Thursday, December 6, 2012

From the Rehearsal Room: Jason Wilson as "Harry"


As a special feature, we're excited to introduce you to our cast members and their experiences creating the world of LOVE SONG. 

LOVE SONG runs through December 9 - Wed-Sat at 8pm and Sat-Sun at 2pm. For tickets and information, click here

Introducing: Jason Wilson, who's playing Harry in LOVE SONG. Here is his first-hand account of the rehearsal process. 


Build the set. That is, if you’re allowed to as an actor. Some places won’t let the actor take part in building their own sets, but I’m here to tell you the benefits are beyond compare. One of the first questions I ask myself when I take on any role is where am I? This question is quickly follow by, where did I come from and where am I going? The first thing I work on is place. Long before I try substitutions or overalls, I “find” my place. If I have the luxury of actually getting to lay hands on the flats and hammer a nail into the walls or cut a piece of luan with a circular saw, most of my work on place is done. It becomes easy to say this is my house, this is my home, and this is where I’m living, if everywhere I look on stage is the fruits of my labor.

Such is the case with the set of my current production, LOVE SONG; produced by my company The Seeing Place Theater running at the ATA Sargent Theater in Hell’s Kitchen. I built the set with the help of other company members, so now when I look out the window or straighten of picture frame while “in character” on stage I have no trouble endowing the set with a rich history and a tapestry of personalizations. My work becomes real and I’m able to live fully in the moment. I believe where I am and so the audience believes my character believes where he is.

The first time I experienced this level of personalization and truth happened my second year of grad school at The New School for Drama. My class was doing a production called “The Chekhov Project”. We had the audacity to do four Chekhov plays at once, interweaving the dialog from all four plays into one script, creating a whole new play based on Chekhov’s major themes. The production was a tremendous success. I had the pleasure of creating Lopakhin from The Cherry Orchard for this “new” play. As you may know, Lopakhin buys the cherry orchard in the end but has to cut it down in order to create new revenue. When we were building the set, my director, Casey Biggs, had us go up to his house in upstate New York to gather wood and branches he wanted to use for the set. When we got to his house we discovered that on his land were actual cherry trees! Yes, I cut them down and it filled me with all sorts of emotions. I felt the guilt of destroying life and the power in being able to do so. When the weekend was over and all the branches had been loaded into the trunk and hauled to the theater I had an overwhelming feeling connection to what Lopakhin must have felt when he was “forced” to cut down Madame Ranevskaya’s cherry trees. I was able to bring this history (my personal history) to the stage when I performed. It was all needed to make the environment real for me.

Now, when I’m playing Harry in LOVE SONG I have that same sense of truth. When I feel a little lost on stage at any given moment I simply look at the walls and I remember, “oh yeah, that’s where I practically drilled a screw into my hand.” This is an honest thought and that truth brings me right back to the reality of the moment. When I look out the window I’m filled with a sense of pride because I think, “I built this window frame and it wasn’t easy.” If I need to create something to invoke a sense of fatigue or frustration, I simply remember the four days in a row I was at the theater until 5:00am painting, cutting, and drilling. I remember being at the theater for eighteen hours straight building the my set; and yes I’m tired! This is the kind of truth that makes theater seem magical. This level of personalization bring the play to “life”. When the characters are able to live truthfully in the moment the play pops.

 I guess this means the cat’s out of the bag. When you come join us for this beautiful and honest look at love, when you see LOVE SONG, you’ll be let in on a secret. “What is Harry thinking about? Oh, right I know”. Thankfully, I wouldn’t want it any other way. When I see theater I want to see real characters living and breathing, thinking and feeling on stage. I want the truth. I want the real experience. So, come experience the results first hand. LOVE SONG runs through Dec. 9th. Come see me, the actor, and if you would please tell me what you think of the set too. I’m very proud to have built it right along with building my character.


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Jason Wilson is excited to be a part of this dynamic ensemble driven theater called The Seeing Place Theater. Mr. Wilson was last seen on the New York stage in The New York International Fringe Festival, where he created the roles of Reverend Dale Goodkind and Deputy Blackhawk in THE ABDUCTION OF BECKY MORRIS by Alison Crane. Mr. Wilson graduated this past May with his MFA in Acting from The New School for Drama. Since graduating, he has performed with Emursive and PunchDrunk at The McKittrick Hotel, as well as The Fringe. Before returning to his studies 2009, Mr. Wilson spent 12 years as a working actor in Chicago, performing in over 24 theatrical productions as well numerous regional and national commercials. While in Chicago, Mr. Wilson performed regularly at Pegasus Players, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Chicago Dramatis, and The Chicago Theatre Company, just to name a few. In 2007, he toured India with an original play about the American Civil Right Movement titled, MY SOUL IS A WITNESS penned by David Barr III. Some notable characters he’s brought to the stage include, Edgar Allan Poe in the world premiere of E.A. POE:THE FEVER CALLED LIVING, The Captain in WOYZECK, Duke of Gloucester in HENRY VI, Lopakhin in THE CHEKHOV PROJECT, and Barry “Little Bill” Williams in the world premiere of NEVERLAND INDUSTRIES by Danny Carroll. Mr. Wilson was born in Schenectady, New York where his mother still lives in the house he grew up in. He attended Ithaca College and graduated with his BA in Theatre in 1996. Web: www.jasongwilson.com

11 comments:

  1. I'm gonna start drawing on the walls and see what happens to you. :O)

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  2. Enough silliness. For once, I'm taking Jason seriously! His blog comments make tremendous sense. AND I can see what he is talking about when I watch him on stage. A wonderful performance.

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  3. A couple of things I loved about this blog. First, you're spot-on with some of the points you make. I agree that place is a pretty strong area to start, and I admire that idea of a performer benefiting (in many ways) by getting involved with all aspects of his/her show. Particularly, set building is something to connect you deeply with the walls around you--and as you're making the set, you can tailor your experience to the character. Playing a character who hates his surroundings? Put that hate into hammering a nail. Need to love the place you're at? Savor the pride in putting each variable piece together.

    Second, I really enjoyed the story about "The Cherry Orchard." Your professor enacted a great experiment there, and it must have been an incredible experience for you. No better way to connect to the character than with direct, personal memories.

    Third, (and this one may sound bad at first, but I really do find it effective) great "propaganda" technique. The way you wrote about the article and how you invited the reader to see the show, dropping subtle cues along the way, was expert. Not manipulative and without trickery, but simply encouraging. Welcoming your crowd to see what you are talking about first-hand at the show. Classy, sir.

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  4. I think this a perfect example and explanation of when audiences see a show and say it was like being a fly on the wall. The amount of personalization you have done, Jason, is so evident that it is really like we are in the far corner of the living room/bar area and are just observing the day to day happenings between Harry, Joan, and Beane. I think something that really helps is the "what would you be doing if the scene weren't taking place" which for some reason is something I thought about constantly while watching you work. Your level of commitment to the space was great, as was your commitment to the task at hand, be it a crossword puzzle, finishing up work, or pouring a drink. Great, great work.

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  5. I love, love, love your honest on stage..... and now off stage as well. Your blog has inspired me to look even more forward to when it becomes my turn to become involved in the process. So thank you.

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    1. I love that Sue-Ellen! I was inspired by his post too. Can't wait to work with you!

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  6. Awesome post Jason! As a fellow company member, building the set the one night I was able to brought back so many memories from college. it was so nice to take ownership of the space. Every time that moving wall moved I felt like a proud parent. Endowing objects and relationships is one of the most important jobs as an actor, because if it is done right, the rest can take care of it self. What I mean is that if the actor has a specific connection to the elements through out the play, all he or she needs to do is live moment to moment through out the play, and the plot the playwright has written will take care of everything else. The actor in this case will have no choice but to be alive and active.

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  7. I couldn't agree with you more, Jason! Being a part of physically constructing an aspect of a show (whether it is sets, costuming or lighting etc.) is invaluable. Some of the most memorable shows I have been a part of were the ones in which a ton of blood, sweat, tears went into the construction of a set alongside the rehearsal process as an actor. It made me that much closer and more connected to the world of the play.

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