BWW Interview: Tristan Van Cleave and Noah Segard of THE SHAWL and THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE at The Oasis Theatre Company
During the month of November, the Oasis Theatre Company in Santa Fe will be presenting a mini festival of David Mamet plays in their newly renovated space. The main event is a double header production of The Shawl and The Sanctity of Marriage (both directed by Brenda Lynn Bynum) but there will also be staged readings of Reunion, The Woods, and A Life in The Theatre on select Monday evenings.
I interviewed two of the actors involved in the Mamet Festival - Noah Segard, who plays Edward in The Sanctity of Marriage and Tristan Van Cleave, who plays Charles in The Shawl - about their thoughts on Mamet and their experience working on these pieces.
Mamet's works are known for their "culture of maleness" and have sparked controversy for his portrayal of gender dynamics. What do you think of how genders are portrayed in The Shawl and The Sanctity of Marriage?
Noah Segard: I can't speak for The Shawl, but as far as The Sanctity of Marriage goes, it's interesting that Mamet has given a voice to the woman [character], but all the power in the situation to the man. It almost feels like a commentary on gender dynamics in that way, because it's not illustrating the male authority in the relationship in a necessarily good light.
Tristan Van Cleave: As an actor, I tend to think in terms of character dynamics as opposed to gender dynamics. I avoid looking at characters as being any gender in particular, because I feel it down plays the deeper character traits that make them the characters that they are. I don't really see gender specific traits, instead I see the overlap of various traits in different people and characters alike. If you start with the traits, and build from there, in the end, hopefully you've found a character with motives that the audience can empathize with, and gender becomes a secondary quality.
Having said all that, I've been unaware of the controversy surrounding Mamet until very recently, but my ignorance has more to do with my approach to acting; I avoid researching too much about an author, because it can affect the way I perceive the piece I'm working on. I hope that we can present something human that exists beyond the controversy of the author.
What is the most challenging thing about working on a piece by Mamet?
Noah Segard: I don't know, because this is the first time I've worked on a piece by Mamet, that I can necessarily say what the most challenging thing about working on Mamet is, but I can say for the piece that I'm doing, the difficulty is having an inner life of responses. Edward is so curt in the things that he says - almost all of them are responsive and he doesn't bring up anything new - even when he changes the subject, it's still in response to her [Jean, the female character in the play] saying something about him. You know, the naturalness of the text would be my initial answer, except that there's so much subtext that it leads you to that it's actually a helpful thing.
Tristan Van Cleave: The challenges of this show, is the same as the challenges I face with any other show: finding the deeper meaning within the text, and bringing what I find to the audience in a way that makes sense and is real.
What exciting things have you discovered about and in these plays that you think will also excite the audience?
Noah Segard: Unwilling longing.
Tristan Van Cleave: There are stories here, very human stories that are relatable in their brevity, and I believe that these shows will be deeper then they appear at face value.
Any other thoughts?
Noah Segard: Everyone involved is brilliant, and I am grateful to my director and the wonderful people behind the scenes. And I had a thought about Mamet - his unwillingness to let you answer questions post performance, and his fastitiousness, as well the fact that text is so specific and has to be delivered exactly how it's written - while it seems demanding, it feels like a message to the directors and the actors. He has placed these words, like Shakespeare did, in a way that you have to do the work and the study to both understand and integrate into your interpretation, and then make compelling for the audience after you've discovered the life of these characters.
Tristan Van Cleave: I think literary works can live to surpass even what their authors intended them to be. There is a flexibility in that every one will experience it differently and part of the beauty of live theatre is that every night is a different show.
The Shawl/The Sanctity of Marriage runs November 1 through November 18. Thurs., Fri., Sat., @ 7:30 p.m. & Sun. @ 3:00 p.m. Performances will be in The Oasis Theatre Company's new space: Annex A, 3205 Calle Marie, Suite A (next door to Teatro Paraguas).
The Woods will be performed Monday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. with Veronica Everett and Jonathan Harrell.
Reunion will be performed Monday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. with Zoe Burke and John Onstad.
A Life in the Theater will be performed Monday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m. with James Jenner and Noah Segard.
For tickets to The Shawl/The Sanctity of Marriage, please order online at https://www.theoasistheatre.com/shop/theshawl; they may also be purchased at the door. Tickets are $25 general admission and $20 for seniors and students.
For all staged readings, please make reservations by calling 917-439-7708 as seating is limited. The price of admission is a suggested donation of $15.