The Soul of the American Actor

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

BRIAN COX

NICOLE ANSARI

DAVID SHINER

DAVID GREENSPAN

BILL D'ELIA

FYVUSH FINKEL

LYLE KESSLER

JENNIFER FOUCHÉ

SHELDON EPPS

MYRIAM CYR

JIM SEALES

ROBERT STAFFANSON

IAN FINKEL

WILLIAM S. YELLOWROBE, JR.

EDDIE MARTIN

PETER JENSEN

TIM STEVENSON

Spotlight On

 

“Don’t cast away a flower or even a tree leaf without entering into communion with it and penetrating into its mystery. Listen to the twittering of a bird, watch the thoughtfulness of each small fish in an aquarium; gaze as often as you can at the stars – all this will help in your struggle for spiritual concentration.” 
- Richard Bolaslavsky

 

Hirschfeld

 

“To flourish, society depends on a strong cultural heritage as well as innovation. The challenge is to breathe new life into the arts. Creativity is at the heart of every successful nation. It finds expression in great visual art, wonderful music, fabulous performances, stunning writing, gritty new productions and countless other media. Giving form to our innate human creativity is what defines us to ourselves and the world.
This is what the arts have always done. The lasting value and evidence of a civilization are its artistic output and the ingenuity that comes from applying creativity to the whole range of human endeavor. What is education if it doesn't teach our children to think creatively and innovatively? What use is a robust economy unless it is within an innovative country that can attract and stimulate the world? How can good governance exist without a population that is engaged, educated and able to form its own opinions?”  Excerpt from an essay, “Reviving a creative nation,”
 – by Cate Blanchett and Julianne Schultz, April 16, 2008, For the Creative Australia Stream at the 2020 Summit

“Simply think the words.”
— Goethe

“Action is the direct agent of the heart.”
— Delsarte

“The supreme goal of the theatre is truth, the ultimate truth of the soul.”
— Max Reinhardt

“Through the unity of reason and emotion, of spirituality and affection and sensation, the actor will discover his creative genius for the stage – the art of acting.”
— Erwin Piscator

“The artist-actor unveils his inner soul.”
— Eleonora Duse

“Living is a process. Acting is the act of laying oneself bare, of fearing off the mask of daily life, of exteriorizing oneself.  It is a serious and solemn act of revelation. It is like a step towards the summit of the actor’s organism in which are united consciousness and instinct.”
— Jerzy Grotowski

“Let us find our way to the unknown, the intuitive, and perhaps beyond to man’s spirit itself.. “
— Viola Spolin

Jennifer Fouché

Is currently starring as Roberta in the hit Off Broadway show, “Sistas: The Musical” Off-Broadway at St. Luke’s Theatre in New York City. She is a member of the original cast. An original member of the Amoralists Theatre Company, and was a member of The Flea Theatre’s resident acting company, The Bats. She has appeared in “Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Cape Playhouse), “Hamlet” (The Drilling Company), “Portraits” (Prospect Theatre Company), “Dirty Little Black Girls” (The Fire This Time Theatre Festival), “Hairspray” (Gateway Playhouse), Babes in Toyland (Lincoln Center), and on a national Tour of “Freedom Train.” Her film and TV work includes: “Smash,” “Animal Planet,” “The Mysteries of Laura,” and “Person of Interest.” She recently completed work on two new films. www.jenniferfouche.com

How did you first become connected to “Sistas: The Musical”?

Sistas The Musical

It’s really interesting when you look back at the beginning of a production that you’ve become so close to. A girlfriend told me about an audition notice for a show in the Midtown International Theatre Festival called Sistas and I decided to go in to audition. I actually intended to read for the role of Simone but the director, Kenneth, said: “Could you look at Roberta?” and gave me one of her monologues. As soon as I read it, I thought. “Oh I like her!”

The next day, I got offered the role. The first week of rehearsal was tablework, all of us sitting together and really deciding who the women in this family were. Now, it’s not unusual when you’re in a production that’s predominantly black, that the only black people in the room are the actors and our director and playwright acknowledged that. They said to us: “We want your voices, your input.” They were extremely interested in creating a story that is truthful and relevant. Dorothy, the playwright said to the cast: “I’m not black. I need your voices. I need to know if there are places in the script that don't sound right or feel right.” That was how our creative process began and that generous atmosphere remained throughout the rehearsal period.

Sistas The Musical

It's always a privilege to be such a huge part of the developmental process. People come up to us at the end of every show and say, “That’s my family!” That’s when I know as a team we got it right.

Sistas The Musical

You also were in a production of “Hamlet” while you were doing this show.

Yes! I love Shakespeare and I did a production of “Hamlet” with The Drilling Company, which has been an institution in New York City for roughly 15 years or so.  It was the first production in the inaugural season of Shakespeare in Bryant Park.

“Sistas” comes down at 6pm, so as soon as I was finished with the show, I’d change, run to the park, get into makeup and costume and go on!

How have you kept it fresh for yourself and what have you learned from being in the same show over such a long period of time?

When you love a show, it makes all the difference. I’ve been with it for four years and I still love it; I'm still learning from this character and this family I share the stage with every week. I’m sure you have felt something similar doing your show for fifteen years.

For me, every show feels different because every audience is different; they have a different energy, they laugh or cry in different places. It's a new experience for them and so it’s a different experience for us.

Not to mention, what we’re talking about in the show is so incredibly relevant today. When Roberta talks about the inequities in the judicial system, it’s happening right now – it’s present time so it's impossible to divorce yourself from the reality of the world we live in. Truth doesn’t allow for staleness.

You’re originally from Detroit, and began singing at a young age

Smash

Yes, I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. Interestingly enough, as much as I've always loved theatre and movies, I never thought I’d be an actor. My mother, however, was a brilliant actor and I would watch her on stage when I was a kid and I remember being in awe. I have always had a great respect for actors and performers because I grew up seeing it up close. When I began my career in the music industry, my mother became my manager. She had already taught me everything I knew about live performance. As it turns out, she was my first acting teacher.

You’re also working on your own one-person show, “Grown Folks Are Talking.” Why did you decide to create your own show?

It started out as a monologue for a scene night I was hosting for a theatre company. I had written some monologues that I thought I’d use but I left them in a notebook at my cousin's house. I decided to write something else and what came out was the voice of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl. I performed it that evening and realized there was more story to tell. Then I realized there were other stories connected to that story and they needed telling as well. The show just grew from there.

What gives you the greatest joy collaborating with the other members of “Sistas” every night, and with the audience?

Sistas The Musical

That’s such a great way to describe it; as a collaboration between the actors and the audience. I think the biggest source of joy comes from the knowledge that we’re telling someone’s story and every time we tell that story, the audience comes along on that journey with us and they recognize the story because it’s theirs. It’s the story of a family and we all have one.

My joy comes from knowing that at the end of that journey, we’ve all been changed just a little bit and that can change the world. Art really can change the world. What greater joy is there than being a part of something as powerful as that.



"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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