10/4/12 7:59 AM
Acting on Impulse celebrates a decade of theater on a mission – Brattleboro Reformer
Acting on Impulse celebrates a decade of theater on a mission
By JON POTTER / Reformer Staff Brattleboro Reformer
Thursday October 4, 2012
BRATTLEBORO — The founders of Acting on Impulse tried to do it like every other non-profit arts group.
“We actually formed a board at one point, and we just looked around and said ‘This isn’t us,’” recalled
Thomas Griffin, co-founder of the 10-year-old Brattleboro-based collective of actors, writers, directors and
Instead, Acting on Impulse has remained steadfastly disinterested in infrastructure — it still has no building, no board, no staff, no set season, no fundraising campaign or any of the other structural trappings of typical theater companies.
What it does have is a collective devotion to theater at its basic, purest level — finding good plays that
interest its players and wringing the most out of those plays through a commitment to the craft of acting.
That, coupled with an equally steadfast devotion to a mission that includes inclusiveness, risk, social
activism, aiding worthy causes and the belief that live theater in intimate settings can bring people together and a be force for good, has kept this decidedly under-the-radar little theater company going for a decade.
And that is worth celebrating.
On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Acting on Impulse presents its 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Hooker-
Dunham Theater, 139 Main St., the only way it really could: with a night of assorted theater scenes and
excerpts, short plays and music featuring many of the people who have graced its productions in the past.
“I’m frankly proud what we’ve done some really quality work. It just sort of occurred to me that ‘Wow,
this is something to look back on and be proud of,’” said Griffin.
True to its mission, the 10th Anniversary Celebration is also a fundraiser for Peter Diamondstone and Doris
Lake, to aid in their recovery from a fire which destroyed their home. Suggested donation is $10-$30.
“It kind of epitomizes what we do in that the vast majority of our performances have been benefits,” said
local actor Jerry Levy, another co-founder.
Predictably, serendipity guided Acting on Impulse’s first days. Griffin had just returned from Los Angeles,
where he had been pursuing acting, directing and writing. Ill health forced him to curtail his activities, but he wanted to keep his chops sound. He connected with his pal Levy, and the two of them cooked up the
idea of doing “The Gin Game.”
“We do plays on impulse. We got the name right,” said Levy.
From that debut, followed “A Thousand Clowns,” which was suggested as a vehicle to work with young
Willie Finkel. Since then, Acting on Impulse has presented nine other plays, including “Love Letters,”
“True West,” “Overture to a Thursday Morning,” “The Kiss,” “The Fever” and “Marx in Soho.” Some have
been produced for short runs, others, like Levy’s one-man shows “Marx in Soho” and “The Fever” have
been produced many times — locally, across the country and overseas.
The plays are chosen not because they’ll be big at the box office, but because they are interesting to the
performers and directors.
“That’s the stuff that excites me — to bring people in and give them a chance to do their work and shine,”
said Griffin. “I’ve really loved these people, and I loved working with them.”
Often that means small audiences. But they don’t seem to mind. “I’ve performed ‘Marx in Soho’ 200 times.
I would say that at least half the performances have been for 15 or less,” said Levy, who only really minded
the intimate crowds once, when he caught a couple making out during a performance.
Though Acting on Impulse averages about one new production a year, “we’re doing a lot of stuff under-the
radar,” said Levy.
They have been workshopping Ibsen’s “Rosmerholm” in people’s homes for two years and have also been
workshopping on Arthur Miller’s “The Price.”
“We get together, have dinner and talk about the play, and then we get up and rehearse,” said Griffin.
Last spring, they launched a series of what they called “house performances,” where people are invited to
someone’s home for dinner, a performance of “The Kiss” and then a discussion with Griffin, who acts in
the play, afterward.
“The whole thing seemed to kind of crystallize the kind of intimate theater we want to do,” said Griffin. “I
think, as a culture, we’re longing for that kind of connection.”
In the meantime, you can connect with Acting on Impulse at Saturday’s 10th Anniversary Celebration,
which features performances, writing and direction by Rupa Cousins, Christopher Emily Coutant, Jesse
Diamondstone, Keely Eastley, Thomas Griffin, Patricia Hartland, Francis Hauert, Michael Fox Kennedy,
Charles Monette, Devan Monette, Sara Nicole Vitale, Kurt Weisman, Richard Wizansky, Mark Ziter, and,
of course, Griffin and Levy.
Reservations are recommended. Call 802-254-8513.
The Gin Game ~ A Thousand Clowns ~ MEN, WOMEN, and all that nonsense! ~ Marx in Soho ~ Love Letters Betrayal ~ No Thanks, We’re Alright ~ True West Overture to a Thursday Morning ~ The Fever ~ The Kiss
Acting On Impulse Theatre Company Presents:
Our 10th Anniversary Celebration!
Featuring Performances, Direction, & Writing by:
Rupa Cousins, Christopher Emily Coutant,
Jessy Diamondstone, Keely Eastley,
Thomas Griffin, Patricia Hartland,
Francis Hauert, Michael Fox Kennedy, Jerry Levy,
Charles Monette, Devan Monette,
Sara Nicole Vitale, Kurt Weisman,
Richard Wizansky, & Mark Ziter
All Proceeds Go To Help Peter Diamondstone & Doris Lake
In Their Recovery From A Fire.
Opening with Jerry Levy & Thomas Griffin
“Connection” with Keely Eastley & Mark Ziter
written/directed by Thomas Griffin
Scene From Ibsen’s “Rosmersholm”
with Rupa Cousins, Jessy Diamondstone & Francis Hauert
directed by Jerry Levy
Devan Monette sings:
“Dead Flowers” (Stones)
“Heaven” (Talking Heads)
“Angel From Montgomery” (John Prine)
“The Last Thing On My Mind” (Tom Paxton)
“Van Gogh, A Life” with Charles Monette
Plus 1 song…
~~~~~ 10 Minute Intermission ~~~~~
“Present Laughter” by Noel Coward
a scene from Act Two
Garry Essendine ——— Michael Fox Kennedy
Joanna Lyppiatt ——— Christopher Emily Coutant
Directed by Richard Wizansky
“Legal Limits” with Francis Hauert & Sara Nicole Vitale
written/directed by Thomas Griffin
“Confession” with Jerry Levy
“Improvisation on double bass and trombone”
with Kurt Weisman and Patricia Hartland.
Most people think of actors as extroverts, socially adept and confident in every public situation. The life of the party. They think of Robin Williams or Jack Black: chewing up the scenery, the sofa, the restaurant at a moment’s notice round-the-clock.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, most of the actors I know are artists. That’s what they have in common. Everything else about them is unique, varied and distinct.
As for me, I’m painfully shy in public, often breaking out in a sweat when I have to speak in the checkout line of the local supermarket. I’ve never been completely relaxed around people. And parties? I hate them. I’d rather face a root canal than even just ten minutes of standing around with a drink in my hand in a roomful of strangers.
Why, then, do we become actors? For lots of reasons. And not all of them good or healthy reasons, either. But the most compelling reasons, the ones that give you staying power in the course of your career as an actor, are artistic or spiritual in nature. You act because you have to. Because if you didn’t your life would be missing something fundamental and essential: you.
I can’t describe well enough the sensation I feel in my body just watching two people on a coach lit with a single spotlight surrounded by darkness talking. That’s all it takes, that simple a scene and I’m hooked. I want to listen, watch and learn.
Learn? Yes! I want to learn how to be a human being. I think that’s why we do it. Present theatre. Act. Write plays. Because we want to understand ourselves as people.
I go out on stage and talk to strangers even though I’m terrified, sweating profusely, because I’m trying to learn some things about human beings. And in the process, I slowly ease into being human. I relax. Become aware of everything possible in the present moment. And feel absolutely alive.
That feeling of aliveness is what gives me the courage to face my fear of speaking in public and do it anyway. Isn’t it strange, though, that people choose to do the very thing they’re most afraid of?
When we were kids and fought with our brother or sister or school friend and our parents said, “You’ve got to learn to get along”, they were right.
But what does “get along” mean? Tonight, you saw a play about a man who thought he could “get along” as a priest, but found out that the thing he was missing wasn’t possible as a priest. He was, sadly, unable to “get along”. It was the tragedy of his life—a life spent unaware of that most basic of human needs—intimacy.
That’s what “get along” means, doesn’t it? To connect with and relate to others in such a way that all concerned meet their basic needs for intimacy. It means helping one another, loving one another, touching one another, and so forth.
We can survive without meeting this elementary need, but that is all we will be doing—surviving. Not really living, thriving, or realizing our full potential as human beings.
Tonight, you’ve sat in a theatre—in this case someone’s living room—and for an hour you’ve “got along” with all the other people in the room. You’ve felt and witnessed the tragedy of a man who simply wanted to but couldn’t find a way to “get along” You’ve had this experience. It’s yours and you can remember it, always.
What will you do now? How will you take that out into your life outside the theatre? What will you create with it?
Because, you see, this is why we invited you here tonight. This is why we’ve presented this particular play: because we want to inspire you to do something wonderful, daring, creative with what you’ve given yourself through your own experience. Through coming here tonight. We set this up so that you could see and experience yourself and share in this collective experience of “getting along”. And our hope, our wish, our intention is to inspire you to go out and do something that helps everyone “get along”. Because when we all do that, think of the world we can create together.