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Lights, Camera, Passion

September 9, 2009 - Phyllis Sigal
I spent an hour or so Tuesday talking with one of Wheeling's own talented actors ... Kristin Slaysman. When I got off the phone, I was blown away by her intelligence and by how articulate she was about her craft.

Then, the word came to me ... it was really her passion about theater that got to me.

She talked about "falling in love with theater," which happened when she was a student at Wheeling Park High School in the 1990s. She talked about "falling in love with the process of doing film," which she's done by appearing in five or six films.

Kristin is part of an ensemble called 404 Strand, a group of actors and a director, who are performing "faustUS" now through Saturday at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh. The members of the group come from all over — Paris, Toronto, London, L.A., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh — to create together. "faustUS" is based on Christopher Marlowe's, "The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus," which was written in 1604

She talked about feeling "valuable" as she works to help create an "ensemble-devised" play.

"Why this work is so important is that in the process, a member of the ensemble has so much input. That's really special." It's the ensemble process she said that "is a way of working that embraces the magic of theater."

"There's a wonderful sense of play and a wonderful calmness" in making theater with an ensemble, she said.

Kristin, who is now based in L.A., but also spends a lot of time in New York and Pittsburgh, where she first worked with the ensemble at Quantum Theatre, which was founded by Wheelingite Karla Boos. The 2007 show, "The Collected Works of Billy the Kid," was directed by Dan Jemmett, who now serves as director of 404 Strand. The ensemble worked a second time with Quantum, and this third piece is the first on its own.

The ensemble "workshopped" "faustUS" for four weeks in a storefront in Pittsburgh, just next door to the theater in which it opened Tuesday.

Kristin uses words like "sculpt" and "hone" and "create" and "organic" and "freedom" and "intimate" and "personal" to talk about what she does as an actor. You can tell it all comes from the heart, which indeed, is where it must come from. That's what you get from a good actor.

It's the spark you see as an audience member — the heart bursting through in a smile, a gesture, a look. I could feel that spark across the phone lines when listening to Kristin.

Passion. I think it will take Kristin Slaysman far.

For more about Kristin and "faustUS," check out my story in Friday's TGIF section of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.


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