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We took some time between the performances of Largo Desolato, directed by Filip Daňhel under BEST divadlo to interview the main actor, Matthew Dalessandro, representing Leopold Nettles in the play. There are still two upcoming performances, one tonight, 25th November and tomorrow, 26th November. For more details see the event. You can also purchase the tickets on GoOut.

Author: Jitka Müllerová
Editor: Kay Pearse
Photo credit: Tom Karola

Could you tell me something about your background?

So… I am from New York City, I was born there and my whole family is from there. I was a soldier in the US Army and then a stockbroker. But was not some sort of Wolf of Wallstreet kind of broker – I was terrible, I did not like the job as it was very stressful, and it simply did not suit my personality. Now in the Czech Republic I am a teacher, and I have been a teacher for 20 years, although I never taught in the USA. Teaching suits my personality, so I am more a philosopher than a stockbroker.

What was your motivation in coming to the Czech Republic? Love or just a random choice? And do you identify with the Czech culture? I know you can speak Czech.

There was no specific motivation, so from the two I would choose the second. And yes, I can speak Czech fairly well and I am accustomed to Czech food, Czech people – I like the Czech Republic and have no plans to return to the USA.

Do you have much experience in theatre? How did you get involved with BEST?

I do have a bit of acting experience. When I was young, I acted in several musicals, singing and dancing on stage. Grease, for example. I got involved because I already had this experience and I thought it would be something interesting to do when I moved to Brno after living in Prague for 10 years.

What is your character in the play?

I am the lead; I am Leopold Nettles. Professor Leopold Nettles who is a philosopher and has written several books, one of which is controversial and has attracted the attention of the authorities.

And how do you feel in the character?

I feel very comfortable being Professor Nettles; it feels like the character belongs to me, like I am in the skin of the character. Leopold is somebody who is confronting many things from many sides and is barely managing it. My interpretation of the character, which is a bit light-hearted, made people react and when they were all clapping at the end – especially at the premiere night with a lot of people – it was just great, an awesome feeling.

Do you feel like some of your personal life experiences reflected into the play?

Well I think that the fact I studied philosophy made me well suited to the character. Like Leopold I think too much about everything which is typical for a philosopher. And also everything is more complicated than it should be – more questions than answers, you know.

Do you have some ritual before coming on stage?

Our Director had given us all a cork on the first night and I had no idea what the cork was for. I thought it was for good luck, so I put it in my pocket. Then today when I was asking what the cork was for, I found out I was supposed to put it in my teeth to exercise my voice before the play! But I still kept it in my pocket for good luck. What I think is that the cork is whatever you believe it is.

How does it feel to stand in front of the audience?

To be honest…. when the play and the lights are on you can’t see anybody; and also you are too absorbed in your lines and what you are supposed to do to be really nervous about who is looking at you. You sort of become involved in it, in the conversation…. And I suppose I would do the very same thing whether there are people there or not. I have acted on a bigger stage before, where the audience were further back from an elevated stage. Šelepka is smaller, it is more interactive as you are really close to people – so it is almost the same as standing in your own living room.

Photo: Matthew Dalessandro. Credit: Tom Karola.

How do you feel with the other actors, as you are the lead and everything is actually going around you?

Very good; the more I get to know the people personally, the more comfortable I feel with them.

What can you tell us about the romantic relationships of the character?

In the play we can see three different types of relationships, the first with Suzana I did not understand at first, but she is the dominant person. The relationship with Lucy is fairly typical and in the last one, Leopold is just trying to impress, which is quite obvious from the scene.

Do you think the actors suit the character in the play?

I think every person puts a bit of themselves into the character. The characters themselves have a role, but it is always up to the actor’s interpretation and I think everyone in the play does that well.

What is your favourite scene in the play?

My favourite scene is with the Chaps; when they come on stage they have an ominous feeling around them and it adds a bit of tension to the play and different dimension to it – a bit of an edge, you know… The drama helps to contrast with the humour of this; because I think the play is very much a satire.

What can audience expect when they come to the play?

I hope they have a good time, that they enjoy it and that they leave with a good impression.

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