A Late Bloomer in Late Mr. Greenfield’s Play

Alan Charney Interview by Jen Bush

 In November The American Theatre of Actors will be presenting Irving Greenfield’s play, What Do We Do About Walter.  We were thrilled to chat with a member of the cast, Alan Charney.  Mr. Charney had an interesting journey which led him to acting.  “I didn’t start acting until my 60s.  Iwas working in DC doing progressive politics and would come home to NYC every weekend to take classes at HB Studio.  I used to do a lot of public speaking, run meetings, and was sometimes a talking head on cable news and radio shows.  The acting training helped me do my job much better.  I didn’t start acting on stage for an audience until Laurie cast me in a play at ATA.   She was a friend of my wife and also our real estate broker.  So, Laurie was the one who got me started on the boards.” 

As one can imagine, there is a lot of intellectual head butting going on in academia.  This play brings that to light.  “What Do We Do About Walter does an excellent job of presenting the petty squabbles of academia, or, as my mother used to say, “Making a mountain out of a mole hill”.”

This play talks about rivalry in academia.  Mr. Charney has some thoughts on the current state of education in this country.  “Education has become the epicenter of the culture wars.  Basically, the Right is out to dismantle critical thinking and innovative teaching, and privatize as much of public education as possible. “

This is not Mr. Charney’s first play with the ATA and he finds it a wonderful place to hone his craft.  “I have done a bunch of plays at ATA in the last ten years.  ATA functions as a kind of informal repertory company.  That gives someone like me — an amateur actor — the opportunity to have a variety of roles in a variety of plays.”

Mr. Charney has worked with director Laurie Rae Waugh before and the experience is always positive.  “This is my sixth play with Laurie.  Over the years I have watched her become a better and better director.  And hey, she has a lot of confidence in my ability to tackle a variety of different roles.   She is really committed to her actors.”

Mr. Charney has done a Greenfield play before and finds the material conducive to acting.  “This is my second Greenfield play.  When you first read a Greenfield play, it all seems to straightforward.  But the more you work on it, you realize there are many subtle dynamics and interactions at play.  He gives you a lot of acting options.” 

Thankfully for Mr. Charney, the rehearsal process didn’t change much since the pandemic.  “This my first time on the boards since the pandemic hit.  I don’t have an insights on post-pandemic theater yet, except to say that the rehearsal process feels much as it did before 2020.”

Mr. Charney is not sure what his next creative endeavor will be.  “Beats me!  I am taking it one play at a time.”  In the meantime, you can find out what they did with Walter in November at The American Theatre of Actors.

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