This week we chatted with Leah Bachar, one fourth of the New York-based theatre and production company, Perf Productions. In the latest installment of our interview series, Leah discusses Perf’s first multi-media play, her writing and acting styles, and how she gets into a role.
Twenty Two: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Leah: Sure. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to NYC about 6 1/2 years ago to pursue writing, acting, and producing. I started my own production company last year with three other creative partners and we are working to produce interesting and original work.
Twenty Two: Have you always been interested in pursuing a creative field?
Leah: Yes. It was never a thought-out plan for me but more something that I realized early on I loved to do. As time went on I felt like there was no other field that I felt as comfortable or as useful in. It was the only field I felt like I could get lost in for hours and enjoy every minute of those hours.
Twenty Two: What inspired you to start Perf Productions?
Leah: Perf Productions started when Meredith Edwards (also from Perf) and I started working on our first original multi-media play, Degeneration X, about 3 1/2 years ago. It started off as just her and me sitting in her living room day after day, working on the story. I already knew and was working on a play with Lin, and after the three of us met Maria, we realized the four of us were all actresses who were tired of waiting around to be discovered. We all loved to act but also recognized ourselves as producers, writers and directors. After Meredith and I handed over our script to the other ladies for review, we realized that in order to get the show up and running the four of us needed to band together and produce the work ourselves, instead of waiting around for someone else to do it.
From there we started viewing ourselves as a production company and we set off to take on the responsibility of producing such an intricate play, which contained 50% film and 50% live theatre. It was a big undertaking but the project brought us closer together as artists, producers, friends and business partners. It showed us that we had the ability to create the work that we had always wanted to be a part of. The four of us have been married now for over a year.
Twenty Two: Why did you decide to make “Degeneration X” a multi-media play?
Leah: The story centers around a young illustrator who finds out he has a rare syndrome called Charles Bonnet Syndrome, which causes someone who is losing their sight to vividly hallucinate, not being able to tell the difference between reality and hallucination. Meredith and I were very interested in creating a multi-media play that would tell one cohesive story and when I heard about the syndrome I was fascinated by the fact that the person who has it has to exist in two separate realities simultaneously. This story seemed to call out for multi-media and we used film, illustration, motion graphics and music to show the surreal part of the lead character’s world. We didn’t want to do multi-media for the sake of multi-media, but instead we were looking to weave film and theatre in a seamless way that would let the audience fully experience the character’s psychological, visual and emotional state.
Twenty Two: What are some of the benefits you’ve encountered working with an all-female theatre and production company?
Leah: In a male-dominated business, I think the benefits come from knowing that we have to work even harder in order to be taken seriously. We put 150% into everything we do because we know that if we don’t then we run the risk of being seen as the weaker sex in a tough business. Our aim is to use the fact that we are all women to veer away from gender roles and show people that talent and drive is sexless. At first you notice that we are four women, but after a little while we hope you ultimately realize that we are artists and producers first, women second. Not to mention, women are fabulous multitaskers and we love to take on any challenge that comes our way. Try and tell us not to and it makes us come back even stronger.
Twenty Two: How would you describe your acting style?
Leah: The reason I am attracted to acting is because I feel like it is somewhere where I can both lose myself and find myself in the process. I like to think of my style as primal, blending both technique and that unexplainable mystery that comes from performing. I try to never know what is going to happen when I am acting, so that each time I perform my experience is utterly new and unpredictable. I like surprising myself as much as I can, which causes me to dig deep into the work I am doing to constantly find something new and interesting within whatever character I am portraying. Of course it is a constant process and challenge to attain that free feeling, but that process and search is what keeps me performing.
Twenty Two: What techniques do you use to get into a role?
Leah: I assume it is different for everyone, but for me I like to begin my preparation in advance by discovering little things about my character that would make them stand out: What kind of music would they listen to? What would they wear? What decisions would they make that are different than my own? I like living their life as if it were my own, so I try to do acting exercises either by myself or with other actors where I go out into the “real” world as my character and live as they would, without any bias or judgment. And then from there comes working within the script, finding meaning in each word spoken, each action taken, rehearsals and all that fun stuff.
Twenty Two: Is there a particular role you’d like to play or actor you’d like to work with?
Leah: Hmm… I would love to work with any actor any time because other actors challenge me and inspire me. I learn something new about myself and them each time we rehearse or perform and that is the exciting part about acting for me. It’s about agreeing to be completely vulnerable and honest with another willing participant. It’s an agreement you make as actors that is what draws me to the craft. As for a particular role I would like to play, well I would like to get better and better at playing foreigners, working on different accents and mannerisms in order to portray different cultures and races without being stereotypical. I am multi-racial so this interests me greatly.
Twenty Two: In addition to acting and producing, you’ve mentioned that you’re also a writer. How would you describe your writing style?
Leah: I like to consider my writing honest. I will not pick up a pen or type anything unless I am called to do so. It is a feeling within me that I try to stay true to because I refuse to release work that doesn’t have every inch of me embodied in it. I like to use humor in order to portray darkness and light, since life is the same way.
Twenty Two: How has growing up in Los Angeles and living in New York influenced your work?
Leah: Growing up in LA, you are surrounded by the entertainment industry almost from the day you are born. Your life is literally a set, with things being filmed in your neighborhoods constantly. It made me open my eyes to the magic of creativity. Los Angeles is a place of creativity, absurdity and constant possibilities. The reason I was drawn to New York though was the theatre scene. When I arrived here I realized that I was taking those experiences to another level, because NYC is in a class by itself when it comes to making your dreams a reality. Both cities have given me a real and surreal take on human beings, society, politics, caste systems and such. Each coast has its own vibe and I am thankful to be able to experience the beauty and darkness of both.
Twenty Two: When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
Leah: I have recently been really into discovering all the little gardens in Manhattan. It sounds unexciting but those little gardens offer places of peace amidst the concrete jungle. Aside from my search for greenery, I love to dance, go to plays/concerts, travel, ride my bike and do things that are guaranteed to make me nervous. Currently I am in rehearsals for a new play at The Living Theatre and I am excited about spending my time that way. And of course there is nothing like being around my friends and family, who are all unique and inspiring.
Twenty Two: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Leah: More original work. More travel. I hope to be consistently writing, producing and acting domestically and internationally until the day I die.
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