Featured Artist Q & A:
Actor, Director, Artistic Director, Graphic Designer, and Photographer
Starting his own theatre company, The Alternative Arts Collective (TAAC), five years ago at the age of 19, David Garrison now boasts the titles of actor, director, artistic director, graphic designer, and photographer. We shot him some questions to learn more about his acting career, how TAAC got started, and more. Read on!
1. How did you get started acting?
I always like to joke that my first role was in 1989. I hadn’t been born yet, but my mother was pregnant with me and playing Woodstock in the musical Snoopy. I was her belly stuffing. (I don’t actually put it on my resume.) My acting didn’t start that much later though. I would put on productions in my backyard where I put the neighbor kids through grueling rehearsals. I was probably 6 or 7 years old.
When I started my sophomore year of high school I got involved in the theatre program and this is when I really saw the power of live performance…in 2007 (my senior year) I had the opportunity to direct for the first time. I directed Steel Magnolias (per my mother’s request, and probably the last time I’ve directed something she’s wanted to see) and it changed my life forever.
2. Did acting lead naturally into directing?
When you are a director of a play, you are playing every role. You see the show as one big machine and each part is vital to its overall purpose. It’s exhilarating (and exhausting) when that machine begins to really work…With every play I direct or artistically direct I learn so much more. And that is what’s so exciting about this craft. Each play introduces a different concoction of challenges and needs that must be executed for the play to work. It’s an ever-changing art form.
3. What have you learned about yourself in being an actor/performer?
Something I’ve discovered is that I’ve had a pretty interesting life. When developing a character an actor will sometimes use recall to think of real life experiences that can be attributed to a similar experience of our characters. I use this not consciously on stage but as a process tool. When I look back on things that I have been through, relationships I’ve had, and some painful and some happy experiences, it gives me a genuine appreciation for my life. At 24 I feel pretty well rounded and experienced. But I do have a long way to go!
4. What is the most challenging part?
The most challenging part of acting for me is not being affected by my character outside of performance and rehearsal. Before I did my little performance in Taming this year (a 7-foot drag queen with purple hair [see below]) some roles I had done before that for a while were all pretty heavy…It’s difficult for me to slough off those characters when I am not at rehearsal or on stage. Their stories stick with me for a while and sometimes it affects my personal life.
Photo by Barry Wisdom.
5. You have your own theatre company, The Alternative Arts Collective (TAAC), that provides thought-provoking theatre in an intimate venue. How did that group come to be? What do you see for its future?
TAAC was born out a frustration of what is commonly called “The Deadly Theatre.” Actors that I had grown up with were feeling the same things that I was feeling. We didn’t want to do another cookie-cutter show. We didn’t want to rehearse for two months [for a] light hearted comedy about reluctant friendships. We were craving something more immediate. More powerful and engaging.
I think as long as the work is honest you can do no wrong. TAAC is more than just a theatre. We are a hub for artists of all kinds to come and create in a supportive and healthy environment. TAAC can take many different forms. It already has.
Because of TAAC’s ability to take risks most companies can’t, we have learned a lot about how theatre can actually shape a community and how it can shape lives. TAAC is a family that is continuing to grow and become a well-known and well-liked company in Sacramento. Without a goal of “rave-reviews,” awards, or 5-star ratings, we’ve focused solely on the craft. It’s one of the things I love about our company the most.
6. What makes TAAC unique compared to other independent theatre companies?
What I have to say really separates us from other companies is our process. I hear a lot of actors in Sacramento who want to do a “TAAC Show” and go through the “TAAC Experience.” This is very exciting to me because this is what I have always wanted this company to be. Not just something that challenges our audiences, but also our actors…We spend a lot of time focusing on character and utilizing different techniques to get the best performances. I have worked at other companies and was very surprised by the lack of process. I think our shows are very honest and that works for both comedy and drama. This honesty and all this hard work really comes through in the performances and our audiences definitely notice it.
7. In addition to acting, you’re also a graphic designer. What sort of work do you do in that field?
My graphic design started when our resident graphic artist in 2010 moved away. Suddenly I found myself having to learn Photoshop and Illustrator. Since then I have started my own photography and design business and I do three magazines [Sixteen Sixteen, 50 Corridor: The Magazine, and TAAC Attack] and freelance design for various corporate entities and non-profit organizations [check out his ad for Sac365 on page 45 of the July issue of Sixteen Sixteen]. All of the posters and media releases for TAAC are 100% me. And if you’d like to see my progression as graphic artist just look at our posters from 2010 till now. Quite a leap!
8. How do you like being a part of Sacramento’s artistic community? How has it benefited you as an artist?
Sacramento is becoming more and more a supportive web of artists. [The] sense of competition is diminishing in many avenues of art and the work is becoming stronger because of it…I love that I am a part of it in different ways. I can be the theatre guy, or the photographer, the graphic artist, or just the patron. But in any case, I can see it grow and develop and all those little strings tying to each other. It’s a treat to be stuck to the web…Sacramento is becoming one big artist in residency. There is always something to see or participate in. That is the benefit. Along every avenue and in every direction I am being inspired. That is what Sacramento is doing for me.
9. What’s on the horizon for you?
Many things. I have a few new projects that I will be launching and a new scene I am going to get involved with. In my most immediate horizon, I am opening my adaptation of King Lear on August 8. I have a woman playing Lear and she is a powerhouse. We also have three more shows in our season and in June we announced officially our two part production of Angels In America opening in December.
A modern day Renaissance Man, David brings unbridled talent and ambition to Sacramento. You can keep up with him via the links below, or stop into TAAC to see a show.
Interview by Sacramento365 Assistant Editor, Alison Kranz