Working as an APL Ensemble Actor

People regularly question me about what it’s like to be an Akropolis actor.  We talk about ourselves as an actor-centered, process-drive ensemble committed to long-form rehearsal, so what does that look like in practical terms? Aside from the value we place on physical and vocal training, how do we approach the creative process in the rehearsal studio, and what expectations do we have for our actors that differ from those of an actor engaged in the typical process of putting up a show in 4 or 5 weeks. As we near the opening of Crime + Punishment after more than 550 group rehearsal hours I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to share those expectations with you. I’d love to receive your responses and answer any questions.

Working as an APL Ensemble Actor

12.01.16 Devising Duklida 4

December 2016 rehearsal of Crime + Punishment (Joseph Lavy, Matt Sherrill, Tyler Polumsky, Emily Jo Testa, Annie Paladino)

Working as an APL ensemble actor means:

  1. Embracing APL’s signature aesthetic, which:
    1. asserts that the theatrical life of an APL production arises from the tension created between formal discipline and inter-personal immediacy
    2. demands levels of specificity and concepts of spontaneity which may at times seem at odds with dominant contemporary acting approaches
  2. Engaging each rehearsal as a generative artist, making propositions through prepared actions, etudes, improvisations for theatrical material from which the performance text will be created
  3. Recognizing that every proposition—however formal, realistic, or abstract—must be built on a foundation of impulses and points-of-contact with stimuli from external sources (living partners, objects, memories and associations projected outside of the self)
  4. Proposing performative material that is precise, repeatable and iterative
  5. Adapting one’s proposition to changing circumstances (montage with other actors, inclusion of music and/or text, addition of objects, changes of space) without abandoning or destroying the proposition’s originating stream-of-life
  6. Incorporating, retaining, and justifying adjustments made to the proposition in collaboration with the director and any acting partners
  7. Remaining receptive and sensitive to new meanings as they emerge, and embodying them in subsequent iterations
  8. Developing alternate propositions for a subject or scene when inspired or requested, rather than radically changing or abandoning an existing proposition without discussion or collaboration with the director and acting partners
  9. Elaborating with one’s artistic partners the overall performance text composed of acting scores with compound dramaturgical levels:
    1. The original truth, associations and details of the initial propositions
    2. Specificity of form and points-of-contact with acting partners
    3. A living give-and-take with acting partners, which respects and maintains the established physical structure
    4. Precise execution which ensures clear communication of intended information to the spectator
  10. Using one’s acting score as the means to provoke and respond to one’s acting partners and spectators, not simply as a form of choreography or an illustration of a text
  11. Respecting the established details of the final performance text as elaborated through the rehearsal process, and not introducing significant deviations from their score in a moment of on-stage inspiration or improvisation in performance conditions. Once a production is in performance, new propositions are first to be explored and validated in collaboration with the director and other actors under rehearsal conditions before being introduced before an audience


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What a Great Audience!

Take Me: Pulkheria Floating | Emily Jo Testa

Take Me: Pulkheria Floating | Emily Jo Testa

Wow — we had a full house at Friday’s rendering of 730 Steps! Two lucky people even got to experience our work from the middle of the action, with seats in the playing space! We’re so grateful to everyone who came out to support this important part of our development process.

We were especially touched by the number of people who hung out with us well past 1:00 AM chatting not only about what they’d just seen but about their lives and things going on in the world in general.

Special thanks to Milena Hranac for her help getting us ready for the event and for running lights!

It was a wonderful evening. You have given us much to think about as we shape 730 Steps’ final form for performance.

If you attended and upon further reflection have new thoughts to share, feel free to send us an email. We welcome all of your feedback.

Watch this site for announcements about performance dates!

This project is sponsored, in part, by a grant from 4Culture.

The Glas Nocturne is Sold Out! But don’t despair…

"There’s something wrong with my brain. Too bad or too good, I don’t know. Certainly not what it ought to be." ~ Dr. Glas (Joseph Lavy) | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

“There’s something wrong with my brain. Too bad or too good, I don’t know. Certainly not what it ought to be.” ~ Dr. Glas (Joseph Lavy) | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

… we are keeping it in repertory!

Expect to see announcements about periodic new performance offerings of this “intimate… resonant… dangerously riveting” work starting this fall.

If you weren’t able to get a seat for our world-premiere run of The Glas Nocturne, which ends June 7 after playing to full houses with an extension, there are two ways you still can see the piece:

  1. Sign up for our waitlist. We’ll send you a notification the next time we schedule a date to offer a performance.
  2. Pull together a group of ten and request a private showing. We’ll work with you to schedule a mutually agreeable date!

Just click on the Request Invitation button here or use the form on the production page. REQUEST INVITATION BUTTON

Meet Doctor Glas

APL Co-Artistic Director Joseph Lavy is Dr. Glas | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

“He sits motionless, looking out over the water, smoking a very long, slender cigar. A most handsome man.” | APL Co-Artistic Director Joseph Lavy is Dr. Glas | Photo: Joe Patrick Kane

“He sits motionless, looking out over the water, smoking a very long, slender cigar. A most handsome man.” |

The Glas Nocturne opens today!

A breathtaking  journey. Pure, simple, uncompromising artistry.

We are so proud of this piece and hope all our friends who can will come out to see it.

All performances are offered as PWYC donation.

Request an invitation here.

Join the conversation:

Akropolis Daily Nocturne

Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888) | Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888) | Vincent van Gogh

A nocturne a day — that’s our promise to you now through opening of The Glas Nocturne.

Get your daily dose of the night!

Follow Akropolis Daily Nocturne on Storify or #AkropolisDailyNocturne on Facebook and Twitter.

We’d love to hear what you think of these varied and evocative pieces!

And watch here for details about how to request your invitation to The Glas Nocturne.

Corpus Christi?

In 2002, APL was about to begin rehearsals on an original adaptation of Pinocchio when the US–exploiting the wake of 9/11– opportunistically decided to wage war on Iraq based on dubious evidence of WMDs. We were unanimously and vehemently opposed to the action, and agreed APL needed to respond artistically, so we tabled the Pinocchio project and picked up Jeanne, The Maid.
Our intent was not to make a 1:1 equivalency between Joan of Arc and modern-day jihadists (Although, they are both religious extremists/zealots fighting wars in the name of God). We were driven mainly by the impulse to interrogate and illustrate the capacity of a corrupt religio-political power structure to manufacture evidence in order to support their desired outcomes and, through immoral & coercive means, actualize their predetermined objectives. And to demonstrate the social complicity of the people who sit there and let it happen, or accept that Ends justify Means.
When we finished rehearsals and were ready to open in 2003, alt-media just began to break the stories of American atrocities in Abu Ghraib prison. Most of the country was in denial that the USA would do anything like that, still pumped up on jingoistic nationalism. If it happened at all, it had to be merely by a few rogue actors. America was certainly on the Moral High Ground.
We were chastised in the Seattle Stranger for “Politics with a Sledgehammer,” even though we never once used a literal reference to Bush/Chaney/Rumsfeld. Now, 11 years later the American Government’s unscrupulous use of torture (ends justifying means) is back in the spotlight.

And our question remains: “Is this the body of Christ?”

Downstairs Studio Ready for Action

Aside from figuring out how to deal with the six 6-foot bookcases full of books that were relocated to the middle of the office floor — and making some furniture and lighting changes — the studio renovation is complete!

The masonry along the bottom is a perfect touch!

The floor is partially sprung so will serve our needs well for physical activity.

And the acoustics are lively.

Best of all given our near 90 temps this last week, it’s COOL — about 10 degrees cooler than the upstairs.

Can’t wait to host our Sunday Salon here next week!

Let’s Talk Honestly about the Death of Arts Orgs

This post is slightly modified from comments Zhenya Lavy originally made on Facebook July 4-5 regarding Devon Smith’s post about a debate she engaged in at the recent American’s for the Arts Conference in Nashville.

Zhenya tapped into the conversation when Theatre Puget Sound Executive Director Karen Lane pointed to it and asked, “Is this something we have or can talk about honestly in our community?”

Here is what Zhenya wrote:

This conversation… yes, please. In Seattle and elsewhere. My inclination: Let Them Die. It’s sad, but 9 times out of 10 it’s the right thing. Convince me otherwise.


The author definitely misses the mark on her substitutions for theatre, but I am 100% behind the argument that it’s usually the wrong things being saved: the administration, a space with a name on it that no longer comes even close to founding mission, etc. There are a lot of points of connection in the post that I could go on about.  It’s almost never the actual art or artists being “saved” when the call is heard that x org needs $y millions in z months or it will close its doors (which has happened on a large scale 3 times in Seattle since we moved here). Those crisis moments have always been a bail-out for inexcusable mismanagement of funds and resources by administrators and ADs who ran the org into the ground for years without taking adequate, responsible steps to right course or allow the public a hint of the true situation… and then jumped ship just before it all fell apart (often leaving a new team to take the fall, as if they had actually caused the demise because they just couldn’t handle the awesome responsibility of such a large org as masterfully as their predecessors).

As the most recent example, Intiman looms very large here. Those of us running arts orgs in Seattle in the early 2000s knew Intiman was in financial trouble then, that they were building lavish shows on the expectation of funds not yet raised through grant-incentivized budget processes that demanded such risk. It was an inside topic of conversation among arts leaders that the sign of Intiman’s end game would be Laura Penn’s departure. She and Bart Sher drove that org as far as they could without fixing it and got themselves promoted to bigger gigs before allowing the damage of their leadership to become visible.

On a separate but related line, I’m particularly fascinated that the author of the linked post lists Intiman among the theatres now dead. Why, then, do we still have the re-jiggered Intiman Festival purporting to be its partial-year continuation (as if it were the same org, just doing work in a more focused timeframe and without the overhead expenses of their own space)… but what it has really done is just parasite off the board connections, fundraising machine, unearned goodwill of the playhouse owners/managers, and audience association of the historical name to a new group who — whatever the quality of the work — is no longer connected to Intiman’s founding mission and, frankly, has no business continuing to squeeze the Intiman name for resources and audience.

As Joseph said the other day, the Rolling Stones are an arts institution, but when either Jagger or Richards goes, that will be the end of it. Nobody would consider finding a replacement so the band could go on.

When Julian Lennon began his musical career, there was public speculation that The Beatles might have him stand in for John… but nobody in The Beatles actually entertained that notion seriously.

And you never hear, “Seattle’s best Thai restaurant is going to go out of business if everybody doesn’t pull together $35 million in donations in 4 months.” Businesses go out of business.

Why is it different with theatre? Is it because the non-profit model attaches public-governance to arts institutions and turns them into bricks-and-mortar properties rather than a particular collective of artists? Is it because non-profit boards are usually comprised of well-meaning civic and business leaders with the deep pockets/connections an org needs to get by but without actual personal artistic experience or merit themselves… who collectively believe one actor is as good as the next or one director can be replaced equally by another? That kind of thinking works with presenting orgs like On The Boards or LaMaMa, but it would never work with Odin or Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theatre (not even with the Incubator) or … name any others. And, frankly, it only very marginally works with the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski, even though Grotowski named his artistic successor.

Today’s WET is not the WET of its founders, whose artistic synergy fired a potent spark. Today’s Seattle Rep is not the Rep of its founders… it’s not even repertory…. and the work is spotty.

So what actually gets sustained?

And what else might be permitted to flourish if resources and attention weren’t focused on the buildings and administrations? Who knows what orgs never even had the opportunity to get off the ground because donors dumped money into saving dying institutions whose artistic moment has passed? It’s just an org, it’s not the art.

The issue only attains to orgs with a particular “scale” — it doesn’t apply to all. The recognition that institutionalization kills some art and artists as much as it might prop others up is not new. I myself soundly argued against institutionalization back in 2005 when I participated in a TCG panel with Molly Smith of Arena Stage and Lou Bellamy of Penumbra titled “S-M-L-XL: Size and Scale in American Theatre.” As co-artistic director of Akropolis Performance Lab, I represented the “S” in that equation. I urged young artists and collectives to resist the drive to institutionalize because it diverts their focus and energy away from the art — that they can still achieve their artistic vision and thrive without a 501c3, board, or dedicated space. Part of that argument is also the recognition that for most, the organization IS its people. The Living Theatre survived the loss of Beck but BOTH Beck and Malina??? Never. The composition of Akropolis Performance Lab’s ensemble has changed over time, but the org will not live beyond me and Joseph. The same is true of theatre simple — Andrew and Llysa have worked with a range of artists, but the organization is inextricably tied to them. This is positive valence.

Everything has a natural life cycle. Dying orgs can and should die so new orgs can appear.

Stop propping up corpses.

Evolution of our studio renovation

Joseph had this to say, "Loving having a rehearsal studio downstairs. Was able to spend almost 2 hours working on Vanya after the family went to bed. There's still a lot to do, but it works!"

Joseph wrote this back in November: “Loving having a rehearsal studio downstairs. Was able to spend almost 2 hours working on Vanya after the family went to bed. There’s still a lot to do, but it works!”

In November 2013, we began the process of converting the downstairs space of our home into a studio for rehearsals and training. We started by cleaning out all the family living stuff — including six 6-foot bookcases with their nearly 150 boxes worth of books — leaving only items to be used for Uncle Vanya rehearsals.

With the exception of a new paint job over the holidays, the conversion was interrupted for about five months while we rehearsed, produced, and recovered from Uncle Vanya.

But just before Memorial Day, the carpet came out.

Then came the subfloor. We wanted a fully sprung floor because of our physical work and our daughter’s Irish Step dancing, but that plan was stymied by the height of the fireplace threshold. So contrary to conventional technique, we put the moisture barrier on bottom, then installed a floating subfloor on top… onto which a floating finish floor would be added. The old carpet came in handy as impromptu shim and leveler for our wavy floors! Joseph spent a few days working out some over-enthusiastic creaks.

Studio Renovation 5.26.14
Studio Renovation 6.8.14
Studio Renovation 6.21.14

On a whim, we tore out this unnecessarily large platform. C fretted it might hold a dead body. The thing was built like Fort Knox — serious overkill (but no dead body). Before and after, and the day’s total progress: just shy of 3/4 through the subfloor part of the job.

Studio Renovation 5.26.14
Studio Renovation 5.26.14
Studio Renovation 5.26.14

Recognize that bench in front of the fireplace? It’s from our 2003 production, Jeanne the Maid: A Trial & Execution of Jeanne D’Arc.

How are we going to deal with that 9″ edge of concrete circling the room? Or the now garish threshold of the sliding door?! These questions puzzled us for weeks. In vain, we called in experts for professional solutions. We tried a tile application that failed dismally. We decided it would be better to install the floor first than wait until we had a viable solution to the surround, so we moved on.

Joseph put the floor in over the course of a couple evenings — after having already put in a full day at the office. He made it about 1/3 of the way across in the first evening.

As of tonight, the floor is done.

Studio Renovation 6.24.14
Studio Renovation 6.28.14
Studio Renovation 6.28.14

Those boxes along the wall contain the stone that will solve our finish issue. Stay tuned!

Dates Scheduled for 2014-15 Sunday Salons

Joseph Lavy as the Utah State Senator and Deborah Jacoby as his wife in the January 2014 reading of Jim Moran's new play, Fangs.

Joseph Lavy as the Utah State Senator and Deborah Jacoby as his wife in the January 2014 reading of Jim Moran’s new play, Fangs.

Mark your calendars now for the next season of Sunday Salons!

  • July 20 | The Farce of Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery | John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
  • October 12 | Play TBA
  • January 25 | 2nd Annual New Year New Play Reading Workshop | Submissions by PNW playwrights will be accepted in the fall for consideration.
  • April 26 | A special, guest-curated Salon. Look for announcements about curation of this event.

And don’t forget to join us June 22 for the special Salon we added to coordinate with Odin Teatret’s livestream performance of Clear Enigma, celebrating its 50th Anniversary!

Regular Sunday Salons begin at 4:00 pm and end around 10:00 pm. The June 22 livestream begins at noon.

Full details can be found on each event’s page.