We had the good fortune of connecting with Will Block and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Will, let’s talk legacy – what do you want yours to be?
I’m a Shakespeare nut. It’s perhaps the one thing that I’m known for now, and it no doubt will be the major thing I’m remembered for when I’m six feet under.
I’ve spent the last thirteen years training intensively to develop the skill set to bring Shakespeare vividly to life. This means I’ve been working on breath support, learning the structures of rhetoric, diction, articulation, vocal modulation…I’ve basically been professionally treating my body like a cello.
Shakespeare has a reputation for being ‘Old World,’ or ‘Sohpisticated,’ or ‘inaccessible’.
The plays are certainly perceptive…but they’re damn good stories, first and foremost. And they’re about US.
Hamlet isn’t a great play because it’s a cosmological tragedy about a Danish Prince whose grief and anguish causes his genius level intellect to go into hyper drive and dispense deep insights on the nature of being a human being.
It’s a great play because it’s about a young person who is placed in an impossible situation by the people who were supposed to love and care for him. It’s about a child negotiating their relationship with parents, partners, peers, and their place in the universe. Who hasn’t done that?
My professional ambition is to make Shakespeare feel as if he was writing about the 21st century, and to do my part in revitalizing the work for today. As an actor, that means trying to cut past previous conceptions of a part to find out what’s essential about it, and what it and the play have to say about today.
As a producer, the job is not just about asking those questions, but finding ways to bring to work to folks who might not normally have access to live theater–I’d love to find a way to mount a tour of free performances. In one sweep we’d be able to eliminate the price barrier and the commute. As a person, I just want to be part of a great community, be a comfort to my friends, and enjoy the ride.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a classics nut, first and foremost. Shakespeare is my beginning, middle, and end. While I certainly admire other playwrights, and wish to cultivate a diverse CV, the professional goalposts I’ve set myself have everything to do with when I’m gonna tackle certain parts (Hamlet and Hal are the first two, would like to hit them before 30). I owe my love of the classics to my mother, who was an English teacher, and insured that I grew up on a steady diet of nerd fare. Childhood favorite films were Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Cyrano de Bergerac, and the Granada Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett in what remains for me the definitive portrayal.
What I discovered as I grew older–and this is hardly an original discovery–is that Shakespeare writes out a whole career’s worth of parts for actors. When you’re young, you do your Romeo, Hamlet, Hal/Henry V, Richard II, Berowne; then you get a little older and you can do your Macbeth, Coriolanus, Benedick, Malvolio, Cyrano (not Shakespeare, but still a milestone part), Iago, Richard III, Leontes, Pericles; then you get to the end of your life, and Shakespeare gives you a wonderful quartet of failing old men in Titus, Prospero, Falstaff, and Lear. It’s a wonderful gift to know that at any point of your career, there is a part waiting for you that explores exactly what it means to be where you are at.
In terms of my career, I would describe myself as a work in progress. I help to run two small theatres. I have a bakers dozen professional theatre credits under my belt. I just wrapped my very first feature film. I’m sorta making my living doing what I trained to do. I’ve done enough to know that I’m happy when I’m working at what I love, and I’m not when I’m working to please someone else.
I one hundred percent credit my two companies for keeping me grounded and giving me a ‘home base.’ My biggest fear entering the LA market was that I would spend my days waiting for the phone to ring. I am unendingly grateful that my companies have given me a little corner of my career that’s all mine. I don’t need to wait for someone to give me permission to do work, I can get my friends together and do it myself.
I am most proud of the fact that we’ve been able to provide a similar environment and resource to artists whom we respect and admire.
I don’t know that any path is truly ‘easy,’ but I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun on mine, and I intend to continue to do exactly that.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m big on bars. We would definitely make a pit stop at Idle Hour. My absolute idea of heaven is sitting in the back courtyard with good friends lost in conversation.
We’d hit the beach–not Santa Monica, somewhere a little more isolated. Maybe something on the way down to Huntington.
Griffith Park for the hiking, with a stop at the LA Zoo.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Everyone at Method and Madness, especially my fellow board members: Margaret Starbuck, Renée Torchio Macdonald, Phoebe Balson, and Annette Bizal. Special shoutout to my colleagues with The Porters of Hellsgate as well, most especially Charles Pasternak, Thomas Bigley, Gus Krieger, Sean Faye, Jono Eiland, Alicia Gibson, and Nick Neidorf. These two companies have jointly been my rock as I’ve worked to negotiate the LA arts scene. And, you know…my twenties.
Alyssa Dorn, Sunshine Headshots