I was browsing through piles of postcards on the big table at Fringe Central Station last night.
“Sure,” I said and turned to have a postcard placed in my hand. Thus began my 30-minute or so conversation with director Tamiko Washington (UC Irvine alum) and one of her actors, the charming Andre Stojka, about their production of Israel Horovitz’s The Indian Wants the Bronx playing at the Stella Adler for the Fringe.
Energetic and amiable—Washington and Stojka represent 50% of the company that comprises Actors Circle Ensemble. (Yes, you’ll have to do a little math here.) They are a young company about six years in the making, which is what happens when friends/colleagues who love theater with aligned tastes finally decide to do something about it.
“We are interested in storytelling,” Washington says. “We want to do [plays] that go after really convincing characters and good storytelling. That’s how we got together as a group.”
And as a company who all primarily live and work in Orange County, they mean business. Their inaugural production last year at the Ivy Substation (home to the Actor’s Gang) presented a first incarnation of Indian along with a slate of one-acts. Based on that success, the Ensemble decided to keep bringing their work up to LA and make a statement at this year’s Fringe.
“The play fits these guys perfectly,” Washington says of the selection of the Obie-winning script Indian. “It’s a really good project for us.”
Like most close-knit theater companies, Washington and Stojka have a strong sense of who they are as a team and what they want. They also know what sets them apart. “Traditionally the actors in our group are looked at as characters actors,” Stojka describes his fellow artists. “We’re not the people who ever get the male or female lead.”
Washington and Stojka describe their shared hopes to create work that creates complex relationships while challenging audiences to ask questions of themselves. For them, the process has as much value as the product. Simply watching them talk to each other, adding and elaborating on stories, clarifying ideas…you can see how easily—and respectfully—these artists must create together.
“And we want to grow,” Washington says. “But we want to let people know more about us and what we’re trying to do first.”
They leap with faith into the LA theater scene, buzzing about the shows they’ve seen and those they plan to see as the Fringe continues on. They plan to keep moving forward, keep creating work. They are every bit a family when it comes to the work.
“We do have a very unique relationship with each other,” Stojka says. “And the Fringe has been amazing. There is so much support and positive energy here.”
And all three of us commented on how we can’t believe this is only the 3rd year of the Hollywood Fringe. It feels like it’s always been here. And we should be meeting like this all the time to talk about theater, craft and good stories.
You can see more about Actors Circle Ensemble here.
Check out The Indian Wants the Bronx here.
About the Author: Amy Tofte is a writer/director who worked way too hard for her SAG card that she stubbornly hangs on to. She has her MFA from CalArts (Writing for Performance) and has seen her work produced all over the country and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is a founding member of Fierce Backbone in Los Angeles (a theater dedicated to all levels of play development) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. Visit Amy at http://amytofte.com