2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Play Nominee: Alex Marz as Orestes/Young Agamemnon in Fresh Ink Theatre's "The Clytemnestriad"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: David Costa.

Photo Credit: David Costa.

Alex Marz does double duty in Fresh Ink Theatre Company's new play, The Clytemnestriad by A. Nora Long. Alex's empathetic and sweet performance was one of the hallmarks in this adaptation and retelling of the classic Greek myth. In his Interview, Alex describes his two roles in this play, his favorite play, and his dorkiest qualities!

Hi, Alex. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?  Where are you from?  What brought you to Boston?  What are you doing now?

Hi! I actually grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, just outside the city in the ‘burbs, so Boston has always been my city. After undergrad at Connecticut College, I moved in with some friends in Allston and started acting as much as I could.

I have recently relocated to New York City where I am getting my MFA in Acting at Columbia University. I love country music, coffee, and can quote nearly every episode of The Office. And I proudly rock my Sox hat everywhere I go in NYC.

Tell us about your characters in The Clytemnestriad.  Who was Orestes?  Who was Young Agamemnon?  How did these characters work as played by the same actor?

These characters were such a blast to tackle. The brilliant A. Nora Long really dug into The Oresteia to find the humanity behind the original characters, and found a fantastic way to reimagine them through a more modern lens, while keeping the original story generally intact.

In Nora’s script, Orestes is really a regular teenager. When he was very young, he was sent away to boarding school, and he has never seen his family since then. So you can imagine the stress this boy experiences when his sister Electra (played so brilliantly and crazily by Shanae Burch) rolls in demanding that he kill his mother to avenge the murder of his father; it’s a lot to take on with midterms coming up.

Finding the journey from the awkward, high-school boy to the matricidal, tormented man was a real challenge. On the flip side, Young Agamemnon was born to fight, a completely different personality than his shy and unassuming son. He is aggressive, unapologetic and frankly, kind of an ass. 

Young Agamemnon (Alex Marz) and Young Helen (Melody Martin) in Fresh Ink Theatre's The Clytemnestriad (Photo Credit: Louise Hamill). 

Young Agamemnon (Alex Marz) and Young Helen (Melody Martin) in Fresh Ink Theatre's The Clytemnestriad (Photo Credit: Louise Hamill). 

I think the real benefit of portraying both of these characters is seeing how two types of men could be alive in one person. When I would enter as Young Agamemnon, it was clear that I was still Orestes in body, but we worked hard to present the strength and aggression that Agamemnon (wonderfully portrayed by Rob Cope) carried with him so naturally. Every Orestes has the potential to be or become an Agamemnon, and vice versa. 

What was it like working on a new play?  What were some of the challenges?  What did you learn about yourself as an actor, or about rehearsing and performing a play?

Working on new plays is such an amazing experience and I am so grateful that Fresh Ink Theater Company is offering an outlet for new playwrights to develop their work. This show was a wonderful and collaborative effort throughout the whole process. Nora and our amazing director, Caitlin Lowans, had such clear visions and were always on similar wavelengths, so we were able to launch into rehearsals with a clear structure and goal. It felt like the actors were welcome to move in any way they wanted. To say “let me try this!” - and sometimes it would work and sometimes it would totally blowup – but that’s what rehearsals are for, right?

It was really valuable, as an actor, to be working in a room like that - especially when the characters were being developed for their first full-scale production. Things needed to be tested and broken down and rebuilt constantly, and without a supportive environment that would have been extremely difficult to do. Our cast and creative team all worked really well together, and I believe that what we built was a reflection of that. 

Do you have a favorite play?  Why?  Do you have a role that you would want to play in it?

I do - The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. I think that Jerry is a fascinating character. There are so many aspects of his character I love. His longing to make a connection with anyone or anything is truly heartbreaking and so relatable. I also love the simplicity of the script. It doesn’t require anything more than two actors and a park bench, which puts the focus of the play on the words and the meaning behind them. This kind of script is always so much fun to work on as an actor.

Actually, thinking back on the rehearsal process of The Clytemnestriad, one of Jerry’s lines really resonates with me: “Sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly.” As artists, we are constantly finding new paths and creating new ideas. Like I said before, sometimes these ideas are just nonsensical and don't work for the final product, but the experience of creating a wrong answer in pursuit of the search for the right answer always informs the final product brilliantly. 

The Zoo Story has always been at the top of my list of favorites, and I hope one day I can really dive in and play Jerry in a full production. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Why do you think that we return to mythology?  What did we have to learn or think about in The Clytemnestriad?

The simplest answer is: mythology is just the coolest. I grew up, as I’m sure a lot of us did, reading as much of it as I could. The stories are so epic; in a sense they are really what theater is about: Gods and humans. Questions of why we are here and who really controls our destiny. Mythology tackles the grand questions in grand ways. 

Orestes (Alex Marz) and Electra (Shanae Burch) in Fresh Ink Theatre's The Clytemnestriad (Photo Credit: Louise Hamill). 

Orestes (Alex Marz) and Electra (Shanae Burch) in Fresh Ink Theatre's The Clytemnestriad (Photo Credit: Louise Hamill). 

In The Clytemnestriad, we are shown the ripple effect of excessive pride. The House of Atreus has been cursed for years, but Agamemnon really blows it when he displays his hubris before the Gods, claiming that he is a greater hunter and warrior than they. In response, they turn off the wind so that he can’t get his fleet to the war in Troy to fight alongside Brad Pitt. Our play picks up just after Agamemnon apologizes to the Gods by sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia (the amazing Melody Martin) – something his wife Clytemnestra (played incredibly by Jade Guerra) is not too keen on. This sets off a chain of events that ultimately leave us with a very bloody situation, but the moral of the story is, humility is the key to not dying in a bloody, family-wide murder/”sacrifice” fest.

What do you think is your geekiest or dorkiest quality or interest?  Why?

I am so heavy into the world of Game of Thrones it’s almost frightening. I have read all the books and eagerly anticipate the next one – George, you take your time, my man – and have even read (and reread…) the book The World of Ice and Fire – a fictional history of the world of Game of Thrones

I am also a huge fan of “dad jokes.” I could have written all these answers down for you by hand, but my pencil ran out of lead. It was pretty pointless . . .

If you could relive one memory or moment in your life, what would it be?  Why?  Would you change anything?

When I was in high school, I went out to Colorado Springs to work on a ranch as part of a community service trip. That whole experience is something I've always wanted to go back to. We would move cattle on horseback, we rebuilt a one room school house, we lived without electricity in that school house while we built it - the whole time it was like something out of a novel. I wouldn't change a single moment of that experience, I mean… I was a cowboy. It was incredible.

What has been the strangest thing that you have been asked to do onstage?

I was once in a scene that ended with my character cutting out the tongue of another character. We figured out how to make it look pretty real (and gruesome), but it involved me carrying around a cow tongue in my pocket for the entire scene. That was definitely a strange moment.

For what are you most thankful?

I am extremely thankful for my family and friends who have always stood by me. The life of an actor is a tough and confusing one and even when I doubt what I’m doing they have always supported me and pushed me to keep going. It means the world to me. I am thankful for them, and for Game of Thrones.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

At the moment, I am about halfway through the second semester of my first year at Columbia, so all my projects right now are for class. Grad school is rad school.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

I am truly honored to be nominated for this award. This is the first time I have ever been nominated for anything like this, and it is humbling and amazing. The Boston Arts community is full of amazing and talented people; it is the greatest community there is. I am honored to have been a part of it. I miss it every day and look forward to returning. Break legs to all!