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Directing: Beauty and the Beast Jr.

July-August 2019

Directing Beauty and the Beast Jr. for Lincoln Theatre Company has proven successful on many levels; this talented cast of 36 kids (7-18) has worked hard to put together a fantastic show, for sold-out audiences and enthusiastic reviews. Dick Frantzreb writes "Jason Bortz' work as an actor and director I have admired for many years. Bortz, who seems to have been born for the theatre and who is an experienced wrangler of young actors, did a beautiful job of turning loose the members of this cast to take a chance, experiment with being someone else― and probably discover something about themselves in the process: abilities and self-confidence that they didn’t know they had."

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Directing: Steel Magnolias Sells Out

May 2019

An incredible cast of women brought to life this production of Steel Magnolias at Lincoln Theatre Company. I stepped in several weeks into the rehearsal process to direct. The actresses worked diligently and outdid themselves, all eight shows sold out and were very well received by all audience members. Said one, "We went to “Steel Magnolias “ and it was amazing! Although I’ve seen the movie a thousand times, these actors brought tears to my eyes with their performance of the original screenplay."

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Acting: My Fair Lady

February 2019

After a hiatus from the boards, I returned to the stage in the role of Henry Higgins in Lincoln Theatre Company's production of My Fair Lady. Every performance sold out and received enthusiastic standing ovations. Said reviewer Dick Frantzreb, "I’ve seen Jason Bortz perform brilliantly in the past, and now, in his return to the stage after 3 years, he has come back — if anything — better than before. He brings an intensity to his acting that is simply riveting, and his arrogance as Henry Higgins was complete. He inhabited this character, and his nuance in gesture and speech made me feel like I was watching, not an actor, but an artist at work. His scene of subtly persuading Eliza to agree to elocution lessons would alone have been worth seeing this show again. But there were many such scenes. And strong singing completed his mastery of this role."

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A man in our society is not left alone. Not in the cities. Not in the woods. We must have commerce with our fellows, and that commerce is difficult and uneasy. I do not understand how to live in this society. I don’t get it. Each person has an enormous effect. Call it environmental impact if you like. Where my foot falls, I leave a mark, whether I want to or not. We are linked together, each to each. You can’t breathe without taking a breath from somebody else. You can’t smile without changing the landscape. And so I ask the question: Why is theatre so ineffectual, unnew, not exciting, fussy, not connected to the thrilling recognition possible in dreams?

It’s a question of spirit. My ungainly spirit thrashes around inside me making me feel lumpy and sick. My spirit is this moment dissatisfied with the outward life I inhabit. Why does my outward life not reflect the enormity of the miracle of existence? Why are my eyes blinded with always new scales, my ears stopped with thick chunks of fresh wax, why are my fingers calloused again?

I don’t ask these questions lightly. I beat on the stone door of my tomb. I want out! Some days I wake up in a tomb, some days on a grassy mound by a river. Today, I woke up in a tomb. Why does my spirit sometimes retreat into a deathly closet? Perhaps it is not my spirit leading the way at such times, but my body, longing to lie down in marble gloom, and rot away.

Theatre is a safe place to do the unsafe things that need to be done. When it’s not a safe place, it’s abusive to actors and audiences alike. When its safety is used to protect cowards masquerading as heroes, it’s a boring travesty. An actor who is truly heroic reveals the divine that passes through him, that aspect of himself that he does not own and cannot control. The control and the artistry of the heroic actor is in service to his soul.

We live in an era of enormous cynicism. Do not be fooled.

Don’t act for money. You’ll start to feel dead and bitter.

Don’t act for glory. You’ll start to feel dead, fat, and fearful.

We live in an era of enormous cynicism. Do not be fooled.

 

You can’t avoid all the pitfalls. There are lies you must tell. But experience the lie. See it as something dead and unconnected you clutch. And let it go.

Act from the depth of your feeling imagination. Act for celebration, for search, for grieving, for worship, to express that desolate sensation of wandering through the howling wilderness.

Don’t worry about Art.

Do these things, and it will be Art.

John Patrick Shanley

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