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Bryan Davidson War Music

hat I love about actors is that they live in our plays like Job lived in his world. If we playwrights have a bird's eye view of the proceedings, actors see through the eyes of their one character. At our mercies, their family, their livelihood, everything dear to them is slowly and methodically stripped away from them, until the only thing left is faith, or dignity, or hope—and even those are imperiled. Their questions—Why am I doing this? Why am I saying that? What if I did this? What is my journey, and what do I want?—constantly remind me to look through the eyes of my characters, that they are more than cogs in my machine; they are people with lives and passions and pain, pulling like hell against their inevitable fates. Actors constantly remind me to see the world we're creating not through the eyes of a distant God but through the eyes of the people who actually have to live in it.

Katy Hickman Bright Boy

ctors I love know their instrument and can use it lavishly and with extreme restraint. They have broad references: It's cool to refer to a Bill Viola distance/intimacy mood or a Beyond the Fringe bit and have an actor know what you're talking about. I love actors who have traveled and worked in the world; who are responsible and articulate; who contribute; who are observers; who have a sense of humor, of rhythm; who like solving problems; who can memorize quickly and precisely; who have read the script ahead of time and have a pretty good idea what they're getting into. I love actors who, after doing the homework, are bold enough to ask questions when something isn't working for them, even when everyone else is grooving on how brilliant the script is. These same actors also have the technical ability and good humor to go along with the direction of a patch of the play even if they never "get it."

Robert Fieldsteel Crazy Drunk

love someone who makes clear choices. And rehearses with clear choices, even if it's not always a choice that you'd want to end up with. I love an actor who doesn't get locked into line readings and plays freshly in response to the other actors, even if it's a script-in-hand reading. I love an actor who is curious but also relatively self-sufficient; who has a good sense of when it's a good time to joke around and when it's a good time to stay focused; who is skilled and instinctual about the music of language (and silence); who is cooperative without being obedient. I love an actor who has an opinion but is open to change, who loves doing homework, who loves risk. I love actors who seem to have an uncanny understanding of how I'd envisioned a scene when I wrote it. And I love actors who give me something completely different than how I'd envisioned it, yet it serves the play and the character's intentions beautifully.

Leon Martell Bea[u]tiful in the Extreme

love actors who can create clarity in a simple and direct manner (see: Ockham's razor). I was directing the brilliant comic actor Steve Porter. A scene wasn't quite what I had envisioned when I wrote it, so I launched into one of my poetic analogies: blah blah blah. When I finished, Steve stared at me with his best deadpan and asked, "Faster and louder?" "Yeah, faster and louder." We ran it again, and he gave me everything I could have hoped for.

Mickey Birnbaum Big Death & Little Death

love actors who are physical; who have the technique to embody words; who don't take it too seriously but don't take it too lightly; who commit 101 percent, even if the work is outside their comfort zone; who come up with better lines than I did; who discover things about my play that never occurred to me; who get the text letter-perfect and who agonize when they don't; who don't let themselves be pushed around by directors; who actually want to be in plays because they like acting on stage, not because they think a casting director's going to see them. (You can always tell the difference. Always.) I love actors who like to grab a beer after the show. I especially love actors who can tell a good filthy joke.

Wayne Peter Liebman Better Angels

love when an actor has a problem with a line, especially understanding a line. I figure if an actor doesn't understand a line, there isn't much chance the audience will understand it either. The actor has to memorize every line and find a level of reality in it, so she will have read those lines a lot—more than my playwright friends, more than directors, more than my wife, more than me probably. Where else can you get that kind of attention to your work? I figure if the actor doesn't get the line, I'd better start looking for a problem in the writing. I always tell actors I want to hear about their problems with lines. I rewrite those lines often.

Jennifer Maisel The Last Seder

love actors because they give my voice voice. I love actors who come in having read the script, who are about making it fuller without making changes, who act the words like they work. I love actors who get that what I write has a rhythm and a sequence, who put the whole damn play into their bodies, who throw themselves in front of the world and become someone else. I love actors who get that I've thought about what I put down on that paper and who make every attempt not to change it as it goes from their eyes to their brains to their hearts to their souls to their mouths to the audience.

Jacqueline Wright Eat Me

few of the many I love—Michole White, Rosemary Boyce, Rebecca Gray, Pat McGowan, Fay Kato, Carol Almos, Laura Salvato, Dean Gregory, Hugo Armstrong, Chris Shaw—I love for being ballsy; for serving the play first and the character second; for trusting the words, punctuation, director, and their instincts; for jumping in (even if they don't know what the heck they are jumping into) and being willing to be ugly, bad, silly; for never saying "my character would never do that"; for allowing the play and the playing and the other characters to inform their choices; for willingness to give up really awesome, smart choices for their character if those choices don't best serve the play or another character in the play.

Steven Totland Swimming

love working with those who understand that I am a fully functioning artist—someone who is able to write a play that expresses what I mean to say the way I mean to say it. I love performers who embrace rough patches as an opportunity to discover something new about character or story or point of view. Or about their own work as a performer. I love performers who are willing and able to meet the play halfway. I love performers who understand there are questions about the play I won't be able to answer and who are able to accept that every answer they discover is not necessarily correct for my play. I love performers who see beyond my horizons and bring what they discover to the play. I love performers who are able to maintain a performance for an entire run without creating new business or adjusting their lines or altering their character.

Erik Patterson Red Light, Green Light

was working on a new play with one of my favorite actors, Mandy Freund. She was playing an emotionally fragile teenager who thinks she's Björk. In one scene, she makes a balloon animal, and someone asks her what she's making. I had written a response into the script, but frankly it didn't work, so I asked Mandy if she'd be willing to say something new every night. She said she'd be happy to, and thank God she did, because that moment became one of my favorite moments in the play. Every night, Mandy came up with a response that was more absurd and bizarre than what she'd said the night before, and every night she got laughs. The moment worked because Mandy had done her homework, she knew the character inside and out, and her response always felt organic to the character I'd created. Actors like Mandy are actors I love.

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