Friday, January 3, 2014

Spotlight On...Tim Eliot

Name: Tim Eliot

Hometown: Pembroke, New Hampshire. The woods.

I got my undergrad degree at Yale, and spent a semester of that studying at the Moscow Art Theater. I went back to Moscow and trained with more Russians during grad school at the ART/MXAT Institute at Harvard.

Favorite Credits: I loved playing Hamlet a few years ago, directed by my great teacher, David Hammond, and when I was in Moscow in 2009, I got to play Walsingham in Pushkin's Little Tragedies, which is a fantastically mind-bending, heart-exploding piece. I've been having a blast directing in the past few years. Romeo and Juliet in a taxi garage, a half-open-air Much Ado at the cell this summer. I've been dabbling in film, too, and I'm in awe of the efficiency and expertise of a great set. My two-day bit part on "Boardwalk Empire" was glorious.

Why theater?: Why not theater, right!? Uh, I got hooked in high school after I experimented with improv and being a bit girly. Got to be hammy and deep at the same time, hang out with the funniest weirdos.. And then in college, I got really sucked in discovering the rich history and theory of theater. Schechner, Brook, Soyinka, Brecht. Directed the Undergrad Shakespeare Company for a while, played Tamora, Romeo, Horatio, and directed Merchant. I've never made much money, but there's a value in doing this thing that so wildly surpasses our ability to monetize it. All we can do is charge admission, but everyone knows how endlessly valuable play is.

Tell us about Suicide!??: I've never actually seen this play, but when I first read it aloud, I knew that I had to be a part of a production some day. First, it's just effing funny. It's audacious, right, to write a comedy about a potential suicide and just call it Suicide. Erdman had balls, theatrically and politically. The play was shut down several times and never officially produced in Russia until the 90's. It just savaged orthodox Communist thought, so it was continually censored. That's the other part that I love: it takes apart so many illusions we have about our political and philosophical convictions. So it's dark, dark, dark, and yet it inspires such fun and joy and togetherness. I've been laughing to tears every day and had such a blast with this cast. We're all busting our asses to make it as good as possible, and even though the material is real and heavy and difficult emotionally, we're having so much fun.

What inspired you to direct Suicide!??:
I think the intensity of the media rampup to the 2012 election got me really thinking about this play, and what it asks us about what we believe in and why. What would you die for? An end to war? An end to poverty? Misogyny, homophobia? Would you be willing to die if you knew it would make the world a better place for everyone else? Now, would you be willing to let someone else die for it? Rediscovering the Interart Annex space made us all really excited. It's a play about people on the edge, living illegally, and this space is both incredibly raw and beautifully theatrical.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
I love theater that really connects with both our primal eldest fascinations, fears, and desires, and with what's going on in our culture. I got really excited about the possibility of directing Romeo and Juliet in an incredibly divided community next summer. I mean, really, who needs that play the most? Who has the most to bring to it and the most to take away? So theater of any kind that engages with its source material fully and asks how that matters to contemporary culture, and then takes that into a wildly imaginative realm. Kama Ginkas has a production of Black Monk, a Chekhov short story about a young mathematician losing his mind, on a thrust stage that's populated with a field of peacock feathers. As the actors work through the story, they lazily pull at or angrily demolish the field. It's a breathtaking metaphorical gesture. Sumptuous, elegant, simple, and devastating.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Wow, a whole ton of people. Bob Woodruff, Kama Ginkas, Steve McQueen, Janosz Szasz, Dmitri Krymov, John Tiffany, P.T. Anderson, Rebecca Miller (are you all paying attention, please!?). I'd also love to direct some of my favorite actors, you know? Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Day-Lewis!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I got a few people to check out Krymov's Opus No. 7 when it came to St. Ann's. The second act of that made me love theater again. I've always been a fan of Nick Jones, and I really hope his Trevor comes back to New York. If it does, don't miss it!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I'm told constantly that I look like James McAvoy, although I'd prefer a Baldwin brother. Really, I would only demand that the title be "Cowboy Shakespeare".

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
Ugh, Facebook. Sucks me in, and I love seeing pictures of friends, but it's bad for my left parietal cortex.

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: Oohhhh, the dirty secrets! “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi or “Valerie” by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Hopefully teaching people to ski or meditating a lot.

What’s up next?: On Saturday I start rehearsals for MacBeth with the Shelter Theater Group, directed by Julia Campanelli. Careena Melia and I will be playing Lady M and MacBeth, and we're doing it in St. Theresa's Church in the LES. It's a huge, active Catholic Church, and we're running January 26th-30th. Lots of current and alums of Sleep No More and the ART/MXAT Institute at Harvard. If you like immersive, site-specific, and/or Shakespeare, come check it out!