Brooke M. Haney (BMH): What do you like to see in an actor in a reading, workshop or World Premiere?
Steven Christpher Yockey (SCY): In any one of those environments, I’d want and actor to be willing to try things and to be willing to play. I’d also want them to be open to different interpretations of the text. But mostly, I think it is being willing to try different choices before locking anything down.
BMH: Does the role of the actor change at all from reading to workshop?
SCY: In readings and short workshops, actors need to be more open to accepting guidance and feedback because of time constraints. When you don’t have staging, there are things that as a Playwright you just need to have happen.
In a sustained workshop, that isn’t the case for me. Instead, the goal for me is creating the strongest possible version of the play. Then, I want actors who are more vocal in saying things like, “well, I’m not sure in how this connects to this.” I really love actors who can talk about things within their character’s journey rather than actors who say “I don’t think my character would say this.” Phrasing it in a way that relates to the arch of the character is much more useful.
BMH: And, does this go further when you get to a World Premiere?
SCY: Absolutely. In rehearsals for production, it becomes exceptionally important that an actor speaks up, and I don’t mean becomes adversarial – and I’ve certainly seen that happen – but rather, the actor should take more ownership of the role. In a play that hasn’t been done before, there is a certain ownership of the role, the actor becomes the keeper of that character. At this point, the actor almost surpasses you in understanding where that character fits into the world of the play, and they can help to hone in on small details. This is where the actor becomes really valuable.
BMH: Are there any extra tips you have for the new works actor?
SCY: Pay attention to the things other characters say about your character, because your character doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
I want actors to be confident in their craft, who have a sense of play. There are all different kinds of actors, but if you have a good attitude and are willing to bring the best of what you have to the role, as opposed to the best of what you think the role should be, then it’s going to work. I really love actors who just kind of go for it and then are willing to fall on their face and not get defensive about changing choices.
Steve Yockey is a roaming member of Out of Hand Theater. His projects with the company include HELP! and Cartoon. In 2008, Actor’s Express Theatre in Atlanta, GA presented the world premiere of Octopus followed by an extended run in San Francisco, co-produced by Encore Theatre Company and Magic Theatre. He is a regular fixture at Dad’s Garage Theatre Company including the short play cycle Sleepy, a work written to inaugurate the second-stage series, and the adults-only Skin — both commissioned & directed by Kate Warner. Dad’s Garage and Berkeley’s Impact Theatre produced the co-world premiere Large Animal Games this season. Octopus, Cartoon and subculture (collected short plays) are available from Samuel French. Other plays include: Bellwether, Afterlife and Wonder. Steve is a Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Georgia and holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He recently completed a Coca-Cola Artist Residency teaching dramatic structure at Emory University in Atlanta, GA and currently lives/works in the San Francisco Bay Area as the National New Play Network playwright-in-residence at Marin Theatre Company.