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PERFORMANCE: The Actors' Roundtable: "Community" Part 1

Actors Roundtable
Actors' Roundtable

For 12 weeks, Paden Fallis posed one question each week to a group of professional working actors from a variety of backgrounds in an effort to dig a bit deeper into their artistic working processes.

In this second series, an expanded group of actors explores where their art fits into the larger cultural context.


I’ve lived in the same borough, same neighborhood, and on the same street for the past decade. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s on the heels of this recent Presidential election, but I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately. I think about my mailman, who’s seen to it over the past ten years to deliver my mail. I think of the guys at the local bodega, who stay open to all hours of the night with everything I need in a pinch. I think of the local shop owners and the local dry cleaner. I see their role in my life on a regular basis.

What do you, as an artist, bring to your community? What makes you essential? What makes you impervious to the federal cuts to your profession or to the vagaries of our nation’s economy? Don’t be too precious with this, but tell me—what do you have to offer?

- Paden Fallis, Performing Arts Contributing Editor




My wife and I live in the very quaint Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. We lucked out in finding an apartment here, and couldn’t be happier with our community. Sure, this area has experienced its fair share of gentrification, but there still are a lot of families who have lived in the same flats and brownstones for decades, and there are still family-owned restaurants and shops that are throwbacks to another era here and in Carroll Gardens to the south. I can’t be so arrogant to pretend that I’m “essential,” but what I can say is that my wife and I contribute by being active participants in this community. We both appreciate and try to support the old family-run businesses, new local artists, and neighborhood spots that are someone’s passion. It’s one thing to like the aesthetics of the neighborhood, but unless you go in and buy things at a store or eat at a restaurant, they are going to go out of business. Our participation isn’t unique, but the collective participation of the community is essential for its survival. That, and if anyone comes to see me do stand-up and has a laugh, or gets a chuckle out of some silly commercial I was in, then I have at least brought a moment of laughter to their lives…and you can never have too much of that.




I am very proud and humbled to look at my present state of existence and realize I am doing something that is a strong, much-needed service to my community, near and far. I teach all things voice and dialect for actors and public speakers. It’s a niche I relish. To the discerning eye, it may seem a superfluous job, but I feel it is vital. So many people speak to groups every day in some form or another and, therefore, need to know his or her voice and all it encompasses. There exists a huge fear of public speaking and I have found many ways to work with and overcome it. Perhaps my services are not as essential as the mailman, banker, or grocer. However, if one chooses to be a communicator, truly and fully, then what I have learned, and improved upon for myself, is something anyone can and should experience also. I believe in community wholeheartedly and embrace the opportunity to give and receive within it. We can all help each other through this life with its ups and downs. Looking at the current economic state of this country and the world, we feel the universal tightening of the purse strings. This certainly touches us all, but the need to advance and strengthen who we are and what we do while we are here on this earth continues nevertheless. I am thrilled to know what I offer will remain essential, even if in a tiny way.




As an artist in my community, I try to bring a sense of humanity and awareness and perhaps change people’s lives by reaching them through storytelling. The arts in Kansas City are booming and have been on the fast track for several years now. This is one of the main reasons I moved back here. The community supports it and comes out in droves to see live theater. More and more theatres are starting up and actors are actually moving here from markets such as Chicago. There’s something about this city that demands entertainment with value and meaning (maybe there is something to the term “heartland”). I think as an actor I bring core values to the table to be explored and questioned and hopefully make peoples lives better by reflecting their own in some small way. I also think as an artist I simply entertain and take away the troubles for some, allowing them to just escape and use their imagination. The audience goes on the journey with me and invests their emotion and time. I try and honor that by giving it my best. If I can do that, I know that I’ve done my job. Also I have always believed the arts can aid in children’s learning as this has been proven time and time again in schools throughout the country. I have witnessed it myself when I have taught many acting workshops in a school and seen the positive benefits the kids reap. There are so many positives to being an actor and I feel I bring a lot to the table to my community as a whole.




I’ll be honest, I’ve been drinking. I just came home from an all day family function where every aspect of what I consider to be my life and career were ripped apart and scrutinized by my uncles, aunts, a gaggle of cousins and one elderly gent who could not resist the urge to continuously pat me on the head. At the same time, the questions asked of me were of an achingly familiar variety such as the ever-ubiquitous bouquet of, “What are you doing now?” and “What have I seen you in lately?” Like it or not (these days especially), questions like these make me question myself as to what it is that I really do and what it is that I truly bring to my world. “What makes you essential?” I have no friggin clue as to what makes me essential in any way or in any form to anything or anyone, but I do know, and I do feel, that there is something that I’m supposed to do. That there was something that I thought I was supposed to provide. And whatever that is will always and can only be, in relation to ourselves. In short, I’m saying the only thing we have to offer is ourselves. That we can only share our own mangled yet cogent depictions of ourselves in a world that we mostly only dream of and very rarely are allowed to visit. But it is within this realm that we die, thrive, vie for. It’s an ephemeral face on a lasting love. You can’t cut funding to that.




This question has been messing me up for several days now and I’ve avoided answering it. I’m going to steal my answer from another actor—I believe it was Sean Penn. I remember seeing him say something along the lines of “wanting to feel less alone in the world.” That’s why he does what he does. I’ve taken to giving that as the reason I see plays and movies… I want to feel less alone in the world. However, it’s also why I’m an artist. The greatest compliment and sense of achievement I ever feel is when someone relates to something I’ve performed or written. When they see themselves, or someone else in their lives, in a character I play. “I know how that feels.” That’s what I hope to bring to my community. I hope that I can make it possible for people to relate to one another, to find empathy with people who they have not previously. It’s an all too often icky world we live in, and we don’t have much time in it. Let’s laugh together. Let’s weep together. Let’s relate. I want individuals to feel less alone in the world, thereby becoming a community. 




Jimmy Callahan is an actor/writer/comedian/acting coach living in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from Chicago, he trained at The Second City & iO. He has appeared in over 60 national commercials between CHI, LA, & NYC.

Page Clements has been a professional actress, vocal instructor, and private coach in NYC for over 20 years. Currently an instructor of voice, dialects, and Shakespeare at the T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre in New York, she has just completed an instructional video for actors and public speakers to be released later this year. She has appeared in over 50 productions throughout the country, received the Favorite Vocal Coach and Dialect Coach Awards from Backstage in 2009, and is a member of Actors Equity Association.

Manon Halliburton is a regional theater actress who has worked all over the country. She has also appeared in television shows such as Law and Order and The Sopranos, and recently shot her first film this past year and closed August Osage County at Kansas City Rep to rave reviews. She lives in Kansas City with actor Bob Elliott.

Nelson Lee left his native Canada for New York to pursue training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Since then, he has appeared in various television series, including Blade: The Series, Virtuality, Oz, Covert Affairs, Hawaii Five-O, and the Law & Order franchise. Recently, he took to the stage for the world premiere of Zayd Dorn’s play, Outside People, at the Vineyard Theater in New York, and the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) production of Maple and Vine in San Francisco. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Thomas Ward is an actor and playwright based in Minneapolis. He appeared in the Off-Broadway premiere of Craig Wright’s The Unseen at the Cherry Lane Theatre. He has performed regionally with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Georgia Shakespeare, WaterTower Theatre (Dallas), and the ZACH Scott Theatre (Austin), among others. He was previously profiled by stated.

View all of our Roundtable discussions…
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