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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Chat with Tanner Blackton...Actor and Director.

Tanner was in a cabaret titled "Lively Ladies...Dead Composers" at Artistic Civic Theatre
Lori Etheridge, Ginny Bledsoe, Jennifer Phinney, Cassie Richardson, Patti Renz, and Greer Caldwell

Tanner Blackton is quite active in the theatre at Dalton Little Theatre as well as Artistic Civic Theatre which is also in Dalton. She's a singer, actor, dancer, writer, and most recently a director. Read more about her and find out if she's naughty or nice.

Since our last interview, you have directed your first play  “The Great Gatsby”, what did you love about directing?

I loved exploring an entirely new frontier in theatre! My very first foray into directing was earlier in the year, when I directed “A Murdered Mystery” for the 2017 Night of One-Acts at Dalton Little Theatre, and it was the perfect way to get my feet wet and get comfortable. It did a great deal to prepare me for the much larger-scale production of “Gatsby.”

Cast of "A Murdered Mystery" : Levi Witt, Caleb Bruce, Megan Robinson, Natalie Bruce, Tanner Blackton, Mat Noland, and Nikki Sloan

What are some of the hard tasks with directing a play?
Right off the bat, casting is very difficult. You have to go in with a completely open mind, because people will surprise you and inspire you in very unexpected ways. The other difficult part is organization. “Gatsby” had a cast of 13, so I had to figure out costuming for everyone (and with it being set in the 20’s, that was no small task), set design, lighting, promotional materials, props, and many other tiny details that go into putting a show together. It was very challenging, but so rewarding to see it all come together the way I pictured it in my head!

Did you have a favorite scene?
That’s such a tough question. I have a few favorites. I really loved the scene in Myrtle’s apartment, because it had some much-needed comedy, which was skillfully and deftly delivered by Carl Reiter and Adrian Thompson as Mr. and Mrs. McKee, respectfully. I also really loved the flashback scene in the cafe, when Jordan is explaining Gatsby and Daisy’s backstory to Nick. And of course, I loved Nick’s final monologue; Jeremy Pickard’s intensity gave me chills every single performance.

Scene of " The Great Gatsby" from left to right: Jeremy Pickard,  Mat Noland, Brian Wright, and Kristen Douglas.
Photo Credit: Margaret Zeisig

Scene of "The Great Gatsby" from left to right: Lauren Sneary, Jeremy Pickard, Carl Reiter, Adrian Thompson, and Katie Johannson
Photo Credit: Margaret Zeisig
Scene of " The Great Gatsby" Jeremy Pickard and Jared Nipper
Photo Credit: Margaret Zeisig

Any advice you can share for first time directors?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!!

You mention to me that you’re writing a play, how exciting! Can you tell me what’s it about?
Yes! It’s about two brothers, Ellis and Max. The play explores their relationship as Ellis helps Max figure out how to communicate with the outside world despite struggles with a severe stutter and social anxiety. When Ellis becomes engaged to be married and Max has to face the reality of living on his own, Ellis forms a plan to help Max cope with the uncertainty of his newfound independence.

Once it’s finished, would you like to see it on stage at DLT and ultimately Broadway one day? What’s your vision for your play?
I’d love to see it performed at DLT or another local theatre. Beyond that, who knows?

Since the holidays are like here already, do you have a favorite one?
Halloween! Any excuse to dress up is A-OK with me.

Curious, are you going to make Santa’s nice or naughty list?
Nice list, for sure!

What does the world need more of during this holiday season?
I would say the world needs more empathy. If more people took the time to try to understand things from others’ points of view and really empathized, I think we’d see less strife in the world.

In our last interview, we talked about how long you’ve been acting and how many productions you’ve acted in. You’ve acted in over 40 and been acting since you were ten. What’s the one thing about acting in local theatre and elsewhere that keeps you going back?
With each production I’m a part of I learn something new. Whether it’s from the director or my fellow cast mates, I always walk away with some new perspective. I also enjoy the fact that you’re putting on a different show every single time you perform. There is always room for improvement, for new ways to interpret the playwright’s words, or for connecting with the audience in a new way.

I’ve seen you in a few productions and enjoyed each role you played. Do you have a method on how you become the character? What’s your process?

Thank you! I wouldn’t call it a method, by any means, and there’s no real scientific process to how I become a character. I think the most important thing to do when given a role is to read the words. Read them over and over, interpret their meaning, read between the lines, get the context of the scene, and figure out what it means in the grand scheme of your character’s life. What are their motivations? Why would they react a certain way to things? Treat every performance like it’s the first time you’ve ever spoken or heard these lines. Next comes the blocking. A good director will give you movement to help the story along, but it’s up to you as a performer to take that blocking, internalize it, and figure out how your character carries him/herself, how they travel, how they set their mouth, move their hands, and so on. After that, I think costuming and working with props and sets carries a lot of weight with how your character moves within the world of the play.

Was there any particular actor or entertainer that inspired you to act?
I loved watching Julie Andrews, Cher, Nathan Lane and Tim Curry as a child!

Tell me something that inspires you as an actor.

Something that inspires me as an actor is working with other actors. I love to feed off of their energy and truly be in that moment with another person or people who share the same enthusiasm for creating art as me.

What's your favorite quote from a play or film?

One of my favorite quotes is "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return," from "Moulin Rouge. It's originally from a Nat King Cole song "Nature Boy," which was covered by David Bowie for the film's soundtrack. 
Another one that has always stuck with me is from the musical "Rent": "There's only us; there's only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way. No day but today."

Do you care to share a poem with the readers today?

“Garden” by Tanner Blackton

I want to learn to garden
Till the earth and unwind
My little patch all barred-in
My own wilderness confined

I’ll pick patch of land
And a place in the sun
I’ll raise flowers by my own hand
And pick them when I’m done

I’ll learn about seeds
And which ones respond best
To sun, soil, and other needs
How to avoid a garden pest

A seed is untapped power
Un-marred by heat or neglect
Yearning to become a flower
That I am charged to protect

I want to learn to garden
But not just in my yard
And plant the seeds of pardon
To past offenders who have scarred

I want to sow mercy and love
To reap empathy and gain
Pick up my shovel and gardening gloves
And weed out my sorrows and pain

A lovely poem by Tanner. 

Thank you for reading!

About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
Find out more about Maria here →


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