PlayMakers Repertory Company kicks off its sixth season of the PRC2 series today with the opening of “An Iliad,” a solo show featuring Ray Dooley.
Assistant arts editor Carson Blackwelder spoke with Dooley about the challenges of solo shows, his role and how “An Iliad” fits into PlayMakers’ season.
Daily Tar Heel: Is this your first solo show?
Ray Dooley: In December of 1998, PlayMakers presented a one-man version of “A Christmas Carol,” which I did. That was my first, and this is my second solo show in full production.
DTH: What do you think are the big differences between solo shows versus shows with a cast?
RD: The main difference is that your acting partner is the audience. As the sole actor, it’s important to know why the character is there, what the relationship is with the audience and what change the character wants to make in the audience.
DTH: What is the process like preparing for a solo show?
RD: It’s important to be as prepared as possible. The audience is the missing — and final — piece. So you want to be as prepared as possible so that when you add in each night that final piece, it allows for a certain flexibility or spontaneity.
You can take in what you are getting back from the audience and have confidence that the nuts and bolts of the performance will be there.
DTH: What’s the feeling like on stage during a solo show?
RD: There is never a moment where you are not aware of the entire event, all the way to the back wall. If you are in a scene with other actors, at least a part of you believes that you are in a closed-off space that does not include the audience.
DTH: Is there added pressure when you are alone on stage?
RD: I would say yes because all you have to work with is the story and your acting partner, the audience. You are working to bring them into the story and make them a part of the event.
DTH: Can you tell me about your character? Who do you play?
RD: The character is called “The Poet.” What we know about him is that he has been a witness to wars, and that he has been telling this story of the Trojan War for a millennia.
He’s like an ancient mariner figure who reappears through history to tell this story again and again to a new audience.
He travels a lot and carries a suitcase. He’s got papers and various things in his suitcase that he uses.
DTH: The play pertains to more than just Homer’s classic telling of the Trojan War, correct?
RD: Yes. And more specifically than just war, I would say the rage within human beings that causes war — that causes strife between people. That is a theme that he touches on quite a bit.
DTH: With PlayMakers doing “Penelope” last season and the “Henry” plays, which were about war, how does this fit in with those plays?
RD: As a theater, one of the things we have been exploring through Joe Haj’s selection of these pieces is war and its causes and effects, because that is a question that has been with civilization and humanity for a millennia.
We examine the large questions in life, and in this case we have the “Henry” plays and “Penelope” that touched quite a bit on the question of war and its aftermath. “An Iliad” makes a trilogy, if you will, of explanations about war.
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