This One Goes to Eleven: Raul Sanchez Inglis

Raul began his career as an actor, and now writes prolifically for stage and screen. He christened the theatre at the Beaumont Studios with his brutally thrilling play In the Eyes of God, which has been recently published by Talon Books. He has directed all of his own plays, which also include For What We Reap, Walter, Surveillance, and The Cop Play. His feature film directorial debut, The Falling, was nominated for the Claude Juntra award at the 1999 Genies. His latest feature film, VICE, will be released in the fall. Dig it.

Raul

1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

Next.

2.) What’s your opinion on the current state of Vancouver theatre?

The smaller venues are actually doing some interesting things. I generally don’t like what the large theater companies show. And the truth of it is there are two camps: Us and them. The “Them” do shit productions but think they are the best. They like to pat each other on the back and call “Us” film and TV people. They like to think of us as people who don’t understand theater – which is bullshit. I grew up in the theater. I’ve traveled to three continents doing theater. I’ve been writing, acting and directing in the theater for over twenty years. They can kiss my ass. I do shows that non-theater people like. I do shows that open people’s eyes to the theater experience and make converts. I entertain. Yet, I’m not a sell-out for a bunch of Grannies or people that pay for culture. You want to rehash Cabaret or Romeo And Juliet – bite me.

3.) What influences your writing in terms of story and theme?

Life around me. Either what I’m going through on a thematic level or the world at large. I love how people have an inability to communicate with each other. I love how people betray each other. I love what desperate people do. We don’t need cartoon villains when all we have to do is look at how poorly we treat the people around us – be it our loved ones or our neighbors, or both. We live in a violent, fucked up, self serving, world and it angers me. That’s what I write about now.

When I was younger I explored love, loss, growing up, and the notions of the idealism that comes with youth. Now I hate the world. I want people to wake up.

And the strange thing is no matter how vile or fucked up a story gets people are drawn to it because it rings true.

4.) From an artist’s standpoint, how does your work in the theatre compare to your work in film?

Theater for me is about exploring a truth. I like my theater to be un-apologetic. I like to explore themes. I allow my characters to dictate the plot.

But when I write film scripts I’m in it generally for the cash. It’s my bread and butter. Moreover, distributors don’t really want to make people think. Everyone says they want quality but look at the crap that comes out of Hollywood or on Network TV. Yes, there are some good things out there but I’m not one of the lucky ones that are allowed to write that. They keep me with the bottom feeders puking up filth for the lowest common denominator.

When I direct my own films it’s a battle from day one against producers, distributors, and money restrictions, to get what I want. In the theater world we have no money from the onset so it makes it far more a creative process and I love it. In the theater I call the shots. I get to do what I want, and say what I want. My first play, “For What We Reap” was about betrayal. My 2nd play “Cop Play” was about making the audience people laugh and have a good time. “In The Eyes Of God” was about American business, “Walter” was a true story looking at the flaws of the Death Penalty in Virginia and “Surveillance” was about male relationships and how fucked up men are.

But in the film world I’m known as a two-bit hack writer of Sci-Fi, horror and B action. How wrong is that? I don’t even watch the stuff I write. But I guess that’s my fault because I’m a whore and I commit to whatever I’m doing. When some LA producer (that thinks he’s a player) asks for a creature flick I give him the best Goddamn creature flick that he can do for his million and half dollar budget.

5.) What’s your approach as a director to working with your actors?

There is no magical single way to deal with actors. Everyone needs something different. Think of the different relationships you have. Some people need to be nurtured. Some people like to be left alone. Some people like to talk about everything until they’re blue in the face while others are doers and keep their mouths shut. You speak to them, they shut down.

True actors’ directors are the ones that listen to everyone as individuals. It’s about respect. If you give them respect as artists then they’ll do the same back. But at the same time if they refuse to return the respect then I’m no shrinking violet. I lay down the law. I’ve fired friends of mine in the past.

6.) Who are your main influences on your work?

When I first started acting it was all about Shakespeare. I wanted to be Richard Burton bringing The Bard’s words to the masses. Then, when I first started writing, Pinter and Beckett blew me away. Later Mamet and Rabe took me into an entirely different world. And finally Artaud took the cake with his theories of what theater can do and be. I directed his play “Jet Of Blood” a long time ago but I didn’t get it right. I’m still trying to aspire to the theater that Artaud would have done today. I saw a show in Edinburgh in 2005 that was inspired by Artaud and it has to have been the best piece of theater I have ever seen. I doubt I’ll ever be able to come close to such a masterpiece.

7.) What do you know about theatre now that you didn’t when you started?

I started doing community theater when I was a kid. It was something fun to do. It was make-believe. Acting classes then were held in ballet studios and I was usually the only boy. Then one weekend when I was 13 I took a Stanislavsky workshop and my world changed. I learned that acting wasn’t an adolescent instinct, it was a craft. I wanted to pursue as many different acting methods and techniques that were out there but no one was teaching teenagers what I wanted to learn so I became frustrated. That’s one of the reasons why I shifted into directing. But as a director I didn’t want to say the same shit that someone else had so I started writing. By the time I was in college I thought I knew everything. Now I have to be honest. There is still so much to explore. I have my limitations and theater has its limitations. I can’t make a living only doing theater. It’s a love/hate thing. One can only present their work to a limited audience in the theater. In film I have a much larger audience. Theater dies as soon as it is born. It becomes a memory – Hopefully a good one. I’ve had a run of good plays in the past that I’m known for in some circles – some small circles. But a bad film everyone can see over and over again on DVD in many countries and everyone will think of you as an idiot. I’ve got that too.

8.) What’s your best piece of advice to the neophyte writer?

Never stop writing. Write everything that’s in your head and don’t try and edit yourself. That can be done later – years later in fact. One just needs to create a wealth of material to draw from. One always learns by each new story that they write. Every tale presents new problems. Everything can be changed and improved. Just get to the end of the story and finish the draft – that’s the biggest rule. Finish and then go back and re-read it. If you stop halfway through and re-read your work you’ll cripple yourself and kill the momentum. Art comes from instinct. Use it while it’s still there. I could go on and on.

9.) What are your top 3 must-reads, on theatre or film, for the aspiring artist?

1 – The Director And The Stage by Edward Braun

2 – Any theater history book you can find. You have to study what has been done before. There are reasons why we do things today. There can be a lot to cull from. You don’t have to like the theater from the past but understand the process and why it was done. For me theater started to get exciting when Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler.

3 – Other than those two things forget reading – go see theater. Go to the fringe in Edinburgh and see stuff from around the world: dance, musicals, comedians, etc… That’s where you’ll learn the most.

I don’t recommend reading plays. Plays aren’t supposed to be read. They are supposed to spoken. Read them out loud with a group and then discuss them.

10.) Any plans for more theatre down the road?

I have lots of plans. I have lots of stories that I want to tell. I just unfortunately don’t have the time right now. Theater for me has never been about making money (nor should it). It’s about feeding my soul. My reality is I need to pay the mortgage. I need to write and direct in the film/TV world to make money. I’m a whore, remember. The next time I’m not worried about cash, will be the next time I do another show. I have two plays that I’ve been writing and several others just waiting to be produced. But that’s the way I’ve always worked. “In The Eyes Of God” was written ten years before I produced it. “Surveillance” was about 7 years. I have another play I wrote 4 years ago that I dying to do.

11.) What’s Next?

Right now I’m trying to get another film going. I need to keep directing to keep the momentum going that I achieved from doing “Vice”.

Playwright Tip of the Day

I recently challenged my theatre company to a write-off over the summer (first rule of Playwright Club: everybody writes…). The rules are simple; write a short play, minimum 5 pages, maximum 10, on absolutely anything you want, and when we reconvene at the end of the summer we’ll cast our plays from the company, open a case of beer, and have a little festival of original work. Not everyone in my company is a playwright, but by the end of summer, by God, they will be.

Now, getting started is the hardest part, so if any writers out there are looking for inspiration, I offer the following resource: Overheard in New York. It’s a compilation of actual real life dialogue snippets culled from around NY by anyone that wishes to submit them, and they’re priceless. Vancouver has one of these sites too, but OHINY is, well, very New Yorkish, its citizens are crazier and thus more entertaining. Every single one of them is a potential play opening. I present the following as a perfect example, as overheard on the 2 train, between 42nd and 72nd:

Aspiring actress: I hope I get the part! That director was so hot! I could totally sleep with him!
Friend: He’s your dad’s age.
Aspiring actress: No! He’s 41. My dad’s 43.
Friend: You’re 20.
Aspiring actress: Yeah. That’s sort of sick. I have to stop liking older guys. What can I say? I’m just looking for a more mature man! Hey, I got this new moisturizer that smells like cookies, and it’s sparkly! Smell my leg!

Greatest beginning of a play ever.

 

 

This One Goes to Eleven: Lori Triolo

When I get whiny over how busy I am with my theatre career, I just have to think about Lori to put things back in perspective. A native New Yorker who transplanted herself with her husband to Vancouver some 15-odd years ago, she is the Artistic Director of the Beaumont Playhouse and its resident stage company, The Evolving arts Collective. She studied for many years with Sanford Meisner back in NY, eventually becoming the Western Canadian Representative of his school. She helped to build the Belmont Italian American Playhouse in the Bronx, whose mandate was (is) to bring theatre to an area with little or no accessibility to it. (Robert DeNiro, Talia Shire, and Kenneth Branagh sat on its board) John Patrick Shanley, after attending the Belmont IAP’s inaugural production of Italian American Reconciliation, declared Lori to be “the best Teresa he’d ever seen on stage”. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

On top of her constant stage and screen acting she is currently a faculty member of Lyric School of Acting, runs the Cold Reading Series (now entering its 14th year) at the Beaumont Studios, and is a co-producer of CineKids, a local creative outreach program bringing together children with diverse backgrounds to explore life skills through live performance and filmmaking. Somewhere in there she found the time to answer my 11 questions…

Lori Triolo

1.) In one word, describe your present condition.

Inspired.

2.) In as many words as you’d like, give us your take on the state of our local theatre scene.

I’d like to think our scene is gaining momentum. There is beginning to be a respect for the theatre that I have only dreamed of over the past 15 years in Vancouver. The quality of work is better and the actors, although few in my opinion, are more committed to the work it takes to get a show up and running. My fear is that with every triumph there are those that still don’t understand the purpose of the theatre. It is where there is no room for ego. Although one is loathe to experience egos on many levels.

3.) You come straight outta New York theatre, why the shift to Vancouver?

I’d been doing theatre with my family in NY since the age of 5. In 1990, while attending The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in NYC, I helped build a 60 seat Black Box theatre in the Bronx with Robert Deniro, Kenneth Branagh and Talia Shire on the board of directors. This was a major no-no. It was against school policy to be involved in any professional work outside of your studies. I was a rebel. When I graduated I was immediately scouted by a top notch manager (I had no idea why I needed a Manager), and an agent from The William Morris Agency (sounded fancy). I spent the next two years in NY auditioning for every major feature film and television show, something that was completely foreign to me. I always went back to the theatre whether to direct or act off Broadway. My agent came to see every show I directed or starred in. I hadn’t cracked the nut on TV and Film and a friend encouraged me throughout those two years to come to Vancouver. There were a lot of “New Yorky” type TV shows and not a lot of folks like me. So I packed my bags and came to Vancouver for a three week vacation and stayed here for 5 years working on every bad TV action show and Movie of the Week known to man. My first gig was in a Movie of the Week with Katherine Hepburn (my hero) and Anthony Quinn. I played a New York hooker in a jail cell with Lynda Boyd and Kate (which is what we were instructed to call her!), I was told I was brilliant all day by Anthony Harvey who directed Kate in “The Lion in Winter” for godsakes. Well, I left set that day unbelievably depressed. I didn’t leave the house for 3 days. I thought, that’s not acting?! It’s all lies! Not what I understood acting to be. I was left with an empty feeling but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I was determined to have a good experience and figure out what all the hoopla about TV was. What I realized is that it was all hokum. In 15 years I can name a handful of TV and film projects that have meant anything to me. Ones where I felt like I was truly servicing a good story or working with actors and directors that challenged me to go deeper and be my best. A handful. But the theatre is my sanctuary. It is my church. It is where I have always come to be seen and heard. Vancouver is a pioneer in the theatre world. I wanted to stay here and build the theatre of my dreams. The one that would bring us back to the understanding that The Group Theatre had in 1931 when they had their finger on the pulse of social issues of their time. They were interested in creating a theatre that spoke to the people and reflected their lives back to them. With truth and authenticity. That is what interests me about Vancouver. How we are growing and changing at such a rapid pace. To be a part of a movement has always been my mission.

4.) We all know NY’s image as being the centre of the theatrical universe, are there any comparisons to our community?

I think Vancouver would like to think we are at the centre of some kind of universe. We are just not sure what that is yet. I can’t remember who it was that compared Vancouver to a teenage girl, but I think they were on to something. Vancouver is a city that looks really cool and is trying to be hip but it hasn’t really figured itself out yet, which I think is reflected in the art we produce.

In the early 1930’s Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Harold Clurman, Elia Kazan, among many others, formed The Group Theatre in NYC. They were committed to building a new kind of theatre that was truly collaborative and which spoke to the moral and social issues of their time. They believed that in order to be an effective artist (actor, director, producer, writer, musician), one must bring the truth and their most authentic self to the work. The Group Theatre had their hands on the community pulse of the time, their work grew out of sensitivity to humanity. Our most important responsibility as artists is to teach the world how to be more ‘human’. Our work is most vital in this age of technology where people are becoming less connected to one another on a personal level. David Mamet says people go to the theatre to see that real communication between human beings is still possible. You can’t ignore the person you are on stage with. There would be no purpose if we lived in a bubble. But it is how we are alienating ourselves as a community. I think we have a social responsibility in Vancouver to tell the truth of our time. It is how we grow as a society. New York became the centre of the theatrical universe at an explosive time in history. I think we are there once again. I am a true believer in history repeating itself. I have always said I want to see things go back to the way they were in the 1930’s when the Group Theatre came about. And people cared about their craft. They weren’t satisfied until they figured it out and made the most authentic contribution to the time that they could. We have that opportunity in Vancouver. As I say at The Cold Reading Series; “We are pioneers. Don’t sit around and complain about how there is no work…create it. Be the work. Make it happen for yourself with the folks you want to work with with.” Life is too short to do things you aren’t passionate about. Taking risks and being courageous is what NYC has that Vancouver needs to get a dose of.

Everybody wants everything right now but there isn’t a lot of thought put in to the craft it requires. I have directed many plays in Vancouver as well as coached many actors that inevitably say; “I had no idea it required this much work?!”

5.) What do we need to learn from the NY model?

I have walked into my classes, looked at my students, thrown my hands in the air and said; “you all need to go live in New York now!!” I believe that everyone should live in a place where it is about survival all the time. If you stop in NY someone else walks right over you. You must take risks and be courageous, always. Vancouver is a much easier place to live. One of the reasons my Husband and I chose it. But because it is easier the art has less risk. It is why I believe I did so well when I first moved here and continue to run events and inspire others to get off their fannies and take charge in their careers, which is taking charge of their lives, which in the end is all this is about. I was recently in NYC seeing an old friend in an old play. Brian Dennehy and I first worked together about 10 years ago. I played his protégé in a movie of the week he was producing, directing and starring in. We hit it off instantly as we found our roots grew from the same place. He went to the all-boys high school in my neighborhood on Long Island…he was a hero to my family of blue collar workers. He was completely responsible for getting me representation in LA, all the while discouraging me from pursuing this life in Hollywood. We teamed up again in a great episode of Masters of Science fiction where we, along with John Hurt, play a bunch of mutant humans forever banished to a life on a spaceship. It was during this shoot that I got to listen to the many amazing stories that passed between these two theatre lads. Their stories about Olivier and working on all the famous stages around the globe made me drool. Again, Brian and I connected. This time he was full of pride when he said “Kid, you really know what you want” I said I had a lot of time to make my dreams come to fruition and was ready to stop dreaming. My heart was always in the theatre. My husband and I moved here to have a theatre, a venue of our own for music and drama, etc. He believes it is where all real art is. After the play I waited for our dinner date while he did a talk-back with some theatre students who had just finished a two week intensive in NYC with one of the cast members. They asked Brian about the state of the theatre and a life and a career in it. He said now as he did ten years ago; “Times have changed. It isn’t the same as when I was coming up in the theatre. If anyone can discourage you in any way to do anything else with your life, let them.” He is adamant about that. “But if you can’t do anything else, than god bless you. I wish you all the luck in the world, because that is really what this is about.” So doing something because you love it so much that you just can’t do anything else is something we can learn from the NY model.

6.) If you found a time machine, what would you tell Lori Triolo ten years ago?

Hmm…I guess the only thing I would tell myself is that the most important thing you will ever have in this lifetime is love. That no matter what, we are here to have a happy and healthy life. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is not. That you have to make an effort to wake up everyday and say “YES!” to the day and the world. That the law of attraction really does exist and that your pure intention will manifest in to something great…an artistic movement. Be careful what you wish for.

7.) Why is it important for actors to include technique (such as Meisner) in their training?

Oy, where do I begin. I believe every actor needs a strong foundation. There are certainly actors who seem to have a natural ability and understanding of story and humanity that just comes from their soul, but I also believe that those people turn around at some point in their careers and need more. Technique is vital. I have worked with many actors where their technique has been challenged. I find it happens the most with actors who stop feeling the need to grow. I have the most respect for people who know that we never stop learning. That it doesn’t matter at what point you realize it, it only matters that you do. It feels as though actors spend a lot of time in class learning valuable lessons but then have no idea how to apply it to their work in rehearsal. My dream is that actors today put it together and realize what they learn in class needs to be applied to the stage and screen. I can’t tell you how often I have asked how many people have gone to theatre school and done warm up exercises and character work using animals and such. Or learned Meisner and know that repetition really helps get them in the moment. So many have the experience but thought they leave it wherever they learned it and it is somehow no longer relevant to their craft. I believe it is my job as a teacher to make sure my students learn how to learn. How to ask questions. How to work from “the ‘you’ you don’t know” as Meisner says. Technique, and specifically Meisner, is about creating actors that are not self indulgent in any way. It is unique in the sense that it cuts through the bullshit immediately and forces you to put your focus on the other person, not yourself. You realize much more quickly and organically that everything you do depends on your need for the other person because they are important. We dismiss people and ourselves constantly in life. We cannot in drama, or what’s the point?

8.) What does indie theatre need to do now to get the butts in the seats?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am brutally honest about…just about anything. One of my biggest pet peeves is paying to see a show that is more like watching an acting class. When I pay to see the theatre I want to be moved, transported to another time or a new way of thinking. I don’t want to sit in the theatre and think about how I would rather blow my brains out than watch the self-indulgent acting that seems to grace our small stages. Indie theatre needs some quality control. I do believe that you learn from doing. And that it is vital for actors to experience the stage and all it entails. I just would hope that there is some quality measure and people producing the shows label a production what it is. So…humility, servicing the story, and kick-ass advertising!

9.) How does the TV/film industry here affect our theatre industry?

In one sense it kills the theatre community because the attention span of people is nil. Have you been to the movies lately? I’ve never seen so many people get up in the middle of a film to pee. Are our bladders getting smaller? I think it’s interesting that because there is a somewhat thriving TV industry that I am lucky enough to be a part of, I am considered a television actor. It doesn’t matter that I have been on the stage since the age of 5. Or that I have been the artistic director of a successful theatre for the past three years and built one in NY. The TV industry has made the theatre world not take us seriously, which isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. There are a select few TV shows that are even worth auditioning for. So in a way, the TV industry has forced a lot of folks to rediscover the theatre both as performer and patron. We want to feel that human connection. I do. I know that TV/Film often drives me to want to work in the theatre to really experience moment to moment work. The charge you get in front of a live audience when you are being most private is one that is indescribable unless you’ve had the amazing opportunity to live it for yourself. It is the gift we give the world.

10.) What are your top 3 must-reads for the aspiring actor?

I give you a novel (well 2, ’cause I can’t decide), a book of technique, and theatre history:

The Fountainhead and/or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – to read about humanity in a beautiful novel…reads lots of them.

A Sense of Direction by William Ball – To explore behaviour. There are so many others. This is a good place to start.

The Fervent Years by Harold Clurman – To know our history. About the formation of The Group Theatre.

11.) What’s next?

Kicking off the 14th Season of The Cold Reading Series, which is an event held every Thursday night all summer and through September this year at The Beaumont Studios, where I am the Artistic Director. It is an event geared towards writers hearing their work read out loud by professional actors who are cast on the spot. The idea is to give folks a place to keep creating while encouraging them to be the pioneers in this TV/Film/Theatre industry . I will be on stage again in August with an amazing group of people in a play called “The Job” penned and directed by Kris Elgstrand at the Playwrights Theatre Centre.

If I may say one last thing before stepping off my soapbox…I think it is as I said before, like The Group Theatre, our times are forcing us to really hold the mirror up to ourselves. See the state of the world. To have an impact on our outcome. Art has the ability to change the world. To change perceptions. It is our most important responsibility to teach the world how to be more human. To have courage without fear.

 

“The Shop” Opens Soon…

This looks interesting…a new space is opening up in town that’s being billed as “a meeting place for actors and other artists”, that’s comprised of a 1000 sq. ft. black box theatre/studio with a front area that is a “taping/meeting room as well as a lounge area meant to serve as a comfortable place for artists to hang out, do research and exchange or debate ideas.” It sounds like one of those great ideas that actors always come up with when they’re drinking after class but don’t ever follow through on because, well, it would be a lot of work and hard to sustain.

The Shop hopes to attract a diverse group of teachers to fill the evening slots on weeknights. “We want to get teachers and actors in here from all different schools of thought and acting styles,” says (co-founder Michael Karl) Richards. “We’re consciously working to create an environment that doesn’t foster cliquishness or otherwise exclude any actors that have the determination to create their own work, regardless of their experience, background or acting technique.”

Three members of the Actor’s Foundry are responsible for this new space, and they’re leaving it open on weekends for actors to put on small presentations at “ultra-low rates”. I’m really excited to check this place out, it sounds like just the kind of thing Vancouver needs to remove some excuses for workshopping and producing new work. The Shop is at 1866 Powell between Commercial and Victoria.