The Rogue Players were able to have an interview with playwright and performer Arif Silverman, as we prepare for Galahad and the Dragons. We love hearing people talk about their art, and I hope it helps get you as excited as we are about the show. Come see it at HERE, Dec. 12-14!
The Rogue Players: Tell us a character description for your real-life self.
Arif Silverman: I’m a native New Yorker, grew up in Cobble Hill, went to Oberlin College in Ohio for undergrad, and am now back in the city acting, teaching, writing, and nerding out! I’m big into fantasy, all my work contains some element in some way. My friend Ellie Covan who founded Dixon Place recently branded my work as Chimerical Theater. I love that.
RP) Name one piece of theater, art, or literature that helped shape who you are as an artist.
AS) An Iliad. It’s a solo play where one actor recounts the events of the Trojan War. The script is incredible, and while I have yet to see a production of it, I’ve heard the experience is transportive. The language is so visceral, and when coupled with a gripping performance, it’s allegedly like you’re there, on the Trojan beach, in the fight. That’s something I really aspire to as an artist – being able to paint a vivid picture using little more than my words and my voice
RP) What person, living, dead, or fictional, (who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to come to your show) would you love to see sitting in the audience?
AS) Neil Gaiman. I’ve loved his writing since I was ten years old. He’s a huge influence on me, and it would be an absolute dream to share this crazy world with him.
RP) Would you tell us a part of your personal mythology?
AS) Well, I think a big part of my voice, specifically my love for fantasy, stems from my biracial heritage. My particular demographic is essentially a world of one, in that there is no real unifying culture when it comes to the biracial community. For me, that kind of means it can be whatever I want it to be. I can make whatever rules I want, give myself whatever story I want. Fantasy feels like it operates under similar rules. Anything goes. It’s up to you.
RP) Would you tell us an unexpected part of your performance routine?
AS) The last few times I’ve done this play, the only thought I try and have in my head before I start is “put your left foot forward.” Things like that help me stay focused on the present moment, and not worry about the entire show at once. The last show I did, the one thought I kept repeating before the piece started was “step into the light,” as the first thing I had to do was walk into a spotlight.
RP) Do you have advice for young performers shaping or claiming their own identity through the music they sing, or the work they write?
AS) Make the kind of art you’d want to experience. Make it the way only you can do it. Don’t worry about the expectations of the industry, if you are able to take up space in a way no one else can, room will be made for you.
RP) What started you off to write Galahad and the Dragons?
AS) I wanted to write a play about Trump supporters. The way the piece has evolved, I think that’s become more of a tangential focal point – it’s more about the nature and boundaries of community than anything else – but I still think that any of these characters could feasibly have voted for Trump. The key was to find the common ground between someone like me and someone like them
RP) The population of Galahad is confronting the aftermath of an upheaval. What growth and change in our own world would they find familiar?
AS) The fact that white people are becoming a minority. The demographic is changing. That can be exciting to some, but it can also be scary, and even threatening. So many people in this country are experiencing a great deal of anxiety regarding immigration, borders, and our national identity. This play is an attempt to unpack that anxiety.
RP) What has changed most for you over the whole arc of working on this project?
AS) The role of the audience. The first time we produced this piece, I hadn’t figured out exactly who the audience was, and why these characters were telling their story to them. Now, I’ve answered that question in a way I think really serves the story, in hopefully a surprising, exciting way. That transformed the entire piece, I think, and made it stronger.
RP) Does the universe that you’ve built, and the otherworldly events that happen in it, allow you to write about our real world in a way you wouldn’t otherwise be able to?
AS) For better or worse, I think this is the only way I can write about the real world. At least right now. So many people are having this conversation in a more literal way, which I love. But that’s never really been my approach to storytelling. There’s a duality to fantasy, in that it is both escapist and allegorical. Escapist, in that the literal world of the story is not our own, leaving room to create images, events, and living things we would never see in our daily lives. Allegorical, in that the story has to represent a facet of the world we live in if it is going to be effective. When I think about the most influential, successful stories to have appeared in my lifetime, I think of Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, The Avengers, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. A fantasy story with well developed characters is a clearly something most people can relate to, and get excited about.
RP) If I was on a subway platform, and you were on a train actually running correctly, and I asked you about Galahad and the Dragons, what would you tell me before the doors closed?
AS) The Laramie Project meets Game of Thrones.
RP) What’s your website, or twitter, or instagram, or facebook, or the best way for people to follow your work?
AS) I have a website – arifsilverman.com – that I try and keep up to date with whatever I’m working on. My instagram handle is @arifallgall