Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Interview - Nick Lawson of "Collision"

By Byrne Harrison

Nick Lawson is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and a long-time member of The Amoralists. He studied Commedia Dell’Arte, Burlesque and Vaudeville in France with John Rudlin, in Italy at Antonio Fava’s International School of Physical Comedy, and at The American Mime Theater in New York. His past credits include The Pied Pipers of the Lower East SideHappy in the Poorhouse, AmerissiahGhosts in the CottonwoodsThe Hallway TrilogySquealer, HotelMotel, and The Bad and the Better.  He is currently appearing in Lyle Kessler's Collision at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

First, Nick, I'd like to thank you for taking time for this interview.  I believe this is the fifth Amoralists production I've seen you in, and I'm excited to hear about your work with the company.

How did you first get involved with The Amoralists?

I went to the American Academy of Arts a couple of years before the founding members did (Matt, James, and Derek). I met Derek first, when I was cast with him and Sarah Lemp in a play up at 78 Street Theater Lab, called Seven Stories. So I knew Derek first as an actor. Actually, Sarah was in the company at school right before me and I saw her in a showcase there. She was the first person I ever saw perform in New York and I thought to myself, wow, I’d like to work with her. I've worked with her now probably more than I've worked with anyone else other than James. Anywho, I ran into Derek at a movie theater a couple months after the show had ended and he told me he had written a play with a character in it that needed to look young and since I have a baby face (I still play 17 year olds and I’m 29), he wondered if I’d be available. I said yes and he sent me this really bizarre play called While Chasing the Fantastic (I played the ghost of a fetus named Justice) and we did it at the Kraine and nobody came, but we just kept doing it, and Derek wrote this play called Pied Pipers of The Lower East Side and I’m still here. First acting member to join.

Tell me a little about Collision.

It’s a play about lost people who find each other and do a lot of damage. It’s about family and neediness and how people control each other out of love as well as selfishness. It’s about microcosmic tyranny and how potent it can be.

How does it compare to the other work you've done with company?

We usually do classic two-act kitchen sink dramas - I never understood why people called us avant-garde. Derek writes in a very classic Aristotelian way, and so does Adam Rapp in a sense: no scene changes really, just full steam ahead in real time. The Bad and The Better was a departure from this: using vignettes and time change and so forth. This play is more in that vein: character arcs are rapid and intense - the motif is less grounded and more abstract. We don’t really know where the college [where Collision is set] is, etc. Our other plays are specifically grounded in different locals around New York City. There’s something almost alienating, Brechtian (to be pretentious) about this one- a fine line runs between the real and the allegorical. 

The night I saw Collision, I was amazed at the number of people who stood outside the theatre afterwards discussing the show with friends or even strangers.  What do you think it is about the show that makes people so eager to discuss and work through it?

Oy vey. It touches on a lot of controversial topics and people want to talk about those kinds of things - it’s not the kind of play that satisfies-its meant to stir up shit and upset. You either hate it or are confused or maybe you love it… I don’t know. It’s all so bloody subjective.

You play a college student named Bromley.  I found it fascinating to watch your character's interactions with his roommate Grange, played by James Kautz.  I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but the relationship radically changes Bromley.  What do you think would have happened to him if he had never met Grange?

Faded away? Gone on to great things? I wish I knew.

Collision is a pretty intense play.  What was the rehearsal process like?

Intense. Ever changing. Best idea in the room wins kind of things. There were lots of re-writes and re-arranging, and debating and sitting around and thinking aloud. It was very fun. All new plays are challenging and stressful and really hard and fun to make. It’s a serious group effort.

What has it been like working with Kautz, Anna Stromberg, Michael Cullen and Craig 'muMs' Grant?

I have spent thousands upon thousands of hours with James on stage. He is like an older brother and we have gone through a lot of shit together. Being a part of a small theater company is like being a part of a gang (without the profit motive), so we are very tight and our work together is very instinctual. Michael had been in the biz for along time and I've learned a lot from his poise-he is a very confident, relaxed guy and I’m always stressed out and he is always reminding me to have fun and not take myself too seriously. MuMs is one of the most fascinating individuals I have ever met, and we instantly clicked. He’s an older cat with a lot of wisdom and love and intense creative energy and the gods were very kind for getting mixed up with the Amoralists. I saw Anna Stromberg years ago in Dracula at the Academy and I told the guys, “yo, you gotta check this girl out, she’s the real deal kinda thing”, and she has been an incredible addition to the company. Anna is an actors actor to the top degree and she keeps me always wanting to do better. 

What is coming up next for you and The Amoralists?

The Amoralists are doing a new Mark Roberts play, Rantoul and Die, coming up in the spring, and Derek is putting on new play he wrote called The Cheaters Club, which is coming up this fall. As far as I’m concerned, ya never know, I’m an actor, so you know “if you wanna make god laugh, tell him your plans.”

I have a lot of readers who are students.  Do you have any advice for students who are planning a career in theatre?

Work on the craft first and than worry about the other stuff. You can be the hardest worker, networker, industry wiz in the world--it’s important to be savvy--but if you don’t really LOVE the WORK, don’t do it. You need serious patience. It takes time and if you don’t make it your life and your passion and you treat it like a hobby than you’re screwed.

And one question just for fun - do you have a dream role that you would like to perform some day?

I would love to play Baptiste in the yet unwritten theatrical version of the Marcel Carne film Children of Paradise, with Derek Ahonen in the role of Frédérick Lemaître. I hope Derek would write the damn thing some day.

Collision plays through February 17th at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place.  For more information, visit the website.

No comments: