Jim Calder is Artistic Director of the Continuum Company, Director of La Pietra Summer Theatre Festival, Head of Movement at Tisch Graduate Acting Dept., recipient of grants from NEA, Rockefeller Foundation, US-Mexico Fund for Culture, NYSCA and recipient of David Paine Carter Excellence in Teaching award and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Directed works in New York City at INTAR Theater, Lincoln Center Institute, Pearl Theatre, Classic Stage Company, with workshop presentation at The Public, New York Theatre Workshop and Home. Jim has performed at The Old Globe, P.S. 122, INTAR Theater, and throughout Europe with Teatro De La Grappe. He was the lead actor in PBS’s Noddy & Friends TV show and was a consultant for the development of the show and has performed under the direction of Jacques LeCoq in numerous TV specials in France.
What have you planned for The Season this year? What does Villa La Pietra represent to you as a Company of actors?
For the past 6 years, the work at La Pietra has been fascinating and different from any other venue in that the company works in the ways of the troupes of Shakespeare and Moliere. The troupe is made up of Tisch Graduate Acting alums, who have been trained in a similar way but come out as unique and singular, with a hunger and talent that is unlike any other school. The Continuum Company seeks to provide a place where these talented and vastly different artists can work in a way that is unimpeded by the commercial and daily grind of media or commercial theater. We began this experiment with three actors doing The Tempest 6 years ago. It turned out that this construct made for a vibrant method of storytelling where an audience follows both characters and actors simultaneously without ever confusing the two. This takes actors of a high caliber as they must switch characters, sometimes in mid sentence, and often have intense conversations with themselves as two characters. This conceit is similar to the old Commedia Dell ´Arte companies where the actor needed to be of the highest talent and craft in order to pull off the demands of text, improvisation, poetry and music. After years of theater going, I realized that when a great actor exits at the end of their scene, I miss them, even though the plot calls for an "Exit stage left". So, I began an experiment to find actors who were capable of great transformations, text, and a joyous collaborative spirit who could embark on the "Essential Shakespeare". I have been fortunate in that I have taught for a few decades and know hundreds of such actors. La Pietra has retained and nurtured the Actors’ desire for artistic crossroads where ideas and methods can take root.
What is unique about The Season at Villa La Pietra?
When we bring a company together here, we like to think that it’s similar to Shakespeare´s company, because we get to do something here which is not available elsewhere. Villa La Pietra is an island of creativity, far from obligations and everyday problems. This is almost too much to handle for the actors and I´m always curious about having an actor here to see their reaction. The shock of being here is impulsive. This experience reminds me of the Commedia dell´Arte, whose actors had to be very good, and so are the actors here now, being only 3 on stage. Being part of The Season allows us to explore how to use our very few instruments. Another reason to be here is the fact that this is an old tradition, we feel part of the same genre of company as Molière´s or Shakespeare´s were. They were sponsored, supported by kings, the power of their time. La Pietra is this to us, a supportive structure for actors to work together in a unique way.
What is different about this year’s performance?
This year´s play is Macbeth, which is a vibrant 3 person tragedy. We started with a 3 actor Tempest, then a 3 actor Romeo and Juliet. This time we´re having one of the bloodiest, greatest tragedies ever, and it´s different from all the others, because Macbeth becomes a tragedy right away. People start getting killed from the very first moment. It is an intriguing, political piece about a man who goes on the wrong path. He takes the wrong steps at the beginning and can´t turn back (and the intriguing part is that he´s not too different from any country that goes to war, for which it’s almost impossible to go back without making the situation worse).
How does the setting in La Pietra’s Garden enhance the performance?
The setting enhances the performance for it´s very similar to the Globe Theatre. They had very few properties and scene changes. Spaces here push us towards a more essential production, inspired more from Shakespeare´s time then from modern acting. That´s why we want to use very little costumes and almost no scenery.
How have you grown artistically through your work with The Season?
I feel I´ve grown here with The Season because of the constant challenges, and it´s always fun to work with the essentials of Shakespeare. It´s challenging to tell a story to a bilingual public and make everybody understand through a very physical and basic representation (like we did for "The Tempest"). It is exciting to build an intense and comprehensible work for a very wide audience.
You have worked with Jonathan Batiste in the past, can you describe what it is like to collaborate with him and The Stay Human Band?
Jonathan Batiste (with the Stay Human Band) is an amazing artist, he´ very quick and facile. He´s open and excited about all kinds of music. He´s able to translate words into a very light musical accompaniment which is an incredible capability.