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Artist of the Month - March 2001

Actor, Director, Producer , Eve Passeltiner -
The Transformation Of An Artist

With Eve’s insights to theater and acting, came pearls of wisdom that managed to instruct and inspire my own art and provide a window to the arts in general.

Eve’s passionate discourse on how it all began for her, is one ofbeing born with and into the theater, rather than having had to search for the outlet. Her Godfather founded the St. LouisRepertory Theatre, and by 3 years of age, Eve was used to watching her parents as well as other actors perform on stage while she silently participated in the wings, and was always part of the back stage milieu. What might have been tedium or boredom for other children in that predicament, must have been fuel for a very young, but very well formed innate passion for Eve. Her favorite play was, “The Miser” by Moliere.

Eve’s vision of having an acting company was formed from those early theater experiences. “Theater is family. There’s an always an empty feeling when a show is over,” says Eve.

When Eve was 5, just old enough to start acting in plays, she and her parents moved to Indiana, where her father taught at Purdue University for one year. After that, it was on to New York.

During her time in New York, it was in public school that Eve was able to engage in theater once again. In the 6th grade, she helped write a recreation of The Wizard Of Oz, in which she played the wicked witch of the west. In high school, she directed and performed in “The Women,” by Claire Booth Luce; and received the Award for Excellence in Drama from Bronx High School of Science.

Haverford College in Pennsylvania provided Eve the opportunity to play a male role as part of McHeath’s Gang in Three Penny Opera. Additionally, she had roles in The Overtones, and The Great Nebula in Orion. Along with her theater productions, she managed to be the captain of the basketball team, J.V. field hockey and the J.V. La Crosse team.

So with all this acting ability and opportunity, my immediate assumption was that Eve, of course, had a degree in drama. But interestingly enough, Eve graduated with her degree in microbiology.

“I loved science, but I didn’t want to be a doctor or be a scientist locked up in a room somewhere. Science is very similar to theater, in that it’s about problem solving and experimenting,” claims Eve.

After college, Eve spent about 2 months in Europe to see and experience different cultures and ways of living that would become important to her artistry. She then worked in trade publicity for hardbacks of Simon & Shuster Publishing Co. for about one year. Eve was involved with three different theater companies: Avalon Repertory Theater, Hawk & Handsaw Theater Company, and Lovecreek Productions. While the stereotypical occupation of a struggling actor may be that of waiting on tables, we are not surprised to find that Eve did not fit into this category. During this three year period, Eve free-lanced as an Planner of international financial conferences. This allowed her to travel to Japan, England, and spain and gain knowledge of event planning marketing and business.

So what finally made her move from New York?

“I wanted to move away from the harshness of the city. The... ‘who do you want me to be so you’ll pick me’ attitude. It’s too hard to create under those circumstances. Too much of New York is in trying to get the job rather than the acting. It was depressingly materialistic, and New York has changed over the years. There is a much greater demand for musicals now as opposed to ‘straight’ plays,” Eve explained.

A few years before moving to Moab, she toyed with living in Seattle, auditioning for Artistic Director of the Intiman Theater in Seattle. Although she was told she’d do well, the thought of 9 months of gray skies deterred her. Fortunately for us, Eve found her way to Moab in 1993.

Eve’s fantasy goal was to have a theatre company at some point. But her first priority was to become part of the community before introducing it. Eve got her chance to not only be part of the community, but in bringing the community together, big time. In November of 1995, Lucy Wallingford suggested the city turn a building then known as the Stunt Man’s Hall of Fame Museum into an art center. It was natural for Eve’s interest to be piqued. Being an artist herself, one cannot help but also be a patron of the arts. Eve became involved by writing a proposal to the city on what kinds of uses the building would have and invested a grand scale effort in soliciting input from the community as to what kinds of arts classes, events to hold and how people could contribute in the form of teaching and other ways to support a facility that we now know as the Moab Arts & Recreation Center. You may remember filling out questionnaires at City Market regarding this information.

Through Eve’s efforts, we now have a beautiful building that provides a grand diversification of events, classes, and opportunities available to all ages throughout our community.

Doing intimate theater in Moab was initiated when Eve saw Laurie Collins’ audition for Don Juan In Chicago. Laurie had made quite an impression, and Eve approached her later about doing a play together. Their first joint venture was Elee mosynary a play by Lee Blessing. There was no advertising, and it wasn’t even done on the stage. The actors decided to use space in an unusual way–performing in front of the stage in a workshop production of the play, meaning the actors read from their scripts part of the time. Eve was unsure as to whether people would accept this style of theater. But that first performance netted 40 people in the audience, proof that theater really could work successfully in Moab.

“How did you come up with ‘Dessert Theater?” I was curious to know.

“With my background in marketing, I wanted an angle with a different niche. It just came to me” Eve confided.

So began Moab Repertory Theater’s modest birth. It is a separate and unique entity that rents its space from the MARC just as any other event, and people support it with their generous donations.

I asked Eve where she finds her plays and what criteria she uses to choose a play.

“Well, I have a bookcase of plays I brought from New York, and Laurie has some too. Sometimes I go to Salt Lake or even New York to check out a play. I subscribe to American Theater Magazine; and then my father is a great source since he goes to the Dramatist Bookstore in New York to get plays for me. I have a list of plays to do five years long. But how I choose a particular play, is based in part on casting difficulties, but more importantly on whether it has something to teach, whether it’s a comedy or not. I want to expose people to things they might not be exposed to otherwise. Getting people to see things in a different light is what makes it exciting.”

When asked what inspires her, Eve had this to say about acting.
“ The inspiration comes from intention. You have to ask yourself, ‘what are you doing, and why are you doing it.’ There is always an internal clue as to why you might not want to say a particular line or group of words. It is problem solving in the human experience. How to trust the ‘nakedness’ when you’re not sure just how it will turn out.”

I wanted to know how she provides the substance to form the characters in any given play, so that they become alive and real to the audience.

“Theater is like a religion to me. It’s the tribe I belong to. I’ve totally devoured it from the time I was three. Acting is hard work, and when I was growing up, every adult I knew, was in the business. In my earlier years of acting through high school and college, I kept getting in my own way. When I wasn’t able to act, I acted out in other ways, and this is true of any artist. I’m finally at a point now where I don’t get in my way anymore. For me, I try not to do ‘comfortable.’ In every character there is always a small part of you that can relate and you blow that up and explore it. The more specific you are for yourself, the more universal you become. It’s when you’re vague with yourself that theater becomes muddied, and unclear to the audience. Acting is all about the preparation leading up to letting go and being in the truth of the moment.

Sometimes you work from the inside out, in other words from intent and desire. Other times you work from the outside in; how would this person walk and speak and see the world. Sometimes you borrow from someone that reminds you of the part. Environment informs you to a large extent. Exploring a similar situation gives you insight into how you yourself would react and then you draw on that. This is where ‘improv’ can free you up to discover a part before your brain has a chance to decide how it’s already going to be. And then there’s a whole missing character until opening night, and that’s the audience.

Research plays a key role in finding the essence of the character. For the part in “W;t,” I researched hospitals and what it was like in that environment to go through ovarian cancer. I also researched the poet Dunn, who the main character was an expert on. Basically, you live your role. However, I didn’t decide to shave my head until the actual night of the opening performance. And I was glad I did. It suddenly gave a more ‘weighted’ feel to the character. People who have actually been through that type of experience came up to me after the play and thanked me for playing the part to its fullest.”

Though Eve has performed in many plays, she has also directed, and I found myself wondering, what the main differences are between directing and acting.

“Directing is teaching and more problem solving. You’re helping push the right buttons to get to that place the actor needs to be. You’re working on sculpting a big piece instead of just one character. The truth about the moment becomes about serving the story as a whole.

Having an eye for what works and what doesn’t, and giving people room to play is a large part of directing. I don’t believe in actors being puppets, especially when it comes to ‘walking here’ or ‘crossing the stage there.’ You come by an instinct to teach people to trust themselves, and to explore and try something even though they’re unsure.

There’s the whole choreography in directing; how to keep things moving while keeping in mind the whole picture of a given story.

It’s like being a parent. You support and give to everyone in a way that they can hear it and blossom. It’s about how to bring different levels together for the play. That’s what it is to be professional and that’s what makes it fun and invigorating.

Eve stays on top of her craft by attending workshops. Last October she attended an actor’s workshop by Patsey Rodenburg, who has worked with such actors as Judy Dench, Ian Holm, and Ralph Fiennes to mention a few. This July, Eve will be traveling to Umbria, Italy for 2½ weeks to attend an International Directors Symposium. It is sponsored by La MaMa Etc. Theater of New York and directors and designers from around the world will be hosting workshops at this symposium.

We are ever so fortunate in a small town such as Moab to have the talents, guidance and inspiration of Eve Passeltiner available to us through the Moab Repertory Theater and the opportunity it allows the community to become part of theater, grow as individuals and become enriched because of it.

In March there will be a Shakespeare workshop that people can sign up for, and Michael Shurgot will have materials available in advance. There will be a performance on Friday and Saturday the 30th & 31st of March. Also, Moab Repertory Theater in conjunction with CEU will be hosting some free lectures on “Why Theater is so Valuable to Society; and a lecture on shakespeare and Hamlet and how clues are given about acting and directing. These lectures are provided from a grant through the Utah Humanities Council.

For more information, call the Moab Repertory Theater: 259-3983.

© 2001 Moab Happenings. All rights reserved. Reproduction of information contained in this site is expressly prohibited.

 
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Reproduction of information contained in this site is expressly prohibited.