Artists In Their Own Words: Todd d'Amour
Who: Todd d’Amour
Where: French Quarter
Artist’s chosen location for interview: Café Envie – He went to the one on Bienville; I went to the one on Decatur; we eventually met after two lovely bike rides in the rain.
Q: What is something that you feel you ignore pretty consistently?
A: I’m going to start with a dramatic answer. [Laughing]. Up until about four months ago, I would say I was ignoring my soul. Not fully. It’s just that I wasn’t paying it enough attention. I recently started Zen meditation again, and when you do that you realize how much attention the self and the soul needs. That’s my first and dramatic answer.
I would say that option B is probably that I have ignored the things that I love to do the most. This can be a lot of things, and one thing is music. I play guitar, and when I started playing again I realized how long it had been. For Orpheus Descending I actually play guitar in the play, so that has given me incentive. That, and I got a new Dobro-style Gretsch guitar as a Christmas gift, so that is also a great incentive. I also recently started teaching myself how to play the violin and how to sew. I also loooooove cooking. Got that from my Mama.
Q: When do you feel you first realized or “discovered” that you had a self?
A: I just watched the documentary I Am, and while I was watching it I was thinking, this is slightly cheesy and a bit trite and yet, also quite powerful and moving and personal. It made me think about “the self” in relation to “the group”.
It’s interesting to think about the presence of self and the removal of self. The idea of a communal self can sometimes correspond with this idea of not taking more than you need, which makes sense. For some early tribal communities, or native communities, if you will, you can see how taking more than you need or solely focusing on the self could be considered a mental illness.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a self. Self realization is contingent upon being a part of the group in a natural and productive way. Within that, it doesn’t void or presuppose that our present day, or modern, version of the self is so different. People still have moments alone, and I’m pretty sure that people in those early tribal communities also sat alone, watched a sunrise, and felt a breeze in a way that was only particular to them.
And all of these realizations about the self happened at 3:17 PM just last Tuesday.
[Laughing]. I’m totally kidding.
Actually, I feel like these thoughts or reflections have always been present in my own consciousness. It’s just that they’re more present since I entered into this somewhat dark phase of my life a few months ago. I was drinking a lot, well…not drinking a lot but drinking every night. I had a desire to not run away from the pain that had entered my life. Not wanting to hide from the pain can and did lead to me taking the time to sit. To meditate.
I was working in New York, and I was staying in this loft, that is owned by a dear friend of mine, in Williamsburg. Just a beautiful loft. When I walked into the place everything was super clean and austere and everything in it’s place. Just as I walked in the door, right there on the shiny black granite countertop was the book The Places That Scare You. It was the only book out, so I took that as a bit of a sign. I mean, I have probably seen that book many times, but that was the time that I noticed it that profoundly. I got it. I read it. I carried it with me...on subways and trains and plains. It became a sort of manual.
Q: What would be excellent news for you to hear?
A: They’re doing Orpheus Descending in New York, and it would be awesome to get a call with someone saying, ‘Hey we know you already know this role, so you can continue it here.’
This role of Val in Orpheus Descending has been such an enveloping and consuming challenge - physically, mentally and emotionally, and I love that. It’s always tough when you put this much work into something and then it just goes away.
That happens, of course. It happens all the time with acting. It would be really nice to get a call from someone saying, ‘Actually, you can continue doing what you’re doing and have been working on so hard.’
On the other hand, I would love to have the opportunity to take on more carpentry or craftsman-style building/fabricating work, especially in New Orleans. Acting work is great, and I also love building things and crafting and creating things. There are a few brilliant metal and wood workers/craftsmen that are good friends and kindred spirits, here in town, whom I work with when I am in New Orleans. I would love the opportunity to build and work more with them. Something that would allow me to stay here.
Q: What is a character you could not play or pretend to be?
A: Charlton Heston, in his biopic. Although, I could play him, playing himself, as Moses on Saturday Night Live. [Laughing].
Really there isn’t a roll I couldn’t play, as long as there is communication between the actor and the director. Actors are incredibly fortunate in that we get to explore all these different parts of being human. It may be dark, it could be weird, or it could be something that we know nothing about.
If I were ever uncomfortable doing something, in a role – because thinking something and physically doing it are very different – that’s where I would have to step in and talk to the director. We could talk about what is particularly difficult or uncomfortable about the scene or situation and think about a way to still get that message or story across in a way that would be more comfortable or appropriate and still honor the work/text.
With that said, when it comes to acting, I’m not sure there’s anything that is off the table.
You can see Todd d’Amour in Southern Rep’s Orpheus Descending, which is running from March 12 to April 3 at UNO’s Nim’s Theater.