Greetings – welcome to jeffzinn.com.
You might be here because:
1. You Googled something related to theater, psychology, or philosophy
2. You and I have e-mailed each other and you decided to click on the www.jeffzinn.com link in my signature
3. I asked you to check out my book, The Existential Actor: Life & Death, Onstage & Off
4. You actually Googled ME
In any case, here you are. Welcome!
Most of this site is dedicated to the aforementioned book, chapters of which can be read either by starting at the beginning (Intro) and following along via the links at the end of each chapter or by skipping around via the navigation links at the top and right of each page.
I hope you will read the book, and I welcome your reactions and comments via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
However, in the interest of addressing the needs of some who may be, shall we say, attention-span challenged, I have attempted to convey the central ideas of the book in the video embedded below. It is entitled, “The Acting Lesson – A Broad Theory for the Theatre” and it has a running time of one hour.
I realize that it is a lot to ask that you devote one full hour to what is essentially a lecture jazzed up with a bunch of images and additional video (think of it as a TED lecture) and some have suggested that I break it up into YouTube style 10 minute chunks – but I have resisted these suggestions. Doing so would allow the viewer to skip over the early sections that establish the philosophical and psychological framework for what comes later. So, no. It’s all or nothing.
The book and the video draw on ideas developed by Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death) who wrote that awareness of mortality is a powerful motivator of human behavior. His work inspired me to think in a new way about how we – theater and film artists – create and interpret character. In the video I cover a variety of approaches to the art and craft of the actor, including those developed by Aristotle, Diderot, Stanislavski, Grotowski, Strasberg, Meisner, Mary Overlie, Anne Bogart and others. My own synthesis of those many approaches focuses on the elements, ACTION, TRANSACTION, SHAPE, and SURRENDER. I’ve been using these ideas as touchstones in my work as a director, actor, and teacher.
The Update Part
2012 was a busy year for me. It was my first full year since stepping down as artistic director of Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) at the end of the 2011 season. I must say I am really enjoying my life as a free-lancer and have been quite busy with various projects – directing, writing, acting – as well as teaching.
The year began with a remount of the WHAT production of Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs, at the New Rep Theatre in Watertown, and starring the wonderful Paula Langton & Ken Cheeseman. Apparently it was a big hit, selling out most shows and extending for a week. Later in the year it garnered the Boston Theater Critics Association, Elliot Norton Award for “Outstanding New Script.”
The summer began with the exciting opening of the new Harbor Stage Company in the former WHAT building down at the Harbor. My role in that (which has been the subject of feverish speculation in some quarters) has mainly been limited to cheerleader, modest financial supporter, volunteer (I built the new bar) and occasional artistic collaborator. They graciously made room for my adaptation of Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs which I re-titled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Mike Daisey, as it incorporated the “scandal” that befell Mike after it was revealed he had fudged some of his reporting. (See this on the controversy surrounding his work.) We sold out three performances of that show and managed to attract the attention of the Boston Globe for a very nice review. [Programming note: I will reprise The Agony and the Ecstasy of Mike Daisey for two performances at Clark University (February 13) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (February 18.)]
Later in the summer I directed a play for the Boston Play Marathon starring Will Lyman (who narrates Frontline) and Amanda Collins. I also directed Love Letters with Guy Strauss and Beverly Bentley, which played at various venues around the Cape. I spent a happy week at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab workshopping a new play by Gino DiIorio (Dead Ringer, among others.) Gino and I teamed up again for a reading of his new play Crib at Urban Stages in New York. Last fall I directed The Sussman Variations, by Richard Schotter, at Boston Playwrights Theatre.
Throughout the fall and spring I was teaching at both Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Clark University.
I will decamp shortly to New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ to direct the World Premiere of ANTS by Saviana Stanescu. In March I will direct When The World Was Green, by Sam Shepard, at Todd Olson’s American Stage in Tampa/St. Pete.
Finally: A new endeavor for me is audiobook production/narration. My first experience was recording my dad’s book, A People’s History of the United States (finalist for the 2011 “Audie Awards.”) This is the unabridged version – 32 hours. (The abridged version was recorded by some guy named Matt Damon.) I have also recorded Father, Soldier, Son: Memoir of a Platoon Leader In Vietnam by Nathaniel Tripp and David Rabe’s amazing, Girl by the Road at Night: A Novel of Vietnam. All are available at audible.com.