Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spotlight On...Daniel Talbott

Name: Daniel Talbott

Hometown: San Francisco, Bay Area

Education: Solano College Theater ATP, Juilliard BFA

Select Credits: an actor, director, playwright, producer, literary manager, and artistic director. His most recent work as an actor includes the Theatre for One project in Times Square and around NYC, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis), Master Builder (Irish Rep), Rocket City (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), Tartuffe (McCarter Theatre/Yale Rep), Marat/Sade (Classical Theatre of Harlem), the feature film "Pretty Bird", "Dreaming American", and "The Big C" on Showtime. Recent producing credits include Elective Affinities with Zoe Caldwell, and the ongoing Cino Nights series at the Seventh Street Small Stage/Jimmy’s No. 43. Recent directing work includes Lake Water (Neighborhood Productions), Eightythree Down (Hard Sparks), Much Ado About Nothing (Boomerang), Squealer (Lesser America at Theater for the New City), The Umbrella Plays (the teacup company/FringeNYC – Overall Excellence Award: Outstanding Play and at The Tank), and Keep Your Baggage With You (at all times) (Theater for the New City). His play Yosemite will be produced this season at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.  
Why theater?: My first real experience with theater was when I was a little kid and I saw Peter Pan with my Grandma Lou and some of our family’s best friends, The Palmers, in San Francisco, and I guess when the pirates started coming for the kids I jumped up on my seat and screamed ‘They’re coming!’ ‘THEY’RE COMING!’ ‘They’re going to get you!’ and basically dissolved into madness.  It took a bunch more years though for me to find the theatre, and in my junior year of high school I took a class at ACT in San Francisco at their wonderful Young Conservatory with the brilliant Andrew Dolan. I got in the elevator at 30 Grant Street, and something made sense for the first time in my life.  It was before the class even started.  And I was like, I’m going to do this.  I know it sounds crazy but something in that elevator ride…just made sense, and I was basically like, if I’m shit at this or if I’m good at this, I’m going to do it. I had horrible stage fright (and I was really bad – I was really terrible…I was terrified), I couldn’t memorize a fuckin’ line.  I was horrible, but I was just like, I’m going to do this. This is going to sound so fucking hokey, but some people say "I’ve got a calling to go into the priesthood" or "I had a calling to be a firefighter" or something, but it was the first time in my whole life that I felt whole.  It made sense and I just knew…and I can't describe it more than that, but it was like this was going to be my life, and I just made a decision.

Tell us about Yosemite: It’s a play that was commissioned by the wonderful ladies of the 24Seven Lab (Sharon Freedman, Edith Freni, and Sarah Hayon) who I love, and it literally wouldn’t exist without them and all their love and support.  It’s also a play that I wrote for one of my best friends and one of the greatest actors and people and I know, Seth Numrich. It’s about family, it’s about horrible loss and poverty and what that does to people, and it’s mostly about love between a family--love that’s so huge it can’t be contained by the world and how that gets you through. That’s at least what it’s about for me in my heart, and what I hope it’s about for other people in a bunch of different ways.  I guess I’m also realizing it’s a lot about not having a dad, in essence a dad who for all intents and purposes is dead, and my imagination of what that would be if that dad had been there, and was an extraordinary father, and what would happen if that vanished, and a family lost that suddenly.

What inspired you to write Yosemite?: This play is so much for my family who I love deeply, and who I have been through a lot with, and it's especially for my brothers and sisters and my mom, and again my dad. There was a time that we lived in a place that was full of so many people, and especially their kids, who had such great intentions and tons of heart and imagination, but were absolutely crushed and destroyed by poverty and drugs and loss. Life can be really, really tough, but through each other, and with each other, I feel so many of us were able to crawl out of that pit, and I couldn't be more thankful for that - and this play is about that for me. This play is so much for them and for my family, and it's crazy cause again I just have no idea if it's going to mean anything to anyone else. I really hope it does and that that heart and insane struggle translates in some way, and that folks get it and love it (and the people in it) like I do, but I just don't know. It terrifies me, but as with the rest of my life, I feel like I'm surrounded by family and friends with this cast and crew and Rattlestick, and that gives me strength. God I love all these guys (Pedro, Seth, Libby, Katie, Noah, Mikey, Sam, Eugenia, Janie, Raul, Tristan, Joel, David, Brian, Denis, Julie and all the Rattlestick gang) and am so thankful they’re in my life and that they have my back.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as artists?: I love any type of theater that has integrity at its core and is trying desperately to actively, dangerously, humanly, vulnerably say something.  Theater that’s about ego, snobbery, and careerism is not interesting to me in the least. Corporate and detrimental institutional attitudes about theater are not interesting to me either, and honestly cheapen and affect the work in a negative way.  No one needs to act that way to make a life in this brilliant, essential, old as fucking time, shamanistic art form.  I think theater should be for everybody, and I think it’s an art form of gypsies.  I don’t care where it is, and I could give a fuck less about the whole Off-Off Broadway, Off-Broadway, Broadway thing.  Great work is great work and can be done anywhere, and with any budget, you just have to open yourself to what’s there and get creative and fucking burn the shit out of whatever you’re working on. There are so many theater, television, and film artists who inspire me, and of course so many folks who are artists in their own field.  I love Ariane Mnouchkine, Caryl Churchill, Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Eugene O’Neill, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Sarah Kane, Larry Kramer, John Guare, Mark Schultz, Lucy Thurber, Adam Rapp, David Adjmi, Laura Eason, Daniel Aukin, Jennifer Ehle, Sam Gold, Pedro Pascal, Kirsten Kelly, Stephen Daldry, Joseph Papp, Morgan Jenness, Jim Nicola, Jack Doulin, Sarah Ruhl, Annie Baker, Ken Urban, Stephen Willems, The Amoralists, Zoe Caldwell, Marian Seldes, Brian Murray, Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger, Roberta Maxwell, Alvin Epstein, Seth Numrich, Katie Erbe, Noah Galvin, Libby Woodbridge, Brian Miskell, Jimmy Davis, Martin and Rochelle Denton, Jelena Stupljanin, all the Cino writers both past and present, Doric Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Kim Stanley, Laurette Taylor, Marlon Brando, Albert Finney, Estelle Parsons, Cherry Jones, Judi Dench,  Steppenwolf and all its company members, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Patti Smith, Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley, Pina Bausch, Marina Abramovic, Diane Arbus, Beethoven, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Francis Bacon, Egan Schiele, Juergen Teller, Joseph Cornell, Marc Chagall. I have to put Roger Federer, and Venus and Serena Williams in too. And more than anybody else, my Rising Phoenix Rep, Rattlestick, and piece by piece families.  Addie, Sam Soule, Julie Kline, Denis Butkus, David Van Asselt, Brian Long, Wendy vanden Heuvel and tons and tons of others, and if I left someone off (cause I definitely did) please forgive me!  Mostly, I’m inspired by my favorite guy on earth, my son Bailey, he’s everything to me and is the reason both A and I try to grind like we do.   

You’re a triple threat: actor, director, writer. Do you have a favorite? Is it hard going from one hat to another?: I don’t have a favorite thing at all, I just want to be working all the time and feel so lucky that people let me work with them and are interested in working with me.  I love all of it and it all terrifies me in different ways and I think all opens me up and helps me learn and grow in the other areas.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Alive? All of those folks above and tons of others.  It would be pretty amazing to be able to work with the Group Theatre when it was starting out. Kim Stanley, Geraldine Page, Tennessee Williams, Laurette Taylor and Sarah Kane.  These are just the first folks who came to my mind.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Gabourey Sidibe (who I love!) and I don’t know what it would be called! ☺ I fucking love me some Gabourey Sidibe and think she’s genius, and crazy want her to play me and my alter ego Tasia.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I feel bad that I actually haven’t really been able to see anything since the new year, but I really loved Shame, and go see anything at the Neue Gallerie. 

What’s up next?: I feel so lucky to be getting to work with the extraordinary Boomerang folks again and all the brilliant actors who are busting it on Much Ado About Nothing.  I love Shakespeare and can’t wait to dive in with all those amazing and huge hearted folks again.  I CAN’T WAIT.  TERRIFIED, and can’t wait.