Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Spotlight On...Bill Army

Name: Bill Army

Hometown: Pomfret, CT

Education: Pomfret Community School, Pomfret School, Middlebury College(BA), NYU- Graduate Acting (MFA)

Select Credits: Broadway: Act One (Lincoln Center Theatre), Relatively Speaking (three one-act plays by Ethan Coen, Elaine May, and Woody Allen directed by John Turturro). Off-Broadway: Old Jews Telling Jokes, All's Well that Ends Well (Delacorte Theatre), Measure for Measure (Delacorte Theatre). With Potomac Theatre Project: Scenes from an Execution, Vinegar Tom, Gertrude- the Cry, The Europeans, and No End of Blame.

Why theater?: The Theatre reminds me of the first time I saw flash paper set on fire.  It burns hot.  It burns fast.  But it burns so brilliantly that it has stayed with me for over twenty years.

Who do you play in Scenes from an Execution and Vinegar Tom?: In Scenes, I play the Admiral, Cesare Suffici, and in Vinegar Tom, I play, Jack.

Tell us about Vinegar Tom and Scenes from an Execution: Scenes from an Execution by Howard Barker, is the epic tale of the Venetian Painter, Ana Galactia (loosely based on Artemsia Gentileschi) and her commission by the State of Venice, to paint the Venetian Naval Triumph over the Ottoman Empire in 1571, known as the Battle of Lepanto.  The play examines, amongst many other themes, censorship, the role of the artist, the discrepancies between written history and what actually happened, and the oppression and emergence of women in a male-dominated culture.  Barker celebrates and indicts his characters.  His visceral and savage wit is both horrifying and riotously funny.  I feel so lucky to work with Richard Romagnoli, Alex Draper, David Barlow, and of course Jan Maxwell on this revival production. Vinegar Tom is Caryl Churchill's exploration of the marginalization of women through the lens of the witch trials between the late 1500's and the late 1600's in England. The action of the play is broken up by a trio of three young ladies operating as a Greek Chorus who sing contemporary-style songs, by Carol Christensen, to both alienate and elucidate the dramatic action.  In some ways, Cheryl Faraone, picked a perfect counterpoint to Scenes.  While Barker is exploring the hypocrisy of the ruling-class, Churchill is examining the trickle-down effect of corruption amongst the lower classes, and particularly its effect on women.

What is it like performing in rep in multiple shows? What are the challenges?: It's rigorous physically and vocally, but I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work on these plays.  Even though VT and Scenes take place within twenty years of each other, my characters couldn't be more different in dialect, in class, in education, and in sexuality.  Suffici, a Patrician, has conquered the world; Jack is struggling to purchase his own farm.  Having compassion to advocate for and embody both men without judgment is a daily challenge especially when placed in diametrical opposition.  However, they are such polar opposites, I find myself feeling quite balanced in my personal life.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: If it is human, if it is honest, and if it challenges me, I will take it with me, everywhere.  In an age of ubiquitous technology, I am astounded that Theatre still exists.  The mere fact of an existing theatrical community is inspiring. There are far too many great artists to name, but I will name a collaborative team: Stephen Sondheim.  His commitment to the dance of content and form amazes me.  His music and lyrics magnify the humanity of his characters like no other. James Lapine.  James' stories have bewitched me, both on the page and off from the the time I was seven years old. This brilliant team inspires me, because they exemplify artistic collaboration.  Their stories still resonate with me, and I believe that they will continue to do so.

Any roles that you're dying to play?: I'm dying to play a part in a new play, where the character is conflicted and faced with at least one very hard decision. Additionally, I want to be in a musical!  I deeply admire Jan, for having had such an extraordinary career doing both!  I sing.  I want to be in a musical!  I want to be in Something Rotten!  Every single time I am cast in a play, my Grandmother asks me, "do you sing?"  I always say, "no."  There's a pause, and then she says, "do they know you can sing?"

What is your favorite showtune?: "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George and " I Have Confidence" from The Sound of Music.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: Oh God, I will give three, but there are more: Doug Hughes, Diane Paulus, and Bartlett Sher.

If you could go back in time and see any play that you missed, what would it be?: The original production of Oedipus Rex, in the original Greek.

What's your guilty pleasure?: A very cold, dry, Bombay Sapphire Gin Martini, straight up, with three olives.

What's up next?: I am shooting an episode on the webseries, "COHAB," and I am writing the book of a musical.  Other than that, a brief vacation and a visit to my parents'... then hopefully, a new play, where I play a young man who is conflicted and faced with at least one very hard decision.