From the Green Room: Eric Powell Holm
Today Illusion Theater introduces a new regular online feature called From the Green Room. Get behind-the-scenes views of productions directly from the artists involved, in their own words. First up: The brains behind this week's modern update of Moliere's "Le Misanthrope," Eric Powell Holm.
I'm ecstatic to be working on a new version of an old play for the Light House Group of the Illusion Theater. I remember when it was founded several years ago, and I thought at the time how smart it was to invest in the future of your theater by giving production opportunities to a new generation of creative, multi-disciplinary artists like Noah Bremer and Nathan Christopher, bold and expressive actors like John Catron and Lindsay Marcy, brilliant artistic producer minds like Ellen Fenster and Claudia Vazquez, and important young playwrights like Steve Moulds and Anton Jones. The foundation of creative, expressive skill fostered by the Lights Up! series has more than paid back the brave investment, perhaps most clearly with Light House Group founder Katie Guentzel's recent Ivey-award winning performance on the Illusion Theater main stage (and soon on tour) in "My Antonia."
So, theater geek respect firmly in place, I'm so proud to be showing my adaptation of Molière's amazing romantic comedy "Le Misanthrope." Ours is a contemporary version called "Misanthrope, Or the Impossible Lovers," in which all the action takes place, uninterrupted, during one wild party, and all of the characters are played by a small ensemble of four actors. Brendan Frost and Breana Jarvis, two extraordinary young actors training here at the University of Minnesota, play the impossible lovers of the title, Alceste and Celimene; acclaimed theater-makers Isabel Nelson (creator/director of "Ballad Of A Pale Fisherman" at this year's Fringe) and Matt "Sass" Spring (one of the four founders of the beloved Four Humors Theater Company) play everybody else: rivals in romance, arrogant seducers, back-stabbing frenemies, awkward social misfits, etc.
It's times like this — trying to crack the nut of a hilarious classic play, working with brave and creative collaborators like this cast, the gift of great production and management support from Light House Group leaders Ellen Fenster and Nathan Christopher and our wonderful stage manager Anna Cramer, and the benevolent oversight of Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris — that I feel really lucky to be a member of the creatively and spiritually wealthy Twin Cities theater community.
How and why did you get involved in theater?
I followed a fairly common theater artist path, I think. I started out as a disciple of that old John Guilgud aphorism (spoken in a very posh British accent), "There are three reasons why anyone becomes an actor: Look at me, look at me, Look At Me!" But the summer after my junior year of high school, I went to a theater summer camp, the Cherubs program at Northwestern University outside Chicago, and began to see acting as a creative craft with real artistic dignity. I ended up training here at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program and then starting a company in Provincetown, Mass., called Shakespeare On The Cape. The reasons why I make theater now are very different from what they were when I was little, but I'm quite thankful to my urge for applause and encouragement for pulling me into this crazy field.
Why should someone come see this production?
I think that our version of "Le Misanthrope" will seem stunningly relevant to contemporary audiences. In the same way that "Much Ado About Nothing" is an ancestor of "When Harry Met Sally," our adaptation, titled "Misanthrope, Or the Impossible Lovers," might be a theatrical cousin to "Mean Girls" and "Annie Hall" and "Garden State."