Next in our series of SoLow Fest interviews is Benjamin Lloyd-- White Pines Founding Producer, Ensemble Member, and SoLow Artist.
- So you are one of the ten brave souls of Bright Invention that are developing a solo piece in this year’s festival. Can you tell us a little about what your piece is?
My dad's always sending me theater stuff he thinks I'd be interested in. I have this amazing collection of old publications of Shakespeare plays he's sent me, for instance. In the fall of 1984, at the start of my senior year in college, he sent me a copy of a long monologue written by Samuel Beckett. To this day, I still don't know what collection he found it in. It's called From An Abandoned Work and it caught his eye because he learned it was the last thing Beckett ever wrote in English. After this piece, he wrote all his works in French first, which is interesting, since French was his second language.
As a Theater Studies major at Yale College, I had to choose a senior project for the completion of my degree. I walked into the office of the director of the major, a guy named Michael Early, and proposed to direct Camino Real by Tennessee Williams. After all, the year before I had directed Williams' Orpheus Descending. No, he said, we on the Theater Studies faculty want you to be an actor for your senior project. I was stunned, and left wondering what the hell I was going to do? Hope I get cast in some big role in a college show? Then I remembered the Beckett piece my dad sent me. With faculty member Jim Simpson (Flea Theatre NYC, husband to Sigourney Weaver) as my project advisor and directorial consultant, I performed From An Abandoned Work in a converted squash court in one of Yale's residential colleges in December 1984. I got a A for the project.
- I am personally very excited about the approach we’re taking to your piece, how is this different than when you performed From An Abandoned Work in college?
I am not doing the entire piece, which is about 40 minutes long when performed (it was radio play when first presented in 1954, so I'm not sure anyone ever memorized the whole thing before I did. There is no record of a public performance of it ever.) For SoLow, I am doing selections from the piece, and Jennifer is directing me to drop in "lightly structured" improvised solos in between memorized sections. The improvisations have to do with the way this piece has followed me around in my life, and how it reflects my family of origin - especially my father and mother, the dancer and teacher Barbara Dilley - as well as how it is reflects my own journey as an actor, father and artist.
- Have you heard buzz about any of your fellow ensemble members’ pieces that you’re particularly excited about?
Well I keep walking in on Jenn directing Daniel Student's piece about how he has the same name as a gay porn star. I learn so much from eavesdropping on those rehearsals! And I'm excited to see Randi Hickey play the ukulele! Actually, I can't wait to see them all. These are friends and fellow actors, and each piece is going to be so special.
- Not only are you an ensemble member of Bright Invention, you are the founding producer of White Pines Productions. For both of those people, how do you know this whole SoLow thing worked?
I think it's great that we are breaking from "ensemble" to do these solo pieces. It's an example of how Jennifer has pushed us to grow artistically, and to test the limits of what it means to be an ensemble. In a strange way, I think this process will make us a stronger ensemble, in that we will know so much more about each other's potential as performers, and what makes us tick. Imagine the stuff that will come up in our improvisations based on these pieces! Can't wait!
For more information on Ben's piece and process as well as tickets, check out his SoLow page here
Interview by Rising Leader, Randi Alexis Hickey