Wednesday, March 1, 2017

HOLAwave: Spending a Day with Director and Oscar-Winning Writer Alexander Dinelaris

[HOLAwave represents a series of guest blogs by industry insiders giving informative and educational tidbits for the Latino performer. They can range from acting and auditioning advice, tech tips, legal advice, marketing, producing tips, and so on. Get caught up in the wave– the HOLAwave.]

A few weeks ago I took a workshop with Alex Dinelaris. Among his many achievements thus far are the librettos for both On Your Feet! and The Bodyguard musicals, and some little small film called Birdman (for which he won the Academy Award). During the workshop someone asked Alex what’s something he wish he had known when he was first starting out.

Alex replied, "The one thing I wish someone told me was–"

Well, before we get there, let's take a few steps back. Oberon Theatre Ensemble was gracious enough to offer an all-day workshop at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center (MMAC) with the director and Oscar-winning screenwriter. Not only was this a great opportunity to learn from a great mind, but all the proceeds for the workshop were going to be donated to R.Evolución Latina and the other half to the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA).

With the amazing help of Priscila García-Jacquier, who organized the event and works alongside Alex, the one-day workshop gave so many insights into storytelling from different perspectives that I am still processing and adapting long after we finished.

One of the first things Alex said was, “This isn’t an acting workshop, or a writing workshop, it’s a blend of the two and how they work in telling a story.” One of the truly empowering notions was that as artists, we all tell stories, be it on a page or on a stage, we are part of the storytelling process, and that we should work to tell our stories and not wait for someone to tell them for us.

I can’t possible begin to summarize a day's worth of teachings in a few paragraphs. We analyzed scenes from Birdman, read and broke down some of Alex’s plays and pilots, each one different but in the end offering the same lesson that Alex said he wish he’d been told when he first started. Stories have a rhythm and a structure. In recognizing these similarities, regardless of the medium, as artists we can imprint our interpretation of these stories and bring our version of life to what we write, and what we perform.

Above all, one of the main things that stuck with me (besides filling up the walls of my bedroom with storyboards) was persistence. This business is hard, it’s a long marathon (and not a sprint) but you have to stick it through. Priscila spoke firsthand of seeing Alex’s process and how his creations are not the result of sudden lightning bolts but rather the buildup of long, connected clouds of work that ultimately create his worlds. As Alex so aptly put it, “Once you get to that second act, you’ll want to quit, you’ll want to write something else, you’ll want to give up and just stop because the writing gods hate you, but you have to push through, just push through and just finish.

I like to believe this can be applied to most aspects of life as an artist, we are in a constant battle with our own “Act Two” longing to find that third and final act, rest assure you will get there, you just have to push through. 

[Photos of the event by Alphabeta Photography. For more information, click here.]

Henry Caicedo moved to the United States from Colombia with his family and settled in Florida. There he attended the University of South Florida (USF) majoring in Mass Communications and Theater. He later moved to New York where he studied film and television at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. Upon graduating he had the opportunity to work on several stage productions including Prophet of Borough Park, A Steady Rain, and Transubstantiation (directed by André Glant-Linden). Most recently, he guest-starred in an episode of "Gotham" (Fox).

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