Strange Attractor is collaborating with Lightning Rod Special, on our newest piece, Sans Everything. Jed is interviewing members of the cast in order to introduce you to the new faces. . . Meet Scott.
Jed: Where are you from?
Scott: I was born in Stratford, NJ and lived there for two weeks. Then I moved to Philadelphia and lived there for three years before moving to central PA, where I lived most of my life.
Jed: What did you study in school?
Scott: English literature. Painting and drawing. I knew I loved drawing, but I had no idea what I was doing when I went to college. I chose a liberal arts college because I had no idea what I wanted. Performance wasn't in the cards, so I chose a school without a performance program.
Jed: Were there pageants or school plays you did as a kid?
Scott: There were. There were these one-act plays I was in every year called Drama Night. It was a competition among the four grades. I also did a little improv -- I started an improv group and a film group. But I was in sports so I didn't do any plays. I played basketball and golf. I had a little bit of a Rushmore-like quality. I wanted to be in all the clubs. I started all the clubs.
Jed: Were you in every yearbook picture?
Scott: A little bit. The improv club was called Nine Asterisks because there were nine of us.
Jed: I won't dwell too much on this, but. . . What were you watching that made you want to do improv?
Scott: My girlfriend at the time went to Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and I used to visit her and we'd go see a lot of improv on South Street, which at the time seemed like the best. We'd go back to high school and try to emulate it. That was high school. College was the same kind of thing. I'd perform in little things here and there -- I played Jack the Rapist in a Three Penny Opera. I did a little improv, a little stand-up. I'd try to write. I was obsessed with writing short stories and drawing and painting. That was serious. The other stuff was just weekend play time.
Jed: What was the focus of the writing?
Scott: I was all over the place. My stories were all kind of playful-funny-but-dark. I aspired to be something like George Saunders. I never did, but that's where I thought I was pointed. I hoped after school I'd be a serious writer, but I started to observe I was terrible as a creator alone. I liked talking with people and collaborating. The solitude of writing was anathema to me. The actual process of writing was grueling. Although I was often writing, I was often avoiding writing.
Jed: What was the moment you made the transition toward performance?
Scott: It happened in a very funny way. I lived in France the year after I graduated, teaching English and that's where I thought I'd become a serious writer. I had all this time and I think I wrote three stories when I was hoping to write a novel. It became obvious that I was not good at the practice of writing. I needed to be on my feet running around. I was looking for a job for when I returned -- was I going to be a journalist? was I going to work for a nonprofit? I applied to the Arden Theater apprenticeship. It was attractive because it paid you money and I thought, "I like theater." I didn't think of it as any different than going to France -- it would be another thing I could do for a year while I was just looking for interesting things to do to survive. I kind of got reintroduced to the world of theater, and after it was over I thought, "This is definitely not for me." After that year I did a funny job where I was hired by a Friends school to catalog the second-largest sheet music collection in the United States.
Scott: I don't know why I'm going into this detail.
Jed: I like it. I mean, I'm listening.
Scott: Well the Friends school needed someone to appraise this collection that had been donated to them, but they couldn't have it appraised until it was catalogued. We would just go to the scanning room with this big pile of sheet music and then scan and then enter it into a database. It took about a year, though I only did it for 100 days or whatever. While there I ended up meeting people who worked at the school and I thought, "Maybe I want to be a teacher." And I filled in for someone on maternity leave and then they decided to hire me full time. Teaching English. It was while I was doing that that some of my friends from college who were actually obsessed with theater wanted to make original plays. The first one we did. . . I loved it. It was like everything I'd been looking for. I could write, I could be on my feet, I had to show up to rehearsal, so I didn't have the problem of knowing when to make work. Ironically the three friends that I made those first shows with -- now one is a doctor, one is in business school, and one is a lawyer. I'm the only one still making theater.
Jed: That was Groundswell Players?
Scott: That was Groundswell Players.
Jed: That's amazing. Here we are. I had no idea. That's 17 minutes. I'm suddenly like, "I don't know how to interview anyone. What am I going to do with this?"
Jed: Podcast. (It's not a podcast. Rebecca typed this.) Well, let me ask. . . Are there things you haven't said in other interviews that you want to say?
Scott: This is an interesting time because I'm trying to figure out how can I make this actually stable? I have a lot of theater work now through the end of the year, but I still work at a restaurant. I like to go out to eat and I like to have a nice place to live, so it's scary to rely on theater for my sole income. I'm trying to figure out my next steps. . . Teaching and creating? Working with a larger company? I need to figure out that balance.
Jed: What's the ideal version of the next few years?
Scott: Having the work we make be so successful it supports some people on payroll. Or maybe being a part of a teaching institution that supports my ability to make new work.
Jed: So you'd like to still have the ability to go tour or travel for theater and be an actor and make new work.
Scott: Yeah. Mostly I just want to make new work that's really good.
Jed: Do you have any rituals before you see a show?
Scott: Not a strict one. I see lots of art and so it's less pristine or romantic. I just kind of go from one thing and hope I'm not late. I like to get a drink after a show and talk about it. I hate the post-show actor-feeling-awkward conversation. It's a tense overwhelming exchange and so I try to extract myself from it and meet with people who can actually talk about it. It's a shame when you can't process work.
Jed: You like to dig in.
Scott: Yeah. I like to dig in.
Jed: What's your favorite food to make when you're sad? Scott: Penang curry. Ideally I roast a whole chicken, make the curry and the rice, shred the chicken, mix it in the curry, mix it in the rice, and then you're good to go. Little fish sauce, little palm sugar, little thai basil. I take pretty decent base-level penag and then upgrade it severely.
Jed: Do you have a specific goal for every project you do?
Scott: I try to figure out what it is that makes this project the most exciting to me and to the people who will be watching it. I hold on to that and then infuse that part with the most energy and then make that the thing that expands. I look for the genetic material. One project it might be to make people cry. Another might be to make it as epic as possible. Whatever the heart of the piece is the thing. The finding of that thing requires intuition. If it's too quickly nameable it's probably not interesting. Or at least not interesting for theater. Theater pushes buttons in us that are not exclusively intellectual. It makes us wrestle with things we can't quite pin down.
Jed: What's the best theater you've ever seen?
Scott: Romeo Castellucci's Concept of the Face of Loving God or whatever it was called. . . It was one of those pieces that punched me in the gut in the most amazing way. It was both intellectual and emotional in both modes. Do you want me to talk about it?
Jed: Yeah, sure.
Scott: DESCRIBES THE SHOW IN GREAT DETAIL, BUT YOU CAN JUST READ ABOUT IT HERE.
Jed: We're making a play about the future. What are your biggest hopes about the future of the world?
Scott: I don't know. . . I hope we don't destroy ourselves too soon. . . I don't frame the future in terms of hope because I see human obsolescence on the horizon. Humans are just one step in an unfathomable process. To keep it a little more near future. . . There's going to be a sad moment when we are eclipsed by faster and bigger intelligence. Those consciousnesses will see us as dogs or plants or bi-products. We will quickly not be the top of the food chain. I think it will be nice to not become obsolete because of nuclear war, but because of something we invent.
Jed: In a Her way. Which you love.
Scott: Yes. I love it. Leave it to the real kings of evolution.