Sometimes the sun rises in the south—that is, if you consider Oregon to be the “south” of the Pacific Northwest. Good Life Northwest recently had the opportunity to interview Ty Boice, a member of the Actors' Equity Association and the founder and producing artistic director of Post5 Theatre in Portland. He lives there with his wife, Cassandra Boice, Post5’s education director and associate artistic director (who is also a playwright), and their infant son, Keaton. It is a long commute back and forth to Seattle, but Boice is working here, once again. Catch him while you can.
He recently impressed Seattle audiences as the character Joe Pitt in Intiman Theatre’s Angels in America and is now igniting the stage as Vince in the world premier of a play called Seven Ways to Get There at ACT-A Contemporary Theatre. The play is a production of ACT Lab and DeeJayCee Creative Ventures. It was co-written by Dwayne Clark and Bryan Willis and directed by John Langs. It runs through Sunday, March 15.
Photo: Truman Buffett
Boice shared his thoughts during a phone interview, from Portland, Oregon.
Candace Brown for Good Life Northwest: Before we talk about the play Seven Ways to Get There, please tell me about your prior acting opportunities in Seattle. You keep coming back, so you must like it here.
I was very serious about moving after I finished my training (Portland Actors Conservatory), but then Post5 Theatre fell into my lap, so I began that journey. That was the deciding factor in me not being a fixture of Seattle theater. I love the growth I’ve had as an artist up there, and the people I’ve worked with. It’s an incredible medium-sized market as far as American theater goes, a place rich with history, and an exciting place, because people are pushing limits.
There is always growth when I go up there. I always see new work, new people making theater, and it’s very inspiring. As an actor, I think I’m happiest in Seattle, and as a producer, in Portland. There is a lot more work I want to do in Seattle.
Boice: It’s basically seven different men coming with seven different issues, and those issues vary in severity. They’re all dealing with things. What’s lovely about the play is that they find friendship, respect, and support in what, in the beginning of the play, seems like a very unlikely place. They find a commonality. Egos are set aside and bump up against each other. Ultimately, friendships are made. Lives are changed as a result of this mens’ group. It’s based on true experiences. It’s a slice-of-life play, and it’s terribly funny.
GLN: Yes, people are saying that. Tell me about the humor.
Boice: A lot of the credit has to go to the playwright, in that he offered what our director has essentially called “chocolate and vanilla.” We’ll deal with something that’s real and heavy and that many of us can relate to directly, or to something similar. Then he’ll give us some “vanilla.” We’re able to laugh at ourselves. We’re able to laugh at these characters and their scruples. It has this kind of sparkling, wonderful energy to it. At times, it’s very laconic, and at times it’s very “in your face.” John Langs, our incredible director, likened it to jazz. There are a lot of different sounds percolating.
I think that as a cast and an artistic team, we’ve had success. Audiences have really enjoyed it. I think we’ve had a standing ovation at every preview, every dress rehearsal, and every performance, and that doesn’t happen all the time, in Seattle or Portland. So that was pretty unique. Whether it’s everybody’s cup of tea, I don’t know. I know I’m enjoying doing it, and people sure seem to enjoy it.
|Photo: Truman Buffett|
GLN: Has it been a challenge, and if so, in what particular ways?
Boice: It was all very positive—working on a new play and essentially working with the playwright to write that in the room. That is a delightful challenge. I can’t say enough about the people who were in this room, the cast—Bradford Farwell, Darragh Kennan, James Lapan, Charles Leggett, Kirsten Potter, Todd Van Voris, Bob Williams. These are wonderful veteran theater actors. They are obviously very smart actors, so with any inconsistencies the play would have— which is normal for any play in its infancy, like this one is—they were so smart in finding those in a healthy and supportive way with the playwright, really coming alongside him and adding very positive feedback.
So the challenge was to let yourself flex and stretch as you got rewrites, to let go of lines you love, and then learn how to make challenging parts in the script work. We had a draft we started with, and then it changed considerably. It’s an ongoing process, working on the draft. I think the playwright, director, and producer will continue to make changes, but I know that where they left off with us, we have a concrete piece of material.
GLN: You mention how these characters are supportive of each other and form strong friendships. Do you think that is a little bit different than the reality of most men?
Boice: Oh absolutely. It would be completely accurate to describe their relationships as combative, as contrary, as antagonistic. It is amazing where we start and then where we end, first as a group of individuals and then as a cohesive unit. Some real friendships were born out of the experience they had. There’s kind of an underlying theme of “I call bullshit” on somebody’s untruth or not owning up to their mistakes. These characters challenge each other, sometimes in healthy ways and sometimes in very unhealthy ways, so it makes for wonderful theater, seeing seven different ingredients mix and intermingle and slam up against each other. There are strong chemical reactions. It makes for some good humor and drama.
GLN: Do you think it’s true that our society is not adequately aware of men’s therapy groups, and that men don’t talk about them?
Boice: I think there’s a screaming need for better mental health. We can talk about gun control; we can talk about anti-bullying campaigns; we can talk about equal rights, but a lot of theses things stem from flawed thinking or abuse. That effects all genders, all sexualities. Mental health is a universal topic and very important. This is a great conversation starter. There are so many things we deal with, even those who seem mentally healthy. We’re all dealing with something. We can always use support without an agenda and people who want to help us navigate.
GLN: As you say all of this, I’m thinking about the role of art in our culture and the importance of art to society.
Boice: There are all different kinds of theater. There are musicals, full performance art, things geared differently and illuminating stories in different ways. But I am obviously a huge fan of expressing the human condition in all its beauty and ugliness and exploring that. I would give this play a tremendous thumbs-up. It’s watching a lot of different character studies and—to give credit to my cast mates and director—watching the artists handle these characters with deft skills. There’s an articulate way they go about telling these men’s stories.
|Photo: Truman Buffet|
GLN: What about the dynamic of having an all-male cast except for one woman?
Boice: Oh it’s wonderful, because it makes for great drama! That’s addressed in the play. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s delightful how the playwright has chosen to handle that, how Kirsten Potter’s character, Michelle, the therapist, is written and how the actor is navigating that. She demands respect, both as an actor and as a character. It’s a joy to watch her work.
GLN: Do you think this would have been a very different play had there not been a woman in that role?
Boice: Oh yes. I’m so glad the playwright made that choice. He was so smart to have that dynamic in the room.
GLN: Is there anything else you would like to tell people about Seven Ways to Get There and why they ought to go see it?
Boice: Since I’m in the thick of it, I don’t know that I have the best perspective, but I know I'm enjoying it, and my cast mates are enjoying it. If the actors are all enjoying the process and having this much fun on stage telling a story, it’s bound to be successful. As far as audience response goes, like I say, we’ve had all standing ovations. I don’t want to put the pressure on us or the audience, but that’s a rare experience and a pretty neat one. I think people will really enjoy this play.
Don't miss the opportunity to see Boice and the rest of this fine cast in Seven Ways to Get There at ACT-A Contemporary Theatre, located at 700 Union Street, Seattle, WA 98101. (Age Recommendation: 14+ for mature language and themes) You can buy tickets online through the ACT box office or call (206) 292-7660 to get seats for the following remaining dates and times—
Thursday, March 5, 7:30pm
Friday, March 6, 7:30pm
Saturday, March 7, 7:30pm
Sunday, March 8, 7:30pm
Thursday, March 12, 7:30pm
Friday, March 13, 7:30pm
Saturday, March 14, 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, March 15, 2:00pm
Here are some links to articles about Ty Boice and reviews of his work—
Bringing Live Theater to Your Community — a practical guide to starting and running a local theater company by Candace Brown
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