We had the good fortune of connecting with Martha Thatcher and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Martha, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
As an actor and as an artist, everything you do has a level of risk to it. Following your passion has risks – Will I make it? Am I good enough? Am I resilient enough? And when opportunity presents itself, will I be prepared to jump and take advantage of that opportunity and grow and flourish in it? As an artist, nothing in your life is certain. You simply have to trust that you are good and you are worthy – That you love your art and are versed in your craft and that the work will come. Then it comes and you are immersed in it and wrapped up in it and are stretching old muscles and building new muscles and doing what you were put here to do. And then, just like that, the gig ends and you are back to waiting and working and grinding and doing your best to stay at the front of your seat so that when the next opportunity calls, you are ready to stand up and take it. As an actor, your job in and of itself is risk. It is allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable and living in your truth under imagined circumstances. Vulnerable work is inherently risky – That feeling you get when you watch a great actor work and you’re right there with them and you see in their eyes that they are open and present and vulnerable and it makes you want to be open and present and vulnerable too? That is their emotional risk paying off. It’s what makes acting exciting – Consistently walking to the edge of the cliff and looking off and saying “I am going to jump today.” A career as an artist is high risk, high reward. It takes determination, resilience, and a deep and secure sense of self. But if you want it, you will make it happen – And make peace with, and even begin to look forward to the many exciting risks.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I count myself incredible privileged because I grew up in a family of artists. My mother is a composer and both of my parents are violinist/violists who have worked in their chosen field and have been successful in their chosen field for all of their professional lives. As such, I was never confronted with, nor did I believe, the myth that you could not make a career out of being an artist. I am so fortunate that I grew up surrounded by creatives – Musicians, visual artists, actors, dancers – who led by example and lifted me up. I was never told that my passion for my art was “stupid” or “naive” or “ill conceived.” Rather, when I told my parents I wanted to be an actor, they sat me down and asked me two questions: 1. Are you sure this is what you want to do? Yes. Yes I am. 2. How are we going to make it happen? I cannot speak on my journey as an actor without giving acknowledgement to my parents . They have uplifted me, believed in me, and used every resource at their disposal to help me make a reality of my dreams. I know that not all are so lucky. With this support behind me, I have been able to take risks and fail and try again and really cultivate the life I wanted to live. I am at my core an actor. At a very young age, I fell in love with the minutia of what makes a person tick. Why do they act the way that they do? Who in their life shaped them the most? What are the little things they carry that are just for them? Who is their secret self? These are the questions I first like to ask myself when creating a character. When I was in high school and just starting out in theatre, I would create lengthy worksheets for myself to fill out, detailing even the smallest facts about my characters. What is their favorite food? What is their least favorite color? What do they think about [insert topical cultural reference here]? I was obsessive about mining everything I possibly could from a character in an effort to create a performance that was not only believable, but uniquely human. This obsessive nature got me more than a couple sideways stares, but has ultimately been my greatest asset. It is a facet of myself that I have grown to love like an old friend – The part of my brain and of my heart that continues to ask “Why?” As an actor, it is my job to be both an advocate for and a detective looking into my characters. It is my job to know my character so fully that when a director asks me a question or gives me an adjustment, I am ready and open and prepared to make informed decisions. It is the bookwork and research done beforehand that allows for freedom when you get to set or into the rehearsal room. For me, acting is always a search for authenticity. The greatest acting note I ever received was when I was in my BFA program and one of my professors said to me, “Martha, you are a messy person. Why are you a clean actor? People are messy. Be messy.” Real people are messy and complicated and beautiful and horrible and working every day to be better and succeeding and failing and everything in between. And I want to play it all. I have been so lucky in my career to be able to do a little bit of everything – To be an actor, singer, writer, and director. Throughout quarantine, I have been working on a concert series with the Malibu Friends of Music at the Montgomery Arts House for Music and Architecture. Navigating live music in a digital world has been an eye opening experience and surprisingly rewarding! I am very excited about my next project – An urban fantasy web series that I wrote and am directing! The series is called “Burn The Witch” and focuses on bringing femme voices front and center. In addition to writing and directing, I am playing one of the series’ central characters! The series is currently set to premier in October of 2022 and I cannot wait for folks to see this!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Yo! I actually need to do this with myself. Though I have lived in LA all my life (with the exception of my time in my BFA program), I know very little about the city. Exploring and acquainting myself with this incredible, vibrant, diverse city that I have always called home is one of the things I am most looking forward to doing once the world comes to some semblance of normalcy. That being said, I do have my favorite spots (in no particular order): 1. I would take my best friend to Disneyland. I am a Southern California native and was lucky enough to have an annual pass growing up. My favorite way to experience Disneyland is with my friends from out of town, for whom this is sometimes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Seeing the park through their eyes always makes it feel like the first time. Suddenly, I am a kid again and everything looks extra vibrant and shiny and new. 2. My favorite restaurant is the Exotic Thai Bistro in Agoura Hills. I think it is a part of a larger chain, but this particular location has incredible food and even better service. I know many of the waitstaff by name (did I mention this is my favorite restaurant?) and they are always kind, considerate, and go the extra mile to make you feel comfortable and cared for. Michael in particular is the sweetest! Tip your servers, folks! They do more for you than you know! 3. Go see a play at the Ahmanson or the Pantages or the Dorothy Chandler or one of LA’s many exquisite theaters! My roots are all in live theatre, and I am so deeply in love with the art form. The theatre that we have access to here in LA is some of the best in the world and I will attend a play or a musical at a venue in LA any time I have a chance. Note: In addition to the larger budget theaters in LA, we have a THRIVING regional theatre scene! One of the things I am really looking forward to exploring in the near future! Support live theatre! 4. The tide pools at Leo Carillo Beach are incredible and we would have to go. Of all the beaches in LA, this is one of my very favorites because you really get a sense of the expanse of what the ocean contains. There are tiny ecosystems in each of those little pools and that is only a FRACTION of what the ocean contains. Amazing!! 5. The caves at El Matador Beach are also a must see. Nature is truly incredible. 6. It’s a little touristy (do I get to say that after listing Disneyland as one of my favorite LA destinations?), but I really love taking out of town friends to the Third Street Promenade. It was one of my favorite spots to hang out when I was in high school and sharing that space with friends I have made since moving away and coming back is very special. It’s also so close to the Santa Monica Pier and it’s really easy to hit both locations in one trip. There’s a reason tourists love it so much – Such a beautiful view and so many things to do. 7. The most important thing I would like to do with an out of town friend visiting LA is explore. We have so many hole in the wall restaurants, performance venues, comedy clubs, and gorgeous hikes. There is so much to do here and I would really love to take advantage of having those new experiences with people I care for. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thank you always to my incredible family, my beautiful partner, the team at the Montgomery Arts House for Music and Architecture for giving me my start and continuing to support me throughout my career, and the community of friends and artists that have sat with me in times of trouble, lifted me up in times of celebration, and have always challenged me to do my best, most honest work!
Other: Upcoming Web Series Instagram : @burnthewitchseries
Juan Tallo Photography Christopher M. Allport Kim Budd Cara Q Lewis Greg Eliason