five or seventy pages and really dense text. It’s beautiful stuff and when you say it, you fall in love with it. The journey that this man takes, from being a teenage boy who accidentally kills his sister, I mean that’s how the play starts. The first line of the play is, “Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” From there to him and his family dealing with the fall-out of it, to being an adult looking back and dealing with it. I don’t want to tell or give too much away though. But he deals with the fallout from this horrible accident as a young man. It’s tragic and it’s beautiful. It’s a daunting task but it’s very exciting. We’re a week and a bit away from opening right now and I think we’re right where we’re supposed to be.

So why should people come and see Nocturne?

It’s a beautiful story. The Son is just such an amazing character. He’s witty; he’s funny, and smart. It’s a very entertaining play but it’s also very engaging. There are parts in the play that are just going to rip your heart strings to bits. I hope.

What advice would you have for any young actors starting out or thinking about becoming an actor?

Okay, this is going to sound a little sad: it’s going to be the toughest thing you’ll ever do in your life. If you don’t love it with every part of your being, if you don’t absolutely need it, if it’s not the only thing that can keep you going, think twice. Think twice about making it a career. It can be so challenging and so frustrating, but when you get the chance to do something, when you get the chance to perform in a really wonderful play – be that a musical theatre piece you love or a really great drama, or Shakespeare, or a really funny Neil Simon comedy – then the reward’s all there. When you know that what you’ve just said has reached out across the lights and has grabbed somebody, and you know they’re listening to every word you say, that is the moment. That’s the pay-off. That being said, I’m not saying don’t be an actor, but it can be really challenging and tiresome at times. There are sometimes periods where you don’t get work, and you have to go wait tables. But acting feeds your soul.

You can catch Troy next week in Nocturne, running February 22-27 at the Havana Theatre. Tickets may be purchased from Tickets Tonight, or you can buy a 3-ticket Season Flex Pass at Ticket Leap.

~Sarah MacKay
Associate Producer

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