Thursday, October 11, 2012

Actors React - Henry James | The Ogre

Photo: Bettman/Corbis  Source:
An American ex-pat, author and intellectual, Henry James was the "top dog" in his day.  With over 20 novels, 112 stories, 12 plays and many literary criticisms to his credit, his writings highlighted his numerous talents in literature, psychology and philosophy.

Joining us is Sacramento actor Shawn B O'Neal, sharing his thoughts on Don Nigro's The Ogre and his portrayal of the famous Henry James.

Big Idea: What appealed to you about being a part of The Ogre cast?

Shawn:  This show has an eerie feeling of suspense throughout coupled with humor.

Big Idea: How would you describe James?

Shawn: I believe Henry James is massively self-conscious and ultimately, a pretentious person.  In The Ogre, James is a very lonely person who is not truly able to connect with many people.

Big Idea: What do you feel is most important in his world?

Shawn: His love of the creation of art.  His body of work is enormous and I feel it is what has driven him.  The idea of creation, his creation, living on long past his death. 

Big Idea: Do you have a favorite work of James?

Shawn: I'd have to say that I enjoyed his ghost story "The Turn of the Screw" best.  It is suspenseful without being contrived. 


Big Idea: What is the most challenging part of exploring the world of the play through the eyes of a well-known historical figure?

Shawn:  Accuracy!  As an actor, you a taught to play a character for truth.  This is even more important when playing a historical person.  Accuracy and honesty are key.

Big Idea: In The Ogre, Henry James and Stephen Crane have a genuine friendship.  Why do you feel James befriends Crane?

Shawn: James respects Stephen Crane and enjoys the idea of being looked at as a mentor.  He appreciates Crane's talent and gift of writing, exploring different topics that challenge him.

Big Idea: How does the role of Henry James differ from previously roles that you have played?

Shawn:  Well - in my most recent Big Idea roles, I played a mentally damaged, child serial killer (The Pillowman), and a drag queen in mourning (Twelfth Night, or What You Will)...  so, this role is far more reserved and requires a great deal of restraint, a great deal of subtlety.  It's quite fun!

 "Pretty soon I will have to throw this away so I better try to be calm like Henry James. Did you ever read Henry James? He was a great writer who came to Venice and looked out the window and smoked his cigar and thought."

- Ernest Hemingway

• Liukkonen, Petri and Ari Pesonen.  Kuusankosken kaupunginkkirjasto., 2008.
• James's Legacy: The Afterlife of His Figure and Fiction by Adeline Tintner (1998) ISBN 0-8071-2157-6Ernest Hemingway pp.176–188.

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