Author: mcct

Actor Profile: Zilia C. Balkansky-Sellés reflects on her role and playing Miss Prism in the light comedy ‘Earnest’

Actor Profile: Zilia C. Balkansky-Sellés reflects on her role and playing Miss Prism in the light comedy ‘Earnest’

Zilia C. Balkansky-Sellés has been an important part of our theater for years.  She’s written, acted in, and composed music for several MCCT productions.  She’s also co-directed a play.  This time around, she is stepping into the shoes of Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest In a Pandemic; an online adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic.
For more details about ‘Earnest’ and to get tickets, please visit – http://www.mcct.org/get-tickets-for-the-importance-of-being-earnest-in-a-pandemic/
Read on to discover a little more about Zilia’s journey to the local stage…

 

How did you get into theater?

Zilia:  I’ve been drawn to the theatre most of my life. I was in a scene from “The Wizard of Oz” in the fourth grade. I really loved doing that. While I did take some dance classes and competed in gymnastics, the next time I did anything with theatre was an acting class as an undergraduate student. After graduating with my English BA (with a lot of courses in environmental studies), I took acting workshops at the New School in New York City. Later, again, when I was in graduate school at Indiana University, I took several acting courses through the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. 

 

  • Watch Zilia’s dance choreography as a witch in MCCT’s 2015 production of Macbeth – CLICK HERE!

 

When did you first want to be an actor or involved in theater?

Zilia:  As I mentioned above, my experience in the fourth grade started a slow burn that has only grown throughout my life. 

Was there a first acting experience that really made you love it and can you tell us about that?

Zilia:  See above. I also started going to see a fair number of plays in New York City, where I went to high school and did my undergraduate studies. The more theatre I saw, the more I was drawn to the whole experience.

How long have you been acting/involved in theater?

Zilia:  I started getting involved in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about twenty years ago, both co-writing a play with a children’s theatre company and beginning to read plays and act. 

How did you get involved with MCCT?

Zilia:  While I was going through my graduate program at Indiana University, and taking acting courses in the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, I auditioned for a play with MCCT. My first role was as Katherine in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII

Why did you want to be involved in this production?

Zilia:  I was invited to take the role of Miss Laetitia Prism after the person who initially was in the role was no longer available. I thought it would be fun. 

Tell us a little about your character. How would you describe them?

Zilia:  Miss Laetitia Prism is, in some ways, a deceptive character. She appears to be a little daft, self-important, and narrowly focused on societal niceties, but she has her own secret hopes, dreams, and passions. 

Zilia as Miss Prism in ‘Earnest’

How have you been preparing for your role?

Zilia:  Some of my preparation has been in thinking about who someone like Miss Prism would have been in the early 20th Century in her time and place and thinking about the options available to her, as well as the restrictions on her due to her social class and standing. I’ve also worked to think about what we learn about the character in the arc of the story of the play. There’s more to Miss Prism than meets the eye or casual observer.

Do you see yourself in your character at all? How do you go about understanding their point of view?

Zilia:  We all play our roles in society, in our daily jobs, in our lives, and in our own social setting. It would be easy to make a caricature of Miss Prism, but that would be a lost opportunity for the character, the story, and for myself. No matter how constrained someone else, no matter how structured the society in which they live, the possibility of freedom of expression exists in each moment. That is part of how I am thinking about Miss Prism. In that way, of course, I can see the connections between her and her world and me in my much “bigger” world. All of this has to do with the point of view. From her point of view, I see Miss Prism as doing what she has to do to survive. 

In the age of covid and social distancing, what has been the hardest part of this production and doing theater, in general?

Zilia:  Being part of this production, and doing theatre in general, during these interesting times have been a gift, a solace, and a space for possibility, creativity, and expression. This experience has made things easier for me, opening up creative breathing room. 

What new things have you learned as a result?

Zilia:  It has been good to think about Miss Prism and the world of the play, both the world that was in the original by Oscar Wilde and in this contemporary adaptation. No matter how ridiculous society’s rules and confines may be, we can look for ways to find a sense of ourselves in the world. 

What has been the most rewarding?

Zilia:  All of it has been rewarding. I do love working in collaboration with a group of motivated people to find our way to a creative expression that provides some sense of cohesiveness, truth, and fun. 

Why do you think this story is relevant for today’s audiences?  What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?

Zilia:  The relevance of this story comes through some of my earlier answers. Even though the story of the play takes place in a very particular societal moment, with particular strictures and rules, we still live in a society with a lot of unspoken, as well as acknowledged, confines and guidelines. Making the creative connection between the apparently stilted confines of the past to the less apparent confines of the present can help us to see that we live by conditions that we may, or may not, be conscious of. Even with society’s conditioning and the roles we play in our daily lives, we can find ways to break free, to breathe a little more deeply, to find ways to connect with our own sense of core and authenticity. 

Why should audiences come to this show?

Zilia:  It’s a fun ride. 

What are your top three dream roles?

Zilia:  I’ve got a few dream roles: one of them is Prospero in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” After seeing Julie Taymor’s production on film, with Helen Mirren in the role of Prospero, it set a new hope and goal. There is another role which I am not suited to play vocally or in other ways, but I do love the role of the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” I may have to write a funny, athletic, crazy character for myself to match the Pirate King’s antics. I would love to play some kind of period piece adventurer, a woman surviving in a wilderness space. 

What do you do when you’re not rehearsing and memorizing plays?

Zilia:  As far as regards theatre, when I can afford it, I like to take acting classes, voice lessons, and dance lessons. I’ve only just gotten books out of the library about acting technique and approaches to creating roles. Aside from that I have a day job, am working on a few writing projects, and have other creative projects I would like to develop.  In regards to my personal life, I work as an organizer of speaker events (Extracurricular Coordinator) and an academic advisor for students in the Hutton Honors College at Indiana University, Bloomington. I like my job quite a lot. It is only one part of my creativity and expression. I do other things as well, such as writing, acting, gardening, advocating for animals and the Earth.   I love all sorts of animals everywhere.  I appreciate the immediacy and presence of animals. They live, as far as we can tell, in the present moment.  Currently, I share my home with one dog, a pitbull and beagle mix, seven cats, and one foster cat.

 

  • Watch Zilia play and sing ‘O Mistress Mine’ in MCCT’s 2019 production of 12th Night – CLICK HERE!

 

What advice would you like to give for anyone looking to get involved in community theater, or for someone who wants to study acting professionally? Any words of wisdom?

Zilia:  If you are drawn to it, just start. Don’t wait. Don’t make excuses to yourself. Why would you deprive yourself, or others, or your family, your community, your society, this world, of your aliveness, your creativity, the light turned on inside you.  Every day provides another opportunity to be more awake, to connect with the world, to see ourselves and others more clearly, and to try to do something that moves our human and social experiment in a positive direction. 

 

Here are a few more links to Zilia’s performances with MCCT…

  • Zilia recently played King Henry V in MCCT’s 2020 production of Henry V.  To watch her performance – CLICK HERE!
  • Zilia also regularly lends her vocal talents to The MCCT Podcast.  She recently performed Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas for our 5th Episode. Her reading starts at the 17:21 mark- To listen – CLICK HERE!
  • She can also be heard in Volume Four of MCCT’s Oc-POE-ber Fest reading Hop-Frog.  Her reading starts at the 6:35 mark – to listen – CLICK HERE!
Artist Profile: Tony Brewer: Poet, Sound Effects Artist, Spoken Word Performer, Filmmaker

Artist Profile: Tony Brewer: Poet, Sound Effects Artist, Spoken Word Performer, Filmmaker

Monroe County Civic Theater is entering into its 35th season as Bloomington’s only all-volunteer, amateur community theater company. First up, director Becky Stapf brings us The Importance of Being Earnest In a Pandemic, an adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic that’s set in the age of social distancing. For more details and to get tickets, please visit – http://www.mcct.org/get-tickets-for-the-importance-of-being-earnest-in-a-pandemic/

Tony Brewer plays the clergyman, Dr. Canon Frederick Chasuble, the source of Victorian moral judgments.  Like Chasuble, there’s more to Tony under the surface.  Besides being a talented actor, Tony is a writer, director, producer, and award-winning foley artist.  Be sure to check out the links we provided to his work! 

 

Here’s our interview with Tony…

 

How did you get into theater?

Tony:  I was in an improv group in college that eventually started making live radio theatre-style comedy and then studio productions. Our first big thing was a horror series, “Hayward Sanitarium,” which I directed and produced and that got on NPR Playhouse in the 90s. I gravitated toward sound design and foley during that time, but I have always been a poetry/spoken word performer too. When the group eventually dissolved, I started doing live radio theatre again, mostly writing, directing, and live sound effects. Since about 2000, I have oscillated between poetry/spoken word and live audio theatre, with occasional studio work and traditional theatre in there somewhere.

  • Listen to Hayward Sanitarium HERE!


When did you first want to be an actor or involved in theater? Was there a first acting experience that really made you love it and can you tell us about that?  How long have you been acting/involved in theater?

Tony:  I wrote my first play in 3rd grade. It was a ripoff of “The Empire Strikes Back,” which had just come out, and we performed it in class for extra credit. I think there were a couple of other things like that in grade school, but I wrote short stories all through high school. I was a class clown but did not do any stage work then. That improv group in college really did it. I was in a local production of “Cannibal: The Musical” in 2000 and I think that really solidified my anything-goes attitude toward performing and stage work.

How did you get involved with MCCT?

Tony:  I did live sound effects for an MCCT performance of “Grandma Magic” that was broadcast live from the studio at WFHB back in 2010, but I feel like this is my first real production with MCCT. I’ve done just a handful of stage acting in Bloomington. In fact, I think I’ve been in exactly one BPP and one Cardinal production.


Why did you want to be involved in this production?

Tony:  Becky asked me. We’ve worked together for years in the WFHB Firehouse Follies live variety show and the National Audio Theatre Festival. I have been eager to get back to – not normal but doing at least some of the performance things I was doing in the before times. The fact that it’s a comedy sealed the deal.

  • For more information about the National Audio Theatre Festival CLICK HERE!

 

Tell us a little about your character. How would you describe them?

Tony:  Rev. Chasuble, like everyone in the play, is concerned with appearances and how things look more than how things actually are. He wants everyone to know he is devoted to his faith, but he’s also a bit of a gossip and a philanderer. A decent sort but he has an angle and I think he relishes his station “over” people.


How have you been preparing for your role?

Tony:  It’s weird because of Zoom but I have been working on my British accent and emoting to the camera. That’s tricky because I don’t want to distract from what others are doing but I also try be present and to keep the frame lively. There is not a lot of space to work with! So I’ve been testing the literal boundaries of my camera and working on expressions. I always try to be aware of the performance space I’m in and the audience so I can work off them if something unexpected happens, and the Zoom interface definitely has its unexpected moments.

Tony as Dr. Chasuble.


Do you see yourself in your character at all? How do you go about understanding their point of view?

Tony:  I think concern for one’s station in life is a common modern trait, and I am like Chasuble in that I have found my niche so I’m protective of it. Victorian England and contemporary America are similar in that people of both times are class conscious and rather ladder-climby (when there is a ladder). The British Empire around that time was contracting after centuries of expansion, while America was just beginning its reign as a world power, but now we’re dealing with somewhat reduced status too while still keeping up appearances by being smart and witty and cultured and all that, or at least making sure everyone knows we believe we are.


In the age of covid and social distancing, what has been the hardest part of this production and doing theater, in general?

Tony:  The limitations of Zoom make any sort of timing almost impossible because of the lag. Technology as a creative gatekeeper sucks: if your camera isn’t good enough or your computer is too slow or you’re not tech-savvy and don’t pick up on how to use it, you are at a disadvantage. But things can still just go haywire because Zoom is not really designed for anything creative or collaborative. It works best with one person at a time speaking. I also do a lot of Zoom meetings for work as well as for other creative things (poetry and live sound effects) that I’ve tried to keep going during the pandemic. Normally they are all very different experiences, which is one of the things I like about them, but Zoom has kind of flattened everything a bit. Some days I spend upwards of 6 hours zooming, about wildly different things, but it’s all going through the same filter.


What new things have you learned as a result?

Tony:  I have gotten pretty good at Zoom! Which is good because I most likely will continue working from home for some time, and I probably will continue doing some virtual creative things too. I’ve been able to work regularly with people out of state and even in other countries because of it.


What has been the most rewarding?

Tony:  As always with productions, it’s been fantastic meeting and working with new and different people as well as reconnecting with folks I’ve worked with before (Cassia, Becky, Dan, Zilia). It’s different because no cast party or going out for drinks after rehearsal, but in some ways, it’s even more personal because we’re seeing the inside of each other’s living spaces and seeing and hearing their pets/partners/roommates.


Why do you think this story is relevant for today’s audiences? What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?

Tony:  Well, the original subtitle is “a trivial comedy for serious people,” so I think privilege and first-world problems obviously come to mind, although Oscar Wilde doesn’t get too overly critical of all that. It’s a farce and everyone is ridiculous and laughing at them is the point. People are born into these stations without ever having achieved anything so of course, they’re going to be obsessed with trivial things. In this new COVID era, in the US especially, we have seen just how trivial things we used to value really are and I think also now value things we used to take for granted.


Why should audiences come to this show?

Tony:  It’s a great play, a classic, and I think the Zoom format is an interesting twist. It’s very tightly written, with jokes and cultural swipes in just about every exchange.


What are your top three dream roles?

Tony:  I achieved one of them! In 2008, I played Mr. Foley (who pantomimes but never speaks) on stage while also performing foley for a live audio theatre adaptation of the TV show “Remember WENN,” about a radio station in the early 40s that wrote all its own shows. The TV show was first run around the time my improv group started doing live radio theatre and it was a huge inspiration. I think I’d like to play a villain because I tend to play nice guys, and I’d like to do a real serious role sometime because I tend toward comedy.


What do you do when you’re not rehearsing and memorizing plays?

Tony:  I work as a book compositor and designer at IU Press and I am also involved with the Writers Guild at Bloomington and the National Audio Theatre Festivals, organizing events and doing readings and performances. I write a lot. April is national poetry month and I have always been busy in April. I also “play” foley as music with an improv experimental collective Urban Deer. We have played out in Bloomington and had been getting together weekly since 2014. We took one week off due to COVID last March and then decided to keep it up via Zoom. We’re composing a remembrance of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti for the HEAR Now audio fiction and arts festival in June.

  • For more information about the Writers Guild at Bloomington, CLICK HERE!
  • For more information about the HEAR Now Festival CLICK HERE!

 


What advice would you like to give for anyone looking to get involved in community theater, or for someone who wants to study acting professionally? Any words of wisdom?

Tony:  Well, I try to always say yes, so I advise people to take opportunities and offers when they come along, even if you don’t think you’re ready or it’s outside your comfort zone. You might not think you’re capable, but the person asking does, so rise to the occasion. For instance, it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a speaking role in a traditional play that didn’t also involve primarily doing live sound effects (although Becky did manage to squeeze a bit of foley out of me for this too). And simply saying yes and worrying about my capability later has gotten me work all over the country, from New York to Washington State and from Minneapolis to Florida. I find that everything I attempt – a show, a poem, a reading – ultimately leads to a higher level of accomplishment or deeper understanding of how to do those things or both. So do consider if it’s “worth your time” but I try to always be willing to say yes. I’ll also paraphrase some great advice I got from actor and Firesign Theatre guy Phil Proctor: The world is full of brilliant, beautiful, extremely talented people, but being fun and easy to work with is what gets you called back.

 

  • To learn more about Tony, visit his website – CLICK HERE!
  • Watch Tony’s short films and poetry readings on his Youtube Channel – CLICK HERE!
Get Tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest in a Pandemic

Get Tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest in a Pandemic

The Importance of Being Earnest in a Pandemic

A Trivial Comedy for Serious People In Unusual Circumstances

By Don Zolidis

Based on the play by Oscar Wilde

Produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc.
www.playscripts.com

Live Show: Saturday, April 10, 7-9 pm EST
Recorded Show: Saturday, April 17, 7-9 pm EST
Recorded Show: Sunday, April 18, 2-4 pm EST

 

To get your ticket(s), click here, and donate any amount (suggested minimum per person is $10). Our entirely volunteer cast and crew have worked really hard to bring this hilarious play to the comfort of your home. We even added green screens and ring lights to our bag of surprises!

Get your tickets here!

 

To attend this performance, MCCT will send you a link and password to the email of your PayPal account. If you are unable to make a donation, just email us at info@mcct.org for a free ticket.

“When you get a notification that Ernest has entered your video call, but Ernest is your false identity… Who in the world is about to log on? You’re about to find out as a new medium ties an extra knot in the hilariously tangled web of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Now Jack and Algernon must vie for the hands of their beloveds despite not only the strictures of polite society, but also the obstacles of social distancing. One’s false identities are especially difficult to manage when one must remember to change one’s display name on video chat, and fearsome Lady Bracknell’s dinner invitations are an even more tedious prospect if small talk must be shouted from six feet away. Experience the classic comedy in a whole new way in this playful adaptation perfect for remote performers.”

Artist Profile: An All-star musician: Anthony Ouradnik

Artist Profile: An All-star musician: Anthony Ouradnik

“Music inspires emotions, restores memories, and provides the foundation for any setting,”- Anthony Ournadik

MCCT’s 2021 Season is officially underway with the 6th episode of The MCCT Podcast!

The directors thought it’d be fun to include an “opening day” theme for the episode.  Opening Day is the day in which professional baseball leagues begin their regular season. They also thought it’d be fun to include organ music that you would typically hear at the ballpark to complete the experience.  That’s when they came across a video on Youtube made by Anthony Ouradnik entitled “NEW Ballpark Organ Music.”

In the video, Anthony can be heard playing samples of sports organ music.  He generously allowed our podcast’s directors to use his music to fit their vision.

Here’s a link to “The MCCT Podcast – Episode 6” featuring Anthony’s organ music:  https://youtu.be/O53qMPYsvjI

Here’s a link to Anthony’s video – “NEW Ballpark Organ Music”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFR3S6jN0Ng

Here’s a link to Anthony’s Youtube Channel where you can hear more of his music:
www.youtube.com/user/thehumanpiano

Anthony Ouradnik has played the piano since the age of three and taught himself to play the organ. He plays at special events, including weddings, and parties. He also takes song requests for his Youtube videos. If you have a song request for him, he can be contacted here: anthony.ouradnik@gmail.com

He says, “Dreams really do come true, but it takes some effort and time. With a little patience, a performance can take you ‘Over the Rainbow’ and leave an amazing impression.”

Here’s a video link to his rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
https://www.facebook.com/TheMusicFromtheHeart/videos/377968379483586

You can check out his Facebook page, “Music From the Heart,” here:
https://m.facebook.com/nocomusicfromtheheart/

You can follow his music activity on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/AnthonyOuradnik

We’d like to thank Anthony for allowing us to use his music and supporting our theater!

Casting call! – 2021 Showcase

Casting call! – 2021 Showcase

We’re currently accepting submissions for our online 2021 Showcase.  It will feature scenes from plays, musical acts, dancing, poetry readings, original works, and more!
 
If you have an idea for an act and/or would like to participate, please email us at monroecountycivictheatre@gmail.com by March 1st.
 
The performance is scheduled for March 21 at 6:30 pm.  It will be similar to our previous online revue shows.  Here are the video links to those shows:
 
Episode 5 of MCCT’s Podcast Now Online!

Episode 5 of MCCT’s Podcast Now Online!

Featuring readings from poets and more from days of yore and newer selections yo’re sure to go for. This episode includes our usual, sometimes unusual fare, along with enough holiday goodies to stuff Big-foot’s stocking! Thanks to all our volunteers!

CLICK HERE to WATCH!

A Monroe County Civic Theater Production. Directed by Jason Lopez & Bill Goveia. Written by Jason Lopez & Roy Sillings.

Starring Bill Goveia as DJ Billy “The Shake” Speares


Readings in this episode provided by:
Adeline Jones
Frank Buczolich
Jamie Wilkins
Roy Sillings
Dianne Shewmaker
Zilia C. Balkansky Selles
Tim Thompson

Watch Henry V performances on youtube!

Watch Henry V performances on youtube!

MCCT plays on with our three-part production of Shakespeare’s Henry V, in a seldom done uncut version, with multiple-casting for full community participation.  The performances are now available to watch on Youtube.  The videos of the performances have been edited to enhance the audio and video quality.

Click on a link below to watch the video performance:

Part 1:  Acts I & II

Part 2:  Acts III & IV

Part 3:  Acts IV & V