Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spotlight On...Nicolas Minella

Name: Nicolas Minella

Hometown: New York, NY (I am of that rare breed: a native New Yorker.)

Education: York College, CUNY (B.A.); Columbia University (Creative Writing)

Favorite Credits:  BURBAGE: The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous. Writing (and rewriting) this my first play, working with my actor, Neil McGarry, and several directors, as well as seeing it performed in Boston and on Cape Cod, with varying audience reaction, has given me a crammed practical course on play writing. If I write anything good from here, it is because of what I’ve learned with this play.

Why theater?: Speaking as a playwright for me it is an opportunity to speak directly to an audience without the distractions of special effects or cinematic tricks. Some movie reviewers will pan storylines and performances of films they’ve seen, but still recommend a movie because of its special effects, playwrights have no such luck; their dialog, plot, and characters must carry the story, which for me is a challenge I cannot refuse. Another advantage of theater over movies and television is that there are fewer political consequences and less of a possibility of a cultural backlash with a play based on what may be considered a controversial premise, so the playwright is freer to explore topics that generally would not be explored, or at least toned down, in movies and on Television. Not that some playwrights haven’t raised a few eyebrows, like Edward Albee with his play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Can you see that play coming a movie theater or television set near you anytime soon?

Tell us about BURBAGE: The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous:
Briefly put, it proves that dead men do tell tales! Richard Burbage, the world’s first Hamlet, speaks again about Shakespeare, his world and theatrical life, backstage politics, backbiting, sex, and the joys and tragedies of being an actor in any age. I attempted to do research on the life of Richard Burbage only to realize that, like his good friend William Shakespeare, only a few stories about the man have been passed down from the 16th Century, and no intimate details. What you see on stage – with the exception of one oft-told tale – is a product of my imagination, but it is based on what I do know about Shakespearean times, English history, and the sometimes lonesome, often wearisome life of an actor.

What inspired you to write BURBAGE: The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous?: A day that start’s out as routine as any other day can change your life. I was working at Columbia University when I met Neil McGarry, a splendid fellow and fine actor. We became friends and soon realized that we both had a love for Shakespearean theater, with Neil having the advantage of having acted in many of the Bard’s plays. As an aspiring writer (who up to then had only written a handful of short stories), I one day boldly announced that I would write him a play.  And so I did, after, if I remember correctly, eleven rewrites.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: All kinds of theater speak to me. This past year alone I’ve seen productions of Twelfth Night; The Mystery of Irma Vep, A Penny Dreadful by Charles Ludlam; William Inge’s A Loss of Roses; and revivals of two old musicals: America’s Sweetheart and For Goodness Sake. As you can see, I have eclectic tastes. Inspiration comes easy to me. I can see two people arguing on a bus and immediately begin to write a story of their lives and their argument. Technique

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Oddly enough, I would prefer to work with someone who, like me, is just finding his balance in the theater. We could learn from each others mistakes and celebrate each others successes.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: BURBAGE, The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous, of course. And they better come!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Although there is no physical resemblance, I would like to be portrayed by George Clooney. However, Chazz Palminteri would probably be cast. It would be called: Life does have a Second Act.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Pampering my own ego.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: If you haven’t guessed it yet, here I must reveal myself to be an old stick-in-the-mud. My most played song is “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Mitchell Parish. That old tune has somehow has survived innumerable interpretations from the Swing era, jazz artists, and even, yes, even Ringo Starr. Its melody sounds natural and unforced, its lyrics are simple, if somewhat sentimental (as life itself should be), and, like me, it has survived everything the world has thrown at it.

If you weren’t working in the theater, you would be ________?:  I would be plying my old trade as a contract manager, but probably I’d be unemployed.

What’s up next?: I hope to have a new play produced. It’s entitled A Virgin Shall Conceive, which is a comedy/drama retelling of the Nativity story (but not your grandmother’s version), and to find a publisher for my novel "The Blessed Fall", about an ex-priest, now married for five years, who begins to doubt his decision to leave the church and his love for his wife.