Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spotlight On...Ben Diserens

Name: Ben Diserens (pronounced Diz-er-enz)

Hometown: San Francisco and Sydney. I'm a dual citizen. So I've got that going for me.

Education: BA in Theatre from Fordham University. I've been Jesuit educated since 7th Grade. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam. Jealous?

Favorite Credits: My favorite role that I've ever played was Horace in Little Foxes when I was in high school. I got to sit in a wheelchair the whole time and eat cake.

Why theater?: What are you? My mother?

Tell us about Beckett in Benghazi?: Beckett in Benghazi takes place on September 11, 2012, the night that the embassy in Libya was attacked. The play begins as a group of actors are finishing a 12 hour tech rehearsal for their production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Right as they are about to go home for the day, their director wants to completely change the concept for their production with only a week til curtain. While reworking the piece, they begin to discuss religion, foreign diplomacy and 21st century imperialism. Their discussions end up highlighting the underlying tensions within the group as their personal relationships are tested and they all end up getting more than they bargained for. 

What inspired you to create Beckett in Benghazi?:
I started writing this play about a week after the attack on the embassy in Benghazi and I noticed that it was becoming a major talking point during the presidential debates. I was really unnerved how the attack became a blame game (that eventually went on for another six months) and I began to see parallels between career politicians using tragedies to win votes and theatre artists who use current events to sell tickets.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: It's impossible for me to choose one type of theatre that speaks to me. It's like how people explain their taste in music by saying "everything but country" (except I like country). But when it came to writing a play like Beckett in Benghazi I realized that the most effective political plays explore the personal as well as the political. I find stories about history, foreign affairs, or "hot-button issues"  often fail to connect with an audience because they solely focus on the sequence of events. I recently saw a play about soldiers recovering from PTSD and had difficulty connecting with the characters when they spoke about combat or fearing for their lives every single day. Then there was one moment when a soldier talked about how overwhelming simple tasks, like shopping at Walmart, had become. THAT I could understand and I began to relate to the character. So when I sat down to write about the conflict in Benghazi, I tried focused on the personal context of a complex conflict.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I have two goals in life: to do a show produced at The Public and to meet Mark Rylance.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
The most recent show I've recommended was The Amoralist's Rantoul and Die at The Cherry Lane. It was one of the best plays I've seen in a really long time. Funny, shocking, poignant and there was an extended bit with a catheter. That's comedy.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Well, Brando's dead so he's out. But old Brando, not young Brando (what I tenderly refer to as his "Muumuu Period"). Since I have many different personalities (I'm a gemini) I would have five different actors portray me, like "I'm Not There". These are my five ideal actors: Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, David Alan Grier, Cheyenne Jackson and the girl who plays Sally on Mad Men. It would be called "My Muumuu Period".

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Dancing like Robyn in her "Call Your Girlfriend" music video. The head movement is key.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Talking to myself on the subway for absolutely no reason.

What’s up next?: "Breaking Bad" starts in August....I'm not in it. I'm just very excited.

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