Sebastian Cummings
Sebastian Cummings
College allows one the unique life experience of being surrounded by your friends and peers in a setting filled with learning, growing, and having fun. And much of your learning, growing, and having fun will be with those students you share a major with, especially if you’re a Theatre Arts major. Over the years, you grow together and share your dreams of what the future may hold. But, there’s a silent fear that settles around you all, like a light fog; you know it’s there, but it’s so subtle and seemingly insignificant, you simply choose to accept it. This fear is centered around the idea that you won’t all continue on in your chosen field. Some of you will quit. Some will become disinterested. Some will find something else they never expected to. Some will fall. And as you all smile at each other and speak of your plans, in the back of your mind, you wonder, “But, who?” It’s like being a friend to the fictional character, Sidney Prescott from the slasher film series, Scream. Once the murders begin, you know half of you aren’t gonna make it. As the years have rolled on, my focus hasn’t been on who hasn’t continued on, but rather, those who have. In that continuation, there seems to be a trend of significant growth and self discovery that I admire more than the accomplishments.  Sean Lynch is one of those people I am very happy and proud to see grow up and out. In college he studied theatre, even performing in the first play I ever wrote and staged in Philadelphia. Nowadays, social media occasionally informs me of his work as a poet, but I didn’t know much. I ran into him recently on the streets of Philadelphia and I wanted to catch up. So, I headed Inside The Green Room.
Inside The Green Room
How were you first introduced to the world of Theatre and when did you first decide it was something you wanted to explore for yourself?

last-days-judas-iscariot-rutgers-camden2SL: I was first exposed to theater while seeing my older brother perform in “Guys and Dolls” and “Damn Yankees” when he was in high school. At six or seven years old it made an impact on me, that as a boy it can be cool to do something other than sports. Years later, Paul Bernstein opened the door to the theater world for me when I was a freshman at Rutgers Camden back in 2010. I took his Acting 101 course as an elective and got really into improvisation and other fun performance techniques thanks to him. The first major role I had was Judas Iscariot in Paul’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. I played the not funny title character in a comedy. My job was to scream and spit at Jesus. As an angsty eighteen year old, acting became an outlet. That was essential, because the more time I spent doing theater, the less time I had to do a bunch of drugs and get into life threatening situations, which I still did, but not as much as I would have. Basically, theater saved my life.

In my experience, acting makes you open the book that is your life and examine yourself and the past experiences that lead to your current state. Did you have that experience as an actor?

SL: To me it depends on where you are in life. I should have realized while playing Torvald Helmer in A Doll’s House that in real life I was also in a toxic relationship, but I didn’t. In retrospect, long after strike happened, I made connections. But at the time I was too busy getting into character to focus on myself. I was kind of a James Dean wannabe, sitting in the corner brooding – away from everyone else, not participating in warm ups, even drinking a bottle of whiskey alone in the quick change while dressed as Simon Stimson of Our Town. I took getting into character so seriously because I wanted to get away from my actual self. It was cognitive dissonance as a twisted form of therapy.
What you’re talking about, examining life and the self, only happened to me in the biggest role that I had, when I played Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Ken Elliott as a director pushed me to the limits so that I could put on the best performance possible. He taught me the self-discipline needed to take on such a huge role. I had the lines down to the point where I could transform myself. Playing Tom Wingfield gave me the transcendental experience that you’re speaking of, perhaps because as a character he aligned with me in so many ways, especially as a working class kid with big aspirations and the heart of a poet. That role was life changing, although smoking half a pack of unfiltered Lucky Strikes each performance probably took some years off my life.

Do you feel acting was a calling for you or more of a pathway leading you to your work in poetry?

SL:At first acting was a calling. When I was eighteen or nineteen, I told people I was going to go train hopping out to LA, and go to auditions. I never did that, and I’m glad that I didn’t, not because it was a pipe dream, but because it wasn’t the right calling for me. After playing Tom Wingfield, I became more disciplined in my writing, and later that year, I had my first book published. So yeah, theater was a pathway to poetry in a way, but not deliberately. It certainly helped me fall in love with language even more. Ken Elliott’s obsession with diction rubbed off on me, and Paul Bernstein gave me the confidence to believe in myself; those two professors helped me onto that pathway indirectly.

Over the years, I’ve seen many a theatre enthusiast transition to other art forms, especially in a collegiate setting. Did having the oyster that is Rutgers University at your fingertips make your early exploration of poetry easier?.

SL: Rutgers University as an institution was not my oyster. If anything Philly was my oyster. I believe that the Academia, which is the literary establishment right now, has paralyzed poets in 21st century America. My exploration of poetry in college was very limited. When I took an Irish Literature course with Dr. Timothy Martin, and he gave me encouragement and advice on my essays about Seamus Heaney, then took a trip to Ireland with the class and I visited the land of my ancestors, that was the only time I can say Rutgers University was of any help to me as far as poetry goes.
Institutions of “higher education” have way too much power over us, not just with the crushing amount of student debt that our generation arbitrarily owes, but by way of power over our culture and modes of thought. I think literary analysis should be the only thing of interest for the Academia. Unfortunately that’s not all they’re interested in nowadays. This whole literary MFA culture is a ponzi scheme. It’s not enough that these institutions must financially control us individually by way of tens of thousands of dollars of debt, but they also want to collectively control our artistic output as well? No thanks.
There’s a Philly poet named CAConrad who is now becoming famous and this poet speaks out against what he calls court poets who are puppets of the empire. These same court poets all attended literary MFA programs, I guarantee you. Check out CAConrad if you’re not familiar.

I’m very familiar. Do you have any mentors? How did you meet?

SL: I am honored to have Lamont Steptoe as my literary mentor, a poet who’s well regarded internationally. It’s kind of surreal to have a mentor whose mentors were Dennis Brutus and James Baldwin. Lamont and I met while I worked at the Barnes and Noble cafe at Rittenhouse Square. It was a minimum wage job without tips, but I gained an invaluable friendship and mentorship in Lamont Steptoe. He was a regular there, and one day he told me that he was a famous poet. I went home and googled his name. There he was. So the next time he came in I handed him my poetry manuscript and he eventually told me he wanted to publish it. Said I was, “the real deal.” That made me more excited about poetry

From your website, I see that you are the editor of Whirlwind Magazine, a quarterly print and online journal that you co-founded in 2014 with Lamont Steptoe. How did that come to be?

whirlwindfrontcoverSL: Lamont published my first book, the city of your mind, in 2013, and it was received well with some pretty awesome blurbs by Philly’s second poet laureate Frank Sherlock, the aforementioned CAConrad, and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Book Review Editor, Frank Wilson. Another man I met at the cafe, Alexander Marshall, a retired art curator, was instrumental in getting that book published. Lamont and I would hang out drinking in McGlinchey’s or Dirty Frank’s and talk about poetry and what’s going on in the publishing world. The both of us were tired of the meaninglessness of contemporary literature that’s being published. So we decided to launch a literary journal featuring poetry that “bears witness.”
We’re a quarterly online and in print journal that now publishes both literature and art. Alex helped get the project off the ground, and our second anniversary issue will be coming out in August. We have our launch parties at the Pen and Pencil Club. Poets read from all over the country, and the Whirlwind staff reads the international contributors. It’s gotten pretty big in a small amount of time, and what’s most important is that we’re completely independent. (whirlwindmagazine.org)

Your work has been published all over: Poetry Quarterly, Literary Orphans, Scarlet Leaf Review, Tincture Journal, Eunoia Review, Hitherto, East Coast Literary Review, Milkfist, Poetry Ink, A Roomful of Truth, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. And recently your Kickstarter campaign for Broad Street Line: Political Poems, was successfully funded. How does this success make you feel?

SL: It makes me feel good. I’m grateful. However, I don’t actually see myself as successful. Everything I’m doing so far is on a local scale. What not enough people realize is that in this country there are real class divisions. Through Whirlwind Magazine, we’ve been able to bridge divides between ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and other identities. And yet one division that cannot easily be bridged is that of class. On the advice of Lamont a few years ago, I walked from my home in South Philly to a certain Ivy League campus a few miles away that was having a literary event. I felt like I was a serf who wandered into an aristocratic gala. And people think that in America shit like that doesn’t happen. It’s experiences like those that reaffirms my duty to bear witness to injustice and record the experiences of the working class through poetry.

Tell us more about Broad Street Line: Political Poems.

Broad Street Line Sean LynchSL: Broad Street Line is a short book of poems, only 24 pages, that seeks to map out the urban underground. Frank Sherlock has an interesting concept of the poet as cartographer, which relates in this work. I wrote the poems in this book so that I could translate experiences and seemingly mundane features in city environments into symbols that may help us understand what we’re doing here. Read the book and you’ll find out more.

What do you aim to accomplish with your work?

SL: My aim is simple. To spread truth. In our society we are led to believe in a thing called moral relativism. This makes it easier for those with the will to power to rule over the masses. When people realize that in everyday experiences there are signs of oppression, then it will be easier for us to live in a better world.

How has your poetry changed you, as a person?

SL: My poetry had made me more determined.

What keeps you going?

SL: Poetry, as well as the love of family and friends. I never used to realize it, but I’m blessed to have good people in my life.

What’s next for you?

SLI’ve been working on a novel on and off the past couple years, but I keep hitting roadblocks. I’m going to try and get another poetry collection published by a different press. I just need to keep writing. If I keep writing, then what’s next will come to me naturally.

 

Visit Sean Lynch’s website to learn more about him and his work. swlynch.com
And Check out my radio show, Philly’s Kinda Cool, where Sean will be joining us to talk more in depth about Broad Street Line: Political Poems.

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Sebastian
Sebastian Cummings

The internet allows us the opportunity to come across people we might otherwise have never known. Living in a little, big city like Philadelphia, it’s easy to cross paths with what feels like every artist in town, and then there’s the occasional person who seems to know everyone you know, frequent places you often go, and yet you never have the privilege to meet them in person. This has inspired me to use the internet, often a tool of mass distraction, as a tool for introduction. I’ve seen much of Nik Hampshire in the digital world, so I decided to get in touch with him and learn more about him as a person. I was curious to know what makes this incredibly attractive gentlemen tick… so I went inside the green room.

Photo Credit: Anton Martynov
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov

When you were a wee lad, looking bright eyed into the future, what did you imagine you would be doing for a living as an adult?

NH: Honestly I had no idea. I’ve always been a kid at heart and never really wanted to do something I didn’t want too. I wanted to be an actor but didn’t think it would ever happen. I went to school for business but hated all the courses so immediately changed to a communications degree in film. I didn’t even want to work in film like that, I just really love films and wanted to take classes on them. So I’ve just kind of followed whatever my heart said and what felt right at the time. Very much go where the wind blows me.

I understand you pride yourself in living life as close to your way as you can, what does that mean for you?

NH: It basically boils down to a philosophy I try to hold to in life that I’ve come up with: do more of what you love and less of what you don’t. I see so many people so entrenched in work and obligations waiting and waiting to get to do what they want without realizing there may be better ways to achieve what they want. I just think people should learn to prioritize their goals and passions better so they can lead happier more rewarding lives. It’s all about positivity and love.

I once read that in life, we spend much of our energy fighting what is, and we either eventually submit to the will of the universe or we experience what is usually a rude awakening, that leads us back on the right path. Have you experienced either?

NH: I feel like I’ve always kind of danced around that “which is”. I mean I’m not like totally off the grid or revolutionary or anything so I’m certainly part of that “what is” but I’ve been fortuitous and worked hard to live life by my own terms quite a bit. It definitely is a bit of a struggle at times where you feel that pressure but I prefer this struggle to resist and enjoy life outside that to the struggle of not drowning in the “way life is”. That cubicle, 9-5 corporate struggle is just the death of the soul for someone like me.

How did you start rapping?

NH: Well I’d been a fan of hip hop and rap since I was a kid but never even considered trying it myself until a friend of mine had started. Animatronic the Abolisher is my best friend from New Hampshire (where I’m from) and I foolishly thought “damn if this white boy from New Hampshire can do it I MUST be able to do it too! Little did I know this was nonsensical logic and he’s to Thai day a MUCH better MC than I am but I’ve have a passion for music and rapping that i love to give in to. Animatronic and I have a rap group together called ‘folklore’. Look for our debut album later this year. ( free mixtape at http://www.soundcloud.com/folklorelives)! You can find my solo stuff at http://www.soundcloud.com/lumberjackraps

Photo Credit: Dustin Genereux
Photo Credit: Dustin Genereux

What do you most love about modeling?

NH: My favorite part about modeling is the opportunities it’s given me! It’s allowed me to travel and work outside of that typical 9-5 world and I’ve met SO many great passionate people following their own creative paths and I love every second of it!

Where do you find your inspiration?

NH: Experience is really my biggest inspiration. Traveling and meeting people. Trying new things. I just really love life and channeling my love for it through my actions and art.

What do you want most out of life?

NH: I just want to be happy, man. I’d like financial stability. I’d love to buy my moms a house. I’d love to meet Kanye west! But at the end of the day I just want to experience as much of this life as I can. That will make me happy.

What is the biggest struggle you have overcome in your life?

NH: I moved around a lot as a kid and so I was often the new kid in school. Because of this (and because I was kind of annoying) I lost a lot of friends and felt a lone a lot up through college. It affected my self esteem to a degree and how I saw my self. Despite these issue I took that time alone to work on myself and figure out who I was what I really wanted to get out of this life and I’m strong snd as confident as ever!

What do you most enjoy about life?

NH: Pizza aside, I’d have to say love. I know that’s a really broad answer but the positive vibes I get from being with family or hanging with friends or even meeting other artists pursuing their passions is so beautiful. It’s so rewarding and enriching. I love trying new things and meeting new people and just receiving and sharing as much love as I can!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

NH: Hopefully the moon! What’s good with them commercial lunar flights NASA?! Nah but for real I really can’t say. As I said, I really am just going with the flow and floating wherever life blows me. In 10 years I hope to still be as free as I am now but maybe just a bit more established. Maybe I have ill have some kids. Maybe I’ll have a talk show! Who can say!

We’re excited for you and all that your future holds. If you want to keep up with Nik, follow him on Instagram!

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Sebastian Sebastian Cummings

Last night I called my sister. We haven’t been speaking very much lately, for a number of reasons. I called her because I realized, I’m not good at relationships. I don’t know how to have a proper relationship with anyone, not even my siblings. I try. But, I don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes I think back to the past and wonder, “have I ever had a friend?” Friends from college are getting married and everyone seems to be invited but me, I guess I ruined those relationships. Let’s be honest, I was a mess back then. I had much learning to do. During those college years, I made an unlikely friend. What made the friendship unlikely? I’m not really sure. I’m sure I knew at the time. But, I remember being in the scariest situation of my life and calling this person for help, because I didn’t have anyone else to call and they came through and I was fortunate enough to spend some of the greatest months of my life with them. I remember the moment everything changed for me, I was heading back to his place, where I was crashing, after a day at work and I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to get home and hang out with Theo.” Given the family trouble I was experiencing at the time, this thought nearly brought tears to my eyes. And, to this day, when I think of Theo, that is the memory that overwhelms the rest. Theo Langason is one of the best actors I’ve had the privilege to work with and one of the greatest human beings I have had the pleasure to know. I was curious about what Theo was up to after all these years, so I tracked him down, Inside The Green Room.

"Killer Inside" Sandbox Theatre
Theo Langason in Killer Inside at Sandbox Theatre

Anyone who has attended Rugters Camden has had this experience: What school do you go to? Rutgers? Oh, how is New Brunswick? No, I go to Rutgers Camden. Oh…. how’s the program there?
Rutgers Camden is a relatively small campus, but that has its advantages. How do you think you most benefited from the intimate theatre program at Rutgers-Camden?

TL: I have the “not New Brunswick” conversation a surprising amount, considering I live in Minnesota. I think the advantage of coming from a small program was number of opportunities to get on stage that were available to me. I came out of Camden with seven or eight full productions under my belt. I also got to direct, produce, design, build, and more. That experience has been incredibly helpful to me in my career.

In college, you struck me as someone who understood the value of creating your own opportunities; opportunities to learn, to expand, etc. How did you come to be this way and how do you think it has helped your career?

TL: I get bored really easily. Which mean I’m constantly seeking out new things to try or new ways to do old things. I like to shake the routine. I find it keeps me inspired. In my next show I’ll be directing, composing and performing music. I suppose a lot of those tendencies came from my parents. They kept me involved in lots of extracurricular activities. And if I wanted to quit one activity, I had to find another to find its place.

After college, what motivated you to return home to Minnesota, as opposed to moving to New York, Chicago, or LA, like so many other actors?

TL: Man, I get this question from everyone except Minnesotans. Minneapolis is a great place to be an artist. I know actors, directors, designers, and all sorts of artists who own a home, and have children and are feeding their families with their art. It’s a hustle of course, just like anything else, but you don’t have to win the proverbial lottery to live well as an artist. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity, but we’re artists; that’s what we’re good at. Minneapolis is a culturally rich city with great foundations and organizations making and supporting the arts. The Guthrie, Walker Art Center, Playwrights’ Center, the Loft, Button Poetry and countless other nationally renowned are fantastic pillars in our community. Minneapolis is dope; you should come visit! We may be small, but we do a lot of thing better than a lot of places.

Theo
As someone who touches many areas of performance, I often ask myself, “Who am I in the world of performance?” As a way of seeking clarity when deciding projects to take on or produce. Who are you?

TL: I’m still figuring that out. But for sure when getting involve with productions I am always seeking collaborative situations where I have a lot of creative input.

How do you battle self doubt?

TL: I acknowledge it’s there, and then I acknowledge that it’s no help to me, or the people I’m working with. Then I tell it to shut up.

What inspires you to perform?

TL: My tribe. The amazing collection of makers and minds that are my friends and collaborators. I am constantly inspired by the artists of all disciplines who I spend time with.

What’s the greatest struggle you have overcome in your life?

TL: I can’t really pinpoint one. I guess I’ve (been) lucky!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

TL: Making art somewhere! I think I would like to have a leadership position at a prominent Minneapolis arts organization.

What do you most enjoy about this thing we call life?

TL: Making art with friends.

That is the sweetest answer yet. Hopefully one of these days, I’ll get the chance to see the art you make with friends. Maybe one day, I’ll be a friend you’re making art with. Here’s to you, my friend.

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SebastianIt often amazes me how traditional the theatre can be, I mean an art-form rooted in “the suspension of disbelief,” so often can’t come up with creative ways to include the LGBTQ community, non whites, and those with disabilities on a regular basis. Of course, there are exceptions, but clearly not enough. So, while the theatre community is struggling to make ends meet, these marginalized groups get together and try and make it happen for themselves and often end up earning money for everyone but themselves. I have met so many theatre artists of the LGBTQ community that have turned to clubs and bars as an outlet for performance, because there seems to be no place for them in theatre; most characters are straight, and as an actor your “straightness” is often heavily policed. During a rehearsal for a play in Philadelphia a few years back, the director stopped rehearsal to let me know that I was “sitting like a comfortable gay man.” I stopped and looked down at my body and could not see what made it “gay,” and could not believe the manner in which he was handling the situation. It makes one wonder, “does this happen to actors who are not openly gay or actors who are straight?” Is this the way we professionally handle these things?
10548689_1494671780795073_2622877046012174207_o
I decided to talk to a friend of mine, Dinah Sore, to learn about what led to their current path of performance. So, I went to the one place I knew they would be, Inside The Green Room.

Do you still go by Dinah B Sore? How did you come to be called by a name like that?

DS: Technically, I’ve shortened it to simply Dinah Sore. Too many people didn’t get the pun and people began to refer to me as Dinah Shore, who is a real person. Before that I had experimented with a couple of Drag names, most of which are too terrible for print.
Honestly, I was just trying to think of a funny name and it came to me. It made me laugh, and I love Dinosaurs so it seemed like a good fit. I think it captures who I am: this beastly drag queen lol.
But it’s a good name. Easy to remember, kitschy, with a little bit of an edge to it. I think it fits me.

I’ve known you to work administratively with a few different theaters in Philly before I saw you perform, what were your initial career goals? (Theatre administration? Actor? Drag Superstar?) And how did they change over time?

DS: I’ve always had trouble with this question. I’m both blessed and cursed because I’m an artist of many different mediums. I’m a writer, a painter, a performer, a visual designer. When I went to college I wanted to be a film director, (I still make and show videos on a regular basis. In fact, as the new Video/Light jockey at Voyeur Night Club I found a way to get to make videos that get seen by thousands of people) but found that that particular path wasn’t for me. So one day I changed my major and changed direction. I had done theater since I was a child, but I was more interested in creating images than deep character analysis. What’s important to me is that swell of emotions images can create, and how to use those images to tell a story. To use the gayest example I can think of: That magical moment in the “Wizard of Oz” when Dorthy steps out of her black and white house into a world of color. I want to be the guy that does that. Any way I can.
That is a hard thing to define.
Because of that I’ve had a crazy amount of random experience and credits to my name, be it Dinah or Ken. I did administrative work because it provided me an opportunity to be in a theater every day. When you’re the only one in the room who knows how lighting works, or what production expense breakdowns look like, it gives you a deeper understanding of the art and a vast opportunity to explore your art.
I’m constantly surprised at the number of other theater artists who don’t know every aspect of their craft. It’s appalling how many performers don’t know how to use a microphone properly, or find their light, let alone operate a sound and/or lighting system.
One of my favorite stories, that I think of time and time again, is a quote about Alfred Hitchcock. I think it was the screen writer of “Psycho” who said, “The reason Hitchcock was such a great director was because he started as a set painter.” He had done every job there was to do; he knew his art inside and out.
My point, simply, is that I’ve done a lot because I chased every opportunity and every chance to grow that presented itself. There’s never been a grand master plan, but rather a general pursuit of values that have led me down this remarkable path.

Dinah Sore performs at Corner Queens Cabaret
Dinah Sore performs at Corner Queens Cabaret

It was either 2013 or 2014 when I first got a text about Corner Queens Cabaret. How did that venture come to be?

DS: A brief version of a long story: A group of my friends and I made a weekly habit of getting together and performing for each other, more often than not, in drag. It was really an excuse for us to drink, dress up, and perform something. Word got out about our gatherings and soon a local theater offered to let us use their theater on Monday nights. Then we had a show.

What did you learn from producing a weekly show like that?

DS: That it’s hard. With a traditional show you have weeks or even months to prepare, to problem solve, to rehearse. Some weeks you’re just not inspired and you have to dig deep to create something to present. It didn’t all work, and nothing feels worse than failing in front of an audience. I’ve been working on a recent number for 3 months, allowing myself to refine and polish it before I perform it for an audience, with a weekly show you don’t have that luxury.
But it also made me grow, and think faster on my feet. It forces you to push yourself in ways that you wouldn’t have to otherwise. Because at the end of the day an audience is going to show up and you have to do something.

Dinah Sore performs at Drag Wars at Voyeur Nightclub. Alexander John Photography
Dinah Sore performs at Drag Wars at Voyeur Nightclub. Alexander John Photography

Drag Wars: how did that come to be?

DS: My friend, Bee Reed, one day told me she thought I should do it, and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to. It was a completely spur of the moment decision.
It ended up being a life shaping decision. It taught me a lot about who I was as an artist and I got to know a completely different artistic community happening within my own town. Joining Drag Wars was the beginning of a long chain of events that led me to where I am today, and I could not be more excited.

Tell us everything about your experience. (Were you nervous, what was it like performing along side so many queens, what did you learn, what was the scariest part?)

DS: The very first time on the Drag Wars stage was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. It was a lot of pressure, and continued pressure throughout the competition. I was so nervous I barely spoke to the other girls, it wasn’t until near the end that I finally started feeling comfortable.
But the competition was great. I learned so much. In a competition setting you open yourself up to feedback and criticism that you wouldn’t otherwise get. Sometimes that criticism is brutal, there is nothing like being in front of a room full of people and being told over a microphone that your face is terrible, but goddamn my face was better next week.
It’s a great way to learn and to grow. One of my proudest moments was the night I got eliminated. I had gotten much further than I ever expected and I had worked my ass off. I was beyond exhausted. But I also got a standing ovation, and praise from all of the judges. For someone who mostly worked in a backstage capacity… you don’t often get applauded. It was incredibly reaffirming. It let me know that this weird path was, in fact, the right one.

You just let out that you will be participating in the Divas of Drag Tour with Live Nation. How did you feel when you got the news?

DS: I, mildly, freaked the fuck out.
After Drag Wars ended, I continued to perform and got to know Mimi Imfurst (Braden Chapman) better. She was aware of my background and continued to book me as a performer, designer, administrator. This past summer I designed the lights for “Divine Intervention” which was a magical experience, and she and I really developed a good working relationship.
When Mimi first contacted me about the tour, I assumed that “Divine” was going on tour. When she explained that this was a tour featuring several of the biggest stars from Rupaul’s Drag Race, I could barely believe it. I should probably point out that my role on the tour is more administrative/technical, but it’s still an amazing opportunity. When you do a show, particularly a tour, you become family with them. To think of these people, who I admire deeply, as being my contemporaries is incredibly exciting, but I also know that I have to have my game face on. This could be my one shot of taking my career to the next level. I’ve never done a national tour, nor anything this high profile. It’s intimidating and incredibly exciting and I don’t even like to talk about it for fear of jinxing myself.

Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

DS: I have no idea. I’d like to think I’d have the whole package: house, kids, a job I can be proud of…
But I could have never predicted my life now ten years ago. It’s very likely I could end up a junkie on the street, or maybe I’d want to get into politics. (I’m a total politics nerd. Some people have Real Housewives, I have the House of Representatives.) I think I’d be a good communications director a political campaign. I love the madness of public discourse in this country, and I think it would be fun to shape political arguments.
One of my dreams has been to meet Madonna, so if I achieve that in ten years I’ll consider that a success.

What is the hardest obstacle in life you’ve overcome?

DS: Without going into detail, I had a rough childhood. I know a rough childhood is common in most people’s lives, and no doubt my experiences are probably shared by a lot of people. But the determining factor, for me, was seeing my parents hopeless. What I do today, and what I will continue to do as long as I’m able, is live the life I want to live.

What is love?

DS: I don’t accept the premise of the question.
Love is undefinable. I can speak from experience that love changes, evolves, and cultivates. I’ve been with my husband for 12 years, and in that time our relationship has evolved into something I couldn’t put into words.
I’ll give you my best example: Our wedding. We had been together 9 years and had lived together for 6. We wore wedding bands and lived pretty much as a married couple would. We were, obviously, pro-gay marriage but didn’t feel rushed into getting married. Then my sister had a baby, and it felt like my family was growing and I wanted Josh to be, officially, part of the family. At that point it was a familial type of love, not necessary romantic, that was the point of the wedding. But at various points our love has been romantic, passionate, sedated, hysterical, and comforting. And that’s just one person I love, not mentioning family, friends, random people who make me smile…
So, love in undefinable…

We think you are undefinable and wish you the best in all you do!

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SebastianI once heard life described as a series of circuits. I don’t recall the exact wording and won’t pretend to be an expert on circuits, so work with me here, I’m aiming for a general understanding. We are all individual lights on a circuit, shining brightly in the darkness, forming one giant light from a distance. When we work together in this life, to grow and love through communication and shared experience, our connections stay strong and our lights shine at their brightest. It’s as though each of us adds something to the power that comes in our direction and sends it off to the next person to benefit from. When we close ourselves off to others, we deny others the energy they need to shine their brightest and limit the energy we, ourselves, receive, thereby, dimming both our individual and collective lights. Yes?
As much as I enjoy my time alone to reflect and grow, I enjoy learning and sharing with others. Especially those I feel a sense of instant recognition with. Living in Philadelphia, I’ve had the privilege to meet many an artist, but occasionally, there’s a person you know of, share friends with, and see out in the world, but somehow have yet to manage to get to know. For me, this is Peter Andrew Danzig. Yes, I understand he is handsome and talented, but I wanted to know more, so I spent hours gazing a his shirtless pictures decided to sit down and speak with him… Inside The Green Room.

Peter
How did you first realize your interest in performance?

PAD: It’s funny, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t an essence of performance in my life. It’s always existed for me; play is important to me and fantastical worlds were so much a part of my childhood, maybe I just never grew up. I think I just discovered the term ‘actor’ meant I could play/perform and be paid to do what I love. Jest aside, music, voice and singing were actually my introduction to performance, and in high school In learned the power of how music and theater could move people, around 16 I knew it would be the leading driver for the rest of my life. I had a moment during a state choir competition when the choir finished the song and whole audience was stark quiet, and it was one of those magic moments when you know you had them. you connected and you both cathartically shared something beautiful; that was it. I never looked back after that, I still relish in those moments we are one with an audience.

When you initially decided to study Theatre on a collegiate level, how did you see your future in your mind’s eye?

PAD: It’s funny you should ask that question; I am one who has always lived fairly in the present. I always had a hard time seeing myself in any future capacity. I was simply always happy with the ability to do what I loved and to keep learning. Constant education is really important to me. But in all seriousness, if you had told me at 18 or 20 what I’d be doing with my life now, I’d be flabbergasted. How’d I get here? Who knows, passion? I’m incredibly driven to challenge myself constantly, so I think I always knew I’d be moving towards something, but the strategic planning part of that was always a rather large void for me. I tend to think that the Universe puts us exactly where we are meant to be with just enough to handle, and I think that is where I’m at. I always did have a love for the body on stage and the ways in which people and characters became one in the same and lived the same body. The dramaturgy of the body always fascinated me, and I was always drawn to it, so I think subconsciously I knew there would be some way I’d engage with that. Much of my future was influenced by what I learned in undergrad from Donna Snow, Dan Kern and David Ingram. They really inspired me and I felt like I understood from them by the time I left that a life in the theatre, and my future is what you make of it. It’s no one’s job to take care of us and we are owed nothing, so hard work and patience are some of the things they taught me are most important.

By the time you started graduate school, had that vision changed? If so, how?

PAD: Yes, when I went to graduate school I was accepted as an Acting Scholar at Villanova, and my original intent was to solely focus becoming a more grounded actor, but the experience left me open to so much more. It was there that I really started to think about and link kinesiology and acting and found that there are methods, so many, so creating characters on stage. I was also able to do some movement coaching and directing in grad school that really opened me up to what I feel is my life purpose, to help actors condition, create and find strength in their own bodies on stage; to allow their natural gifts and quirks, physically, to blend with the text to create something, someone. The vision became more of a humbling realization. I adore being an actor, there is nothing like it, but I also come alive when I watch the actors I’ve worked with or choreographed moving on stage. I get so nervous! It’s a sign to me that I’m meant to do this and I can’t begin to tell you the rush I get from moving bodies in space and creating pictures; it’s my favorite part of my job.

As a theatrical trainer, what kind of work most excites you? (movement, fight choreography, tumbling)

PAD: I’d say movement coaching, and the blend of exercise science and creating worlds on stage with large casts. I like the challenge of moving part, the machine that is the production. I love, love, love helping actors work from obscure body centers and seeing how that informs their choices. There is nothing like it when an actor discovers their instrument in a whole new light. I also love the blending of genres and types of work, for example, in It Girl with Simpatico, we blended the world of dance and fight choreography for the Apache dance and it was invigorating for me every time we played with the notions of what was dance and what was fight combat, because in the end, the body is delivering movement, always, and sometimes there is no reason to strictly classify movement in rigid boxes. It’s beautiful when it’s free from that, when we can find movement as a means of creating lines and shapes, and through intensity and motion we can either dance or fight, or so both simultaneously.

What are some of your greatest challenges?

PAD: I’d say finding my little place in the world; sometimes I’m my hardest critic and don’t know when to let myself off the hook. I think it’s important to know when to rest and allow yourself to just be in life, but I have a hard time doing that. I feel like the challenge for me is to just allow myself to let go, surrender control. Also, the balance of making our art and living our own life so that we can create life on stage. A great mentor of mine once told me that the only way to survive a life in the theatre is to know when to step away for a time and live your own. I think about that often.

Yes, surrender control… so difficult to do sometimes.
How was the process of starting your own company? Any warnings or advice you would give to someone thinking of doing the same thing?

PAD: I think you need to love what you do off-stage as much as loving what you do on-stage. I think that balance and happiness is important and comes across in the work. As for starting a company, it’s a beast, and I’m still learning each and every day but one bit of advice I would share is to know when to allow yourself to ask for help, to not always have the answers and be okay with taking risks. In the end, you’re taking a risk by trying to create something, so you may as well make it worth while and allow yourself to be human enough to know when you need to rely on the education and experiences of your peers to help you shape your vision.

Are there any major obstacles you had to overcome in your career as a theatre artist?

PAD: Yes, and still working on it. Not measuring your success against the success of others. It took me a long time to understand that lesson, and maybe it comes with age and experience, but I measure my success now by small milestones. I measure it against myself and in the end. I discovered how much to appreciate the small victories. You live one life right, so it’s all those small moments that lead us to larger revelations and more experiences. One obstacle I still fight is judging my own work; I often have a hard time of knowing when to trust my intuition.

I don’t know why we compare our success with that of others. All of us. Maybe because we’ve grown up in a competition based society with winners and losers, only honoring “the best”. I hope we can all overcome that one.
How do you fight procrastination and fear? What keeps you motivated?

PAD: Every day I read a book of inspirational quotes; just one page and then I try to find a moment in my day to make that quote happen to further along my life in a positive way. It may sound quirky but it works for me. I don’t procrastinate, I’m a really direct person, I hate the feeling of leaving things undone. Call me a work-a-holic.

What would you most like to accomplish in your career?

PAD: My dream is to get my PHD in kinesiology and prove a new method for character creation and movement as my thesis based on the dramaturgy of the actor’s actual body. So much of the dreams I have for myself are influenced by people like Anne Bogart and Martha Graham. I want to accomplish creativity impacting and contributing to the theatre a pathway for actors and a method. I’ve already begun researching it and decided it would be a life practice. After all, Grahman once said “The body says what words cannot.”  I want to find a new way for the body to speak!

Peter

What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your life?

PAD: Such large questions! Wow, this one is hard. Loving myself, exactly as I am. I think that is one for many of us.

I agree, for so many years, I loved the idea of what i hoped to be as opposed to the growing person I was.
What is love?

PAD: I think that love is compassion and understanding. Whether it be familial or romantic, there is a sense of compassion, the ability to have that is what makes us human. For me, love is being able to put other’s needs before your own. Right now I’m discovering that love is something we know nothing about, because we can never know it till it hits us, in all it’s forms.

What do you most enjoy about this thing called life?

PAD: The unpredictability. After all, that is what stasis actually is. Stability is the rare occurrence in life, it’s the instability of life, the cracks and turns that I think are what makes it worth living.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

PAD: Funny, I still stand by what I said before, I can’t really find an answer to that. I’m just so happy and humbled by where I am now. In ten years though, I’d love to be able to come home and say “honey, I created movement today with my method and hey, it works”. That would be really something for me! Now to just  make that happen.

We hope you achieve all that and more!
Keep up with Mr. Danzig at PeterAndrewDanzig.com

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