11 February 2009

Spotlight On....Marcus Stevens

Marcus Stevens is one smart cookie. He acts, he writes, he sings. He recently moved from Pittsburgh to NY and is attending the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. He is definitely one to watch!

Can you tell me about your interests outside of theatre?
I’ve always been interested in history. I’m drawn to reading biographies and nonfiction. I don’t know if this is an interest, but I love food. I love trying new foods (especially desserts!) and I’m hooked on watching the food network. Chefs fascinate me. I think because cooking is such a strange and specific art form, and it’s something I could never do.

What are you inspired by?
This is a tough question because it changes from day to day. As a writer, I’m inspired by good stories and good storytelling. I’m inspired by everyday things that reveal something surprising about our humanity. I’m inspired by things that make me laugh. As an actor, I’m inspired by projects that scare me. If I face a project that seems daunting, that’s usually good. And as a person, I’m inspired by good friends and all the cool stuff they’re doing.

What is your creative process? Do you have a ritual that gets you ready to write?
Not really…unless you count pacing as a ritual. I pace a lot before I write. Usually when I’m starting a project I spend a long time just thinking about it before anything goes on paper. I walk around my apartment, my neighborhood, anywhere just thinking. Then when I’m ready I write an outline or a rough sketch.

What are you currently working on?
Well, I’m working on a one act musical with Douglas Levine about a college girl with confidence and weight issues. It’s going to be directed and performed by college students, so I think that’s cool. I’m also in my first year at the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. It’s a training program for lyricists and composers, where you’re paired with a new collaborator for each assignment. Some of the things I’ve worked on so far are a song for Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (everyone who has ever been in this workshop since it began in 1961 has done this assignment), a charm song for It’s a Wonderful Life, and a comedy song for Tony Kushner’s Angel’s in America. As an actor, I’m preparing to do a production of Forbidden Broadway at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia this spring.

You recently moved to NY from Pittsburgh…how is NY inspiring you?
Well, there’s something about being in a city where so much is happening. It can be scary, but it’s very exciting. It makes you feel like the possibilities are endless (ask me if I still feel that way in a few years and we’ll see!). Being in the BMI workshop, surrounded by really talented people who are all doing the same thing as I am is also very inspiring. I have people to talk to about what interests me about musical theater. We give each other feedback on our work. It’s really terrific.

You are a writer and an actor who is quite accomplished in both pursuits-- do you enjoy both equally? Do you find that acting and writing complement each other or are they 2 totally different processes for you?
I think they do complement each other. As an actor, it’s my job to get inside the character I’m playing—to think like that person and live in their shoes. As a writer, I have to do the same thing. In fact, I have to be even more engrossed in the character because I have to provide the words that he or she says. And to add to that, I’m not just playing one character when I write, but all of them. So I think it’s very similar. The only huge difference for me is that acting is always done while surrounded by other people and writing is very solitary. When I’m in a play, there’s a director and other actors to communicate with. As a playwright, I’m usually sitting in my apartment, staring at a laptop. I wrote a show called Eastburn Avenue that I also acted in this past May. It was really eye opening to create a character on paper and then have to create him as an actor too.

What is your dream project?
I don’t really have a specific project I’ve been dreaming about. A dream project for me is working on a story that I feel very passionate about, with a collaborator who’s…well, collaborative (sometimes they’re not)…and of course whatever it is, it has a role in it for me…if it were on Broadway, that wouldn’t be too bad.

How do you get through writer's block?
This is going to sound bad, but I procrastinate. I actually find that it helps. Sometimes when I’m stuck I just have to walk away. I can’t force it. So I watch TV or go to lunch (that’s my favorite form of procrastination) or I work on something else. Then later, when I’ve had some distance, the ideas often come back.

What are you currently reading?
It’s called The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. Daniel Mendelsohn, the author, recounts his search for truth behind his family’s tragic past in the Holocaust. It’s part memoir, part reportage, part mystery. The information he digs up is amazing, but more amazing is how he finds it. The man literally went to the ends of the earth to discover the truth about his lost family members. I just recently wrote a play about the nature of family, memory and history, so reading this is fascinating to me.

What words do you live by?
When I was in high school, I guess, was when I saw Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George for the first time. It’s about the artist’s personal quest to create. When George, our hero, has completely lost hope that he’ll ever break through to something truly original, his life-long muse gives him this advice…
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see

Marcus Stevens
earned a BFA in Theatre Arts from Point Park Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh , PA. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, AFTRA, and the Dramatists Guild. As an actor, Marcus has worked in many of Pittsburgh ’s premiere regional theaters, including The Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, City Theatre Company, The Pittsburgh Playhouse, Jewish Theater of Pittsburgh and Bricolage Production Company. His work as the title role in Adam Guettel and Tina Landau’s Floyd Collins and as Gordon Schwinn in William Finn’s A New Brain earned him accolades in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for “One of the Year’s Best Performances” of 2002 and 2003, respectively. Other major roles to date, include Jamie Wellerstein in the Jewish Theater of Pittsburgh’s production of The Last Five Years, Sparky in the Civic Light Opera’s long running production of Forever Plaid, Jed (alongside Tim Hartman) in The Big Bang and Mandy Patinkin, Harvey Fierstien, Colm Wilkinson and many others in Forbidden Broadway. Marcus has taught musical theater at Point Park Conservatory and has taught and directed many high school and college students at Upper Darby Summer Stage for the past eleven years.

As a writer, Marcus is the recipient of the 2005 Richard Rodgers Award for his musical Red, co-written with composer/lyricist Brian Lowdermilk. Red was also a finalist in the Eugene O’Neill Festival for New Musicals and for the TAMS New Voices Prize. Marcus has also written the book and lyrics to Elliot and the Magic Bed and Eastburn Avenue, which had its world premiere with the Pittsburgh Playhouse Rep. Company in May of 2008.

Thanks Marcus