The Apple Doesn't Fall…
AMY HART REDFORD and TROY GARITY of Rattlestick Productions' The Messenger on their famous parents and other topics.
Garity trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a film career; he's had leads in Rafael Zelinski's Bohemia and in the short film Solomon Bernstein's Bathroom. Redford got her B.A.. in Theatre Arts at SFSU, and also studied--among other places--at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, ACT, Circle Rep, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her film credits include Casanova Falling, and Of Love and Fantasy, and she's also done a lot of stage work.
I spoke with both of these young actors about the joys and frustrations of live theater, their training, and their famous folks just prior to a recent performance.
TM: Amy, I saw The Messenger on the night of Alan Nebelthau's first performance. That must have been a challenge for you all.
REDFORD: It was. When an actor has a script in his hand, it's really difficult--but it was actually kind of exciting, because how often do you have that kind of a challenge? We had been rehearsing the play for a while, and we'd gotten into a certain rhythm. When you get the opportunity to work with a new actor who has a different take on things, it keeps you on your toes. You have to adjust to the energy of the new person. And, if they have book in their hands, you have to be extra focused and attentive.
TM: Can you talk to me a little about acting in movies as compared to theater work?
REDFORD: Most actors I know relish the opportunity to go back and forth between stage and film. I think theater keeps you more humble in a lot of ways; you're not quite as precious. In film, you tend to be coddled a lot. Theater is more intimate, and that intimacy can be wonderful. Television is another great training ground.
TM: I'm told that you were just on The Sopranos.
REDFORD: Yes. It was a very small part--but I would have walked on and off carrying a box of Kleenex, because I love those actors and I love the show. I played an E.R. doctor who tells Tony Soprano that he should lose some weight. James Gandolfini and Edie Falco both have a long legacy of work on the stage; they're generous, terrific, crafted actors.
TM: What was it like studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art?
REDFORD: I really loved it a lot. It was kind of a boot camp for actors, in many ways; being able to go out to the theater every night for five pounds makes a huge difference in your education. LAMDA is not a place to go to figure out if you want to act, because they're not going to hold your hand. It's a place to pick up tools. They're not going to hold your hand and help you negotiate your emotions; it's all about the text and enunciation, and I found that refreshing. Also, the sense of history you get just by walking down one of the streets in London is amazing, especially if you're studying classical acting. But LAMDA is a great base camp for any actor, because you can apply the lessons you learn there to contemporary texts. Just trust the words, and they'll lead you to where you need to go.
TM: What has been your father's attitude toward your career?
REDFORD: It's pretty much the attitude of most parents towards their children's careers: fear mixed with encouragement. I really had to prove to myself why I chose acting, what my motives were. Now that I have just a little bit of ground under my feet, he's been very encouraging. This is where I'm at right now, and it makes me happy.
TM: Even though it's one of the most clichéd questions in history, I should ask if you think your family name and connections have helped or hindered your career?
REDFORD: Both. It can be hurtful, because people sometimes make assumptions about you before you step into a room. I've probably gotten through a lot more doors than I would have if I didn't have the name, but what you do once you get through the door is another question.
TM: How did get involved with The Messenger?
REDFORD: I did a reading a while ago. Then they called me when the production was going to happen, and I auditioned. The normal course of events.
TM: The identity of the messenger character in the play is somewhat murky. I wasn't sure about him...
REDFORD: I don't think you're supposed to be sure; it's purposefully ambiguous. I think we all have our interpretations about a lot of stuff in the play. You'll have to make your own decisions!
TM: Career-wise, what else have you been up to lately?
TM: Troy, where did your last name come from?
GARITY: It's my father's mother's maiden name. Actually, my father just found in Wisconsin the gravestone of his great-grandfather, Owen Garity, who came to America from Ireland. That's my next destination, to pay respects to the man who brought us here.
TM: You've done several films, but I guess they've all been fairly low budget?
GARITY: Well, yes, compared to Armageddon. I haven't blown up any planes! I'm still paying my dues: I've got, like, a few minutes in a film that's coming out this August called Steal This Movie, in which I'm fortunate enough to play my father.
TM: How was that experience?
GARITY: Therapeutic! It was very touching; I found myself reenacting some things I'd heard about all my life, moments that were pivotal in my creation. It was kind of surreal, too, because fact and fiction always have to be interbred when you're doing a biographical piece--especially when you try to encompass the life of someone as dynamic as Abbie Hoffman in two hours. There's a lot of dramatic license involved. In fact, my father was on the set for the riot scene, and he pulled me aside afterwards and said, "You know, son, we couldn't talk or even see in the tear gas. I don't know why all these extras are standing around and looking into the camera, when they should be crying and vomiting." I said, "Father, it's Hollywood. Remember?"
TM: You said that your role is a small one?
GARITY: Yes. It started out as a silent cameo. But I talked the writers into giving me a line, and they enjoyed me, so I incorporated myself a little further into the film. It's really about Abbie Hoffman, who's played brilliantly by Vincent D'Onofrio; my father had more or less the same goals as Abbie Hoffman in the '60s, but his modus operandi was different. Janeane Garofalo and Jeanne Tripplehorn are also in the movie, and a great actor named Kevin Corrigan plays Jerry Rubin.
TM: What's your next film project?
GARITY: Actually, I'm going into rehearsal to play my mother.
TM: Oh. Who'll be playing Ted Turner?
GARITY: I'll get back to you on that one. We'll have to find the correct animated character for him.
TM: Your mom looked great on the Oscars, by the way.
GARITY: Didn't she? She was gorgeous. I was so nervous for her; my palms were sweating, because it's been a long time since she was in such a public situation. But she was so elegant and graceful.
TM: Has she encouraged you in your acting career>
GARITY: I guess I would say that she's encouraged my growth, my education, the betterment of my skills. As an actor, you can't ask for a better support mechanism than having a mother who's a master actress. She can pull me aside and give me the most valuable notes about things--very specific details. She's inspirational.
TM: How did The Messenger come about for you?
GARITY: An old friend of mine is the general manager at the theater. She called me up and said, "Troy, are you sick of L.A. yet?" I said, "Yeah." So, at the height of pilot season, I packed by bags and went to do an Off-Broadway play. That made my agents very happy with me!
TM: How much stage experience do you have?
GARITY: I did some theater in college. My parents had a performing arts camp that they started in 1974, and I kind of grew up there. That was my principal training.
TM: Is The Messenger your professional stage debut?
GARITY: (Pauses) I guess it is. It's the first time I'm getting paid to be a stage actor.
TM: But you haven't attached a tremendous amount of significance to it for that reason?
GARITY: Why would I sabotage myself like that? This experience has confirmed every dream and every naked paranoia nightmare I've ever had about theater; it's been a wonderful example of the chaos backstage and the brilliance onstage. I learned a beautiful phrase from our stage manager: "In bocca al lupo." It means "in the mouth of the wolf," and it's the Italian version of "break a leg"--but much more romantic. I think that's a proper definition of what happens when you go on stage; I'm never going to let the wolf chew me up and digest me.
TM: Do you have a preference for stage or film acting?