Artist-in-Residence, Fall 2008 – Spring 2009
Adopt an Artist
An interview with Charles Evered, ACP Artist-In-Residence
Charles Evered was the first resident artist in the ACP’s new Anne Reeves Artist-In-Residence Program at the Paul Robeson Center. An award-winning playwright, Charles began his relationship with the ACP in December 2006, when he presented a staged reading of his play Adopt a Sailor at the ACP’s conTEMPORARY Arts Center. The acclaimed play went on to New York and ultimately was made into a feature Hollywood film, with Charles making his directorial debut. He began his six-month residency in July 2008, and recently made a rare public appearance at a November preview screening of the film Adopt a Sailor at the Robeson Center. The busy playwright, screenwriter and director made time to answer a few questions for the ACP Quarterly.
What projects have you been working on during your residency?
I’ve actually been keeping myself quite busy. First off, I wrote a new play called Class that was given a very meaningful first public reading at the Robeson Center starring Roger Rees, and directed by Bebe Neuwirth. Last year I directed Bebe in the film Adopt a Sailor, and this year she directed my work—so I suppose it’s only fair. In addition to that, I’ve just finished directing a short film called Visiting that I shot in two days in October. We (meaning my producer, director of photography and film crew) used the Robeson Center as a production house of sorts. We auditioned actors in the dance studio and we ate lunch in the Communiversity Room. We shot the film in the cemetery across the street, so the Robeson Center was incredibly convenient to work out of for that. On November 10, we had a “home town” screening of Adopt a Sailor in the Solley Theater. Then on December 18th, I’m scheduled to give an informal talk with a Q&A session about my career directing and writing. So, I’ve certainly been keeping busy.
How has your experience been using the Robeson Center as a base for your work?
Well, it’s been a pleasure, really. The facilities are top notch, and the staff has been incredibly open and supportive as well. The Anne Reeves Studio, which is my “official” room while I’m working there, is beautiful, light, and inviting, and it has an inspiring view of Princeton. But even more important than the building, it’s the people that make the place. Everyone at the Robeson Center went out of their way to make me feel at home, so I’m very grateful for that. In addition to that, the location is within walking distance of everything you might need: the library, food, coffee, the Pniversity, Nassau Street, etc.
Have you experienced or gained anything unexpected as the ACP’s Artist-In-Residence?
Yes, I think what I gained was an even greater appreciation for the character of the town of Princeton, looking out the beautiful window in the Reeves Studio and seeing the teeming sidewalks, the bustling streets, the beautiful architecture. In many ways, I feel like I met the town for the first time. Also, I’m sort of a history nut, so being right in the heart of things was amazing for me.
What was the most interesting thing about your experience?
For me, it was meeting the audiences that have assembled for my events. It’s an incredibly diverse and literate audience. They were very sharp, very discerning and very on top of things. It’s a great place to try out new material because you know if a typical Princeton audience likes something there’s a good chance it’ll pass the muster in other places as well. At the same time, the people that came to my events were not just university or town connected. There were fellow artists, business people, electricians, everyone from every cross-section of society it seemed, so I never felt like I was presenting my work in a bubble. It always felt like I was presenting my work to a vibrant cross-section of America and that has been great fun.
Is there an anecdote from your experience at the Robeson Center you’d like to share?
There is one particular moment that sticks out for me because of the sheer surreal nature of it. In September, we were rehearsing the reading for my play Class in the Solley Theater. In a nutshell, Class is a two-character play about an acting teacher and a student of his who we eventually learn is a movie star. Well, at one point in the play, there is a scene in which a member of the paparazzi sneaks into the rehearsal studio in which the play is set, and snaps a picture of the actress before he is chased out of the room by the acting teacher. Well, soon after we rehearsed that scene of the play, Roger Rees and Bebe Neuwirth noticed that a photographer was surreptitiously snapping pictures of our rehearsal from behind the glass of the projection booth in the theater. No doubt he wanted to get shots of Roger and Bebe in action. Well, after he was asked to leave, it occurred to me that a scene from the play we where rehearsing had just occurred in “real life” during the rehearsal of the play we were rehearsing. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone, like a scene, within a scene, within a scene. It was just sort of fascinating trying to wrap my head around the layers of that particular experience!
Is there anything else you want to add about your time at The Robeson Center?
Yes, only that it’s been a pleasure being in residence here. I travel all over the world for my work, and having a home-base where I could really focus on my own projects for six months was a great experience. Every artist should be so fortunate.