ASKING ALUMNI … ROB ADLER (MIO ’94)
Christopher Cook in conversation with Robert Adler who joined the Midsummer in Oxford Program in 1994.
“It was a transformational experience for my life as an actor and for my life as a person, as a human being in the world. I was young and I was a younger person surrounded by people who were mostly older than I and so that was a big part of the personal transformation. But professionally and personally, the teachers at BADA both challenged me and inspired me to continue, to really begin my life’s work and I am eternally grateful to Fiona Shaw and to Mick Barnfather who both made an imprint on me about what it meant to be an actor alive in the world, curious, making contact, seeking both creativity and interpretation of text with passion and play. In a sense that led me to continue to study, both at university and at conservatory and to the work that I choose to do as an artist and ultimately it’s at the core of what I teach now to actors that I work with, even in film and television. “
So where’s your career now?
“I work primarily as a private acting coach to celebrities who are working in film and television in Hollywood, although, some on Broadway as well. I run a small private acting studio in Hollywood where I train actors who are transitioning in their careers from stage to screen, people who are at the early stages of their career who have worked in New York or London and have just come to Los Angeles. There are individuals too who have just finished their conservatory programmes and who are just beginning their career in Hollywood. And up until the end of next month I remain on the faculty at USC, but I’m joining the faculty at the Theatre School at DePaul University, in Chicago.
Are you going to continue running the studio?
“My studio is thriving in Los Angeles and when I work as a private coach, that brings me often a lot of times in Los Angeles but a lot of times it’s on location all around the world. I also do a large amount of private coaching via the Internet, via Skype and Facetime. I also teach master classes. In the last year along I’ve been in Shanghai, in Japan, at Film festivals in the Bahamas and all over the United States so I actually love to travel. It’s one of the perks of my life that my work takes me to meet new people and visit new places. And you know believe it or not I am also still acting and directing. I have a short film that I produced which is in the festival circuit right now. It’s called American Pastime.
“I was in two plays last year as an actor. One was an interesting premiere with a Theatre Company called Theatre Dybbuk which they described as the world premiere of an ancient play, called Exagoge, which is considered to be the first ever Jewish Play.”
“It’s written in the form of a Greek Tragedy, but it’s the story of the Exodus. Only fragments of the play exist and so the company sort of filled in the gaps and created a whole play out of it. I played Moses and Jethro and it was a pretty amazing experience as we played all over Los Angeles in incredible venues including Grand Park, where of course the backdrop is City Hall. Just last month, the company and the production were awarded a proclamation by the city for ‘social consciousness.’ That was a pretty exciting part of my acting career in the last year.”
You hinted that when you came to Oxford you were not absolutely convinced that you wanted to be an actor.
“I think it was more was I knew that I wanted to be an actor but I don’t think I knew what being an actor was! You know I’d had that incredible experience of stepping on the stage or working in the theatre once or twice as a young man, but what I was exposed to at BADA were people who had made it their lives and made a success of it; and to see them, I was exposed to a vision of myself in the future, what a life as an actor might actually be like and so I think that’s what it was. In a day to day way through my teachers at BADA, that vision started to take more shape.”
“You know vision is a weird thing. It maybe just starts with a feeling or an impulse and as you explore, it begins to emerge a bit more clearly and I think BADA was a really important, vital step for me to start to see what the creative work of an actor meant. For example until I worked with Mick Barnfather and Simon McBurney, who did a Masterclass when I was there, I’d never seen devised theatre. Then to work on Shakespeare in the quad at Balliol during tutorials with teachers like Ian Wooldridge was an incredible experience too. It was revelatory to understand how I related to a playwright from 500 years ago, as though he was present with us now. It was incredibly enriching.”
One of the things BADA believes is that both faculty and students past and present belong to a kind of extended family that stretches right across the Atlantic I wonder if you have that feeling too?
“There’s no doubt about it. I mean, here we are more than 20 years later having this conversation because I feel this incredible connection. It’s family-like for sure. My sense of connection to BADA has never waned. I went across the sea and I felt cared for and I felt at home in the programme and by the people there, the people and the structure there frankly and I’ve been very confident and happy to send my college students to BADA and it is a deep, personal and lasting connection that I’m super happy about.”