Anna Tempte is an actress; here is a link to her website:
Q: What made you interested in live theater?
A: My first interest in theatre was sparked very early by my grandmother, who was an actress. She was educated at the Royal Theatre Dramaten in Sweden. She worked in theatre’s all over Sweden with the biggest Swedish directors/actors of that time, including Ingmar Bergman and Max Von Sydow (both Academy Award nominees). Whenever she spoke about acting, I was transported to a different place this magical universe. My grandmother was an absolutely astonishing woman and she spoke extremely passionately about the theatre. I applied and was accepted to The Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute in New York City. For me, there is no place like the theatre and watching people create living art. When a play is written, it’s dead words on a page. Actors bring the words alive; it’s a living breathing art form. In the theatre you can watch two people fall in love and break up and it’s happening there in front of you. It takes your breath away when it’s real, well executed, in the moment and living.
Q: You studied at Lee Strasberg Film and Theater Institute. What is unique about the education you received there?
A: I found my “place”. I think it’s important to find a school that speaks to you. I was a great admire of Lee Strasberg and the so called “method”. Lee Strasberg was a genius who kept working and perfecting the “system” that Stanaslavski had started. Coming to New York was a scary enough but acting in a different language is a truly scary thing; However, the LSFTI became my home in NY and still is. The teachers are some of the most inspirational, sincere and passionate I have come across. I still pass by my second home and take class when my schedule will allow it. I feel that Strasberg packed my backpack with tools that I can use throughout my acting career.
Q: Do you like to build characters from the outside in or vice versa?
A: I always find that word “character” a little nerve-wracking. We don’t become a different character. We all start from ourselves. We play many different characters in our daily life and we have a lot of different “personality traits” inside us. We act differently when we are at a job, compared to when we are with our in-laws or with our closest friends. Whatever situation we encounter in our daily life we adapt accordingly. I start with the similarities and then work from there. The final thing is the characterization such as speech and walk, especially if that should be extremely different.
Things are TOTALLY different in Commedia dell’Arte which makes it fascinating as we work from the outside in. When a person works in mask ones persona changes. We all walk around with a persona which we portray to the world and a lot of our personality is displayed via our face. When you remove that, as you do in Commedia dell’Arte, it’s totally liberating. The mask will tell you who you are and you can’t fight it; you just have to go along. Like my teacher told me, “Think less; do more.” It can be very terrifying to people as you feel yourself loosing control.
Q: For what role did you undergo the most radical physical transformation?
A: Every time I put on a new mask for Commedia dell’Arte I work on an extreme character. The characters are grotesque over exposed personalities. It’s physically demanding to keep the character and the voice so dark as I occasionally play men even though I am a petite woman. The mask will surely inform me of what body part I need to work out.
Q: What kind of day job or income source do you have and how does it effect your pursuit of acting?
A: I am very frugal and I am fortunate enough to have saved up money for school so I basically live off that. Additionally, I occasionally get hired to do princess and clown appearances for kids birthday parties where I face paint, make balloon animals, dance with the kids and do a magic show. Yep, I do what needs to be done:)
Q: What is Commedia dell’Arte?
A: Commedia dell’Arte began during the Italian Renaissance, which featured street performers who ‘busked’ to make a living. Later, it developed and was distilled into more genteel entertainment. The early plays were partially improvised, with an outline of action called a ‘scenario’ providing a spine to the comic story. The storylines highlighted the struggle between masters and servants in a culture just beginning to see greater social mobility. The humor was raw but rich with word play, scatological humor and physical comedy. The characters of Commedia dell’Arte were masked ‘stock characters’ drawn directly from everyday life of the Italian Renaissance; masters and servants each of whom embodied a stereotypical Italian of the era. These stock characters would have been instantly recognizable to audiences of the Renaissance period, the same way that we are familiar with our modern stock characters like the dumb jock or the math nerd. Since its inception, Commedia dell’Arte has influenced and inspired countless artists. It’s the grand dame of comedy.
Q: What inspired you to join a troupe?
A: I was asked to join by Matthew Gregory whom I had worked with and respect greatly. I absolutely love working with him. He’s a fantastic director and actor. He pushes actors in ways I have not experienced before. He wanted to start a legit Commedia dell’Arte troupe and I was hooked. The people he brought on board are all some of the most talented people I have met. It was a brand new project and something that we do not see a lot of anymore. Comedy in it’s original raw form, Commedia dell’Arte is the Grand Dame of comedy. It’s a real troupe like in the old days. We write and improvise our own material.
Q: Have you ever had a difference of opinion with a director? If so, how did you work it out?
A: I always feel it’s best to have an open dialogue. The director might have a vision of what he would like but once you show him your choice he may go with that. Once I had a director wanting me to do something a certain way. I said yes and did it my own way and he loved it, so he didn’t even realize 🙂
Q: What famous theater role would you most like to attempt?
A: Wow! There are so many but I suppose Lady Macbeth and Medea. I’m a sucker for the classics. I would like to do the classics of Ibsen and Strindberg as well but in original language, since I’m fortunate to be able to speak those languages.
Q: What is your strangest back stage story?
A: Hmmm…my strangest backstage story would probably be watching people put ice cubes in weird places to be cold when they went on stage for a scene.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.