Shackleton's Antarctic Nightmare
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Lawrence Howard
September 25, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Creator and performer.
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I think I knew that I wanted to be a performer around the age of ten, when I began to learn and recite the narrative Yukon ballads of Robert W. Service at family gatherings and around the campfire. It was such a great feeling to have everyone focus their attention on me! I also had a little magic act at that age, and performed at birthday parties. My sister has the embarrassing photos to prove it.
What does solo performance do that can't be accomplished in a multi-actor play?
The thing that is so great about solo performance is that it becomes a personal relationship between the performer and the audience. In the true, personal narrative genre that I perform in, there are no sets, no costumes, no props, and no fourth wall. There's not even a script. I'm interacting directly with the audience, not other actors. It's just me and them and this entire universe we conjure up between us, with nothing more than gesture, voice and words. There's an authenticity that I don't usually see in other kinds of performance.
Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
I certainly hope that the audience will talk about my show into the wee hours and over the next few days, weeks and months. That's because the Shackleton story itself is so compelling. This is a true story that began in 1914. Now, almost 100 years later, interest in Shackleton continues to grow and grow. And I think that's because this story, which is all about enduring and overcoming incredible hardship and adversity, really resonates with us in these difficult times. This is a story that tells us that we have amazing, untapped stores of strength within. This is a story that really gives us hope.
Who are your heroes?
My heroes are my father, Martin Howard, the original "Armchair Adventurer," who shared his love of the Shackleton story with me and who always encouraged me to pursue whatever interested me; my Uncle Ron, who always showed me how to be a good person wihout ever saying a word about it; my wife and partner, Lynne Duddy, who founded Portland Story Theater and who shows me every day that dreams really can come true, and my sons, Scott and Ray howard, who amaze me with their love and creativity. Oh, and this Antarctic explorer guy, Ernest Shackleton, who I do a one man show about.