Week 49 | Artist 49: Created to Create 2016 Mark Krawczyk, Actor/Acting Instructor/Deviser/Director
Prior to joining the Conservatory, I enjoyed a career as an educator and professional actor with various other educational institutions and theaters. Back in the early 2000's, I toured Europe with my theater company, Without Gas, performing in adaptations of avant-garde Eastern European dramas in England, Poland, and Slovakia. I’ve also performed with the Utah Shakespearean Festival, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Folger Shakespeare, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Theater J, Everyman Theatre, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, Imagination Stage, Taffety Punk Theatre Company, and Constellation Theatre Company, among others.
For my sins, I’ve also acted in various commercials and industrial films for the likes of the hospitality industry, the TSA, and the United States Armed Forces. In almost all of these, I played a nondescript Eastern European terrorist for some reason or another. I also made an appearance on the television series House of Cards where you can see me pulling off my best smirks and stares at other cast members.
I’ve taught at highly regarded institutions such as Southern Methodist University, Towson University, George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and the Winsor School, among others. I also helped develop and directed Mulatto Child, a one-man show starring artist Paul Diem, which was performed at the Chicago Fringe Festival.
I earned a B.S. in theater at Towson University and an M.F.A. in acting at Southern Methodist University, and studied devised theater at Dartington College of Arts in Totnes, England. I currently reside in Watertown, Massachusetts, and am continuing to look for new ways to engage the Greater Boston community with theatrical projects.
Where were you born?
Where do you live/work?
What fuels your desire to act/create?
My father once told me what was to him, probably, an incidental story from his youth. He was around 17 and was heading off to work at the shipyards in Szczecin, Poland when he, and many other people, were confronted with tanks in their streets due to rising tensions and protests against numerous unpopular government decisions. This only came up because he watching a documentary of some sort about the subsequent riots that took place. At one point there was an image of a lone young man throwing rocks at tanks and I blurted out, “You were there?!”
“I was there,” my father replied.
“You threw rocks at tanks?!”
My father calmly said, “Yeah.”
“Why rocks? Why did you just throw rocks?!”
My father raised a hand to silence me, “Marek, when all you have is rocks…you throw rocks.”
“Why? What was that supposed to prove?” I asked.
My father made a twisted looking, smirking grimace and replied, “Marek, what are you? A child? They told us we couldn’t go to work. We had to tell them we could.”
Then he went back to watching the documentary with a happy smile on his face, as if he was watching an old family video from a birthday party, or a wedding.
For years before this conversation with my father, I wondered what my role as an artist really was, and that conversation codified it for me. My father had rocks to change the world around him.
I like to think that I have an arsenal of the words of the best playwrights from all around the world, and the limits of my own imagination as my rocks. I use these to confront and change the world around me.
That’s what fuels my desire to act and create.
The best thing about being an artist is…
Allowing the whole rest of the world to fall away and focusing on one intention in completely focused moment-to-moment creation.
The biggest obstacle in working with self is?
Being left alone with my thoughts for too long. If thoughts don’t lead to action the thoughts can swirl down from analysis to paralysis. The solution? Keep moving.
What advice you would give self at the very beginning of your training and professional career?
Work on your ability to listen more than your desire to voice your opinion so much. I’m still working on that one.
Are there any strategies/rituals you created to help self in times when working feels difficult, when you feel stuck?
Work on something…anything.
Write a piece…in a notebook…on a bar napkin…on a desktop when no paper is around…anywhere.
Write, rehearse, create.
Talk about a piece of work, you experienced recently that moved you and how it found its place in your your work?
There was a piece touring from Poland called Chopin bez Fortepiano (Chopin Without Piano). I happened to see it last year in Boston and it was one of those theatrical experiences that reaffirmed my faith in this craft. It was, in total, everything I think theatre can be as an aural, intellectual, and, even for me at least, a spiritual experience. It took orchestral pieces by Chopin, left in the rest of the orchestra, but removed the piano and replaced it with a frenzied running monologue of what possibly could have been Chopin’s thoughts during creation. It touched upon technical music decision, snippets of personal biography, and beyond. The technical virtuosity of the piece, along with its very personal exploration of an artist’s work reminded me that we can never hide ourselves in our work, even if it’s about another artist. The actor performing the piece, Barbara Wysocka, showed elements of herself in this piece that were incredibly personal and moving. It reminded me of the line in Hamlet:
“What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?”
Chopin without Piano reminded me that one of the greatest joys in this art is allowing the piece to take a performer over, but also to infuse the performance with the most personal elements of the actor’s soul and being. There are times when I feel like hiding from the world, covering myself up, and not revealing anything. This piece reawakened something in me as a performer, a writer, director, and teacher. It’s forced me to go back to some writing I wanted to develop into a one man show, or other type of script.
I’ll let you know if either of those pan out.
What other art form do you connect to? How does this craft/discipline help you in your work?
Lately I’ve been into rock climbing. I know it’s more of a sport than an art, but the discipline of learning to “listen to the rock” has been helping me hone my approach to my theatrical craft and my work as an instructor. Each individual hold on a rock wall is communicating to the climber how to grasp it’s unique shape, and that dictates for the rest of the entire body how to respond and move. One false grip, or foolish choice, leads to falling. The only way to test some grips is by grabbing, incorrectly (frequently in my case) and falling and trusting that the rope, and your belay partner, catch you.
I see a lot of similarities between this and acting and devising.
Describe a productive day at work?
I used to think it was if I came to bed purely exhausted. Now that’s a philosophy that I think is either childish, or probably none too good for my heart.
It changes from day-to-day. Usually if I leave a space feeling like I accomplished one genuinely specific thing then I feel “productive.”
That’s a different story with cleaning my office. I don’t ever feel productive with that.
What is important for you to teach your students?
Celebrate what makes you, You. Make sure to translate that into very specific actions. Never indicate for others. Then you’re giving them the idea of who you think they want you to be. No one is interested in that. Be daring enough to be yourself and be simply specific with each and every action in acting and devising.
How do you reward self for a job well done?
It’s with either a glass of 10 year old Laphroaig, or an ice cream cone. It depends if I have to drive or not.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2016
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.