Ensemble Interview: Benjamin Lloyd

We've got another interview for you! This time with White Pines Productions' founding producer, Ben Lloyd. Read what he has to say on The Improvathon, coming to Center City on December 6th!

Bright Invention is about to do something we’ve never tried before; improvising for 24 hours straight. What were your first thoughts when Artistic Director Jennifer MacMillan pitched this to the ensemble?

 That I loved the boldness, the outrageousness of her vision. Then I began planning the schedule of my energy drink consumption over a 24 hour period. I use a Soda Stream energy drink and I plan to arrive at the Improvathon with three 1-liter bottles of the stuff. One will be consumed at hour six, one at 12 and one at 18. 

Beyond the attention-grabbing nature of the event ("Your doing WHAT for 24 hours straight?"), I believe it will be an amazing collective experience for our ensemble, a bit like going to war together, but with out the loud noises, carnage and terror. No question we will all be a tighter bunch (is that even possible?) once this all over. 

 

Ben Lloyd is essentially two different people when it comes to Bright Invention. Founding Producer and Ensemble Member. What do you envision hour 24 of this event looking like for both of those people? 

Because of exhaustion, giddiness and the aforementioned energy drinks, I imagine it will look a giant undulating amoeba. And by that time I will not be two people. I will be 63 people. The two you mentioned, plus vestiges of all the characters I have played in The Improvathon. 

My hope is that the house is packed with friends and loved ones urging us on, that Jenn has announced that we have met our fundraising goal for this event, and that Bright Invention enters a spasm of energetic joy knowing we are less than an hour away from the end of the event. Some of the most amazing improvisation ever seen on earth will be invented in that final hour - I just know it. 

 

What do you think it is about this ensemble that is going bring us successfully to hour 24?

Okay here's where it gets cheesy. We begin most of our rehearsals with the "check-in", in which we share the events and circumstances of our lives away from the ensemble. Often these are hilarious, sometimes painful, always meaningful. Then we leap into each other's arms - creatively speaking - and make magic. 

What will get us to hour 24? Our love for each other. I am so safe when I am with Bright Invention. I am going to be carried by my ensemble to hour 24, and I will carry them. And all the minor fear and anxiety we may be wrestling with now about performing for 24 hours will vanish as we improvise one hour to the next. 

 

We here at Bright Invention like to casually mention that you hold an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. What do you think your professors would say about all of this? 

Did I have professors at Yale? The one guy I remember who I could call a "professor" was Leon Katz (may he rest in peace), who taught the actors the one academic class we were required to take during our first year - a sort of Western Theater lit survey. He sat on stage and chain-smoked Kool cigarettes (yep, I'm that old, teachers and students could smoke in class). He tapped the ashes into this big empty coffee can - like the kind Chock Full O'Nuts comes in. He had a goatee and always reminded me of Mephistopheles. And he was brilliant - captivating a class for an hour and lecturing about (insert Western theater heavyweight here) without notes. 

My training at Yale was amazing, and so much of what I do and espouse as a teacher and an artist is rooted in a lesson learned from my teachers there. I think my teachers would be proud of Bright Invention, and happy that I am creating opportunities for actors to work, play, and feel supported.

I have something else to say about conservatory acting training, but I'll save that for another interview . . . 

 

For more info on The Improvathon, click here!

Interview by Bright Invention Rising Leader, Randi Alexis Hickey.