1. How long did it take you to do all these interviews?
I started doing interviews actually back in high school. One of my first was Eartha Kitt, who invited me to visit her after a show she did on Miami Beach. We must have talked together for over an hour. A lot of these interviews come from my newspaper, “THE SOUL OF THE AMERICAN ACTOR,” which I founded in 1998. Some of my first interviews included Al Hirschfeld, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Phoebe Brand, Maureen Stapleton and Julie Harris. Over the past nearly 20 years, I’ve conducted over 1,500 interviews, and actually did new interviews never before published for CREATE! including Carol Burnett, Chaka Khan, Phylicia Rashad, Kelsey Grammer, Dick Cavett, Diane Paulus, Leon Bates, Jeanine Tesori, Patch Adams and several others!
2. Do you have a favorite interview you’ve done?
Every interview has changed my life because I learned something new from each person. I’ve certainly have had some soul-changing experiences when in the midst of an interview, I discover the vastness of an idea someone shares with me, or they relate an experience that tickles my funnybone. It could be something as memorable as Tommy Tune telling me when he was directed by Gene Kelly in the film, “Hello Dolly,” at one moment, Kelly whispered to him after a take: “Dance better.” Or some recent interviews with Carol Lawrence and Marty Raybon - both exceptionally gifted performers and the way in which they related how they have chosen to give of themselves to help others touched me in the deepest way.
At one point I had reached out to Spalding Gray to talk together, and we kept missing each other by phone. Finally, when I got back to my apartment, he had left me the longest message telling me how much he wanted to speak together and his words had to have been at least ten minutes long about his day, and I thought: “Now I know what it’s like to be living in a Spalding Gray play!”
Another time after I had done my interview with Andre Gregory (world-renowned for his directing and “My Dinner with Andre” with Wallace Shawn), after we had spent nearly two hours talking together, he said: “Well, we have so much more to talk about.” So we met again, for another two hours! That’s why his interview in “CREATE!” Is certainly one of the longest and most engrossing!
3. Why did you decide to make CREATE!?
I began to recognize how special these individual’s words and experiences were - and also we have a very selective memory today. We barely remember what we had for dinner last night. And many young people I teach have no idea the heritage they’ve been given — so I felt it was my responsibility to share these extraordinary creative individuals with generations to come. A lot of the ideas they share may impact in a very deep way on those who read this book, and that would be a beautiful thing.
4. How did you find your publisher?
There were a slew of turn-downs from across America and around the world, but I never gave up. Then I was recommended to read a most beautiful book by my dear friend, Marilise Tronto: “Witness to Spirit — My Life with Cowboys, Mozart & Indians.” I couldn’t put it down — that was when I learned about Nancy Cleary and Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing. I got in touch with her, and we talked together, and it all came together. Nancy is a genius-creator and has brought to the public some of the most heart-felt, touching and beautifully made books, and I’m deeply appreciative of how she has brought CREATE! to life in the most extraordinary way.
5. Who are your favorite writers?
During my days at NYU, while I was studying with Stella Adler, Harold Clurman and Jerzy Grotowski, I would read most of the great works by writers, playwrights and poets in every hemisphere of the world, and of course every book I could get my hands on acting and theater, learning as much as I could about every one of the arts. So I began with the Americans including Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Margaret Mitchell, Emily Dickinson, Eudora Welty, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Rod McKuen, and Truman Capote, across Europe and Asia from Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, to Herman Hesse, William Blake, the fellow named Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Rumi, and Samuel Beckett are among his favorites. I also read many of the sacred texts cover to cover and I’m fan of many genres and try and write a new poem every day. I would also read books like “Gray’s Anatomy” and about subjects on all topics, because I was working on so many different roles as an actor.
6. You also have been acting for a long time?
I began acting when my parents brought me to Esther Brezo, an acting teacher in South Florida when I was about five and I took improvisation, poetry and acting classes. Joined a professional children’s acting company and never looked back! I must have done over 350 shows and so many exciting plays at Coral Gables High School directed by David Feldman, one of the greatest drama teachers you could ever wish for. Some of my fellow amazing students included Nina Tassler, Peter Jensen, Ivy Gordon, Steve Savitt, Wayne Hosford, and Ray Faiola!
Now I’m in the 16th year of touring with my own show, “LET IT BE ART!” bringing to life Harold Clurman, who had been one of my teachers at the same time I was studying with Stella Adler. It’s been the most amazing journey sharing the play in 23 countries and across 20 states in America!
7. Do you enjoy teaching?
After studying with Stella Adler, whom I consider the greatest acting teacher America ever produced, I thought: “How could I teach?” But when I was asked the first time to teach what I’ve learned, I began to realize I enjoyed guiding others to see ways to share their talent and imagination, and its given me so much joy to find ways to help others discover more about themselves.
8. What did you learn from doing all these interviews?
How vast and amazing life can be - and even though we’re all different because of our backgrounds, we’re all connected through our humanity. Every interview taught me something new and I would connect what they said to my own journey, and simply grateful and amazed that I was given the opportunity to spend time with each of these amazing souls.
9. Are you working on new projects?
Yes, I recently I created a new presentation: “The Tuscumbia I Know: A Talk by Captain A.H. Keller,” using the actual words of the father of Helen Keller., and performed it as part of The Helen Keller Festival in Tuscumbia, Alabama, where Helen Keller was born, in fact just a couple of hundred feet from Ivy Green. I’m in the midst of creating a film of the story of The Group Theatre, and working on a new issue of my newspaper, “The Soul of the American Actor,” now in its 19th year, the only newspaper dedicated to the art of the theatre, the creative process, and all the arts.
10. Do you have any advice about how to do the best interview?
It’s always about listening and making a new friend. I always approach each interview with the greatest of joy - and remember, it’s their interview. That’s why I try and come up with questions they will enjoy answering as they talk about their life experiences. I’m always in service to share their passion, their love for creating.
11. How do you stay focused on your new project?
Naturally, it’s a balancing act — creating the space and time for creation to take place. Setting aside time to do what has to be done, and then taking the time to listen to natural rhythms of the heart and soul.
12. How you ever been surprised in an interview?
Oh yes. and that’s become one of the I used to try and have every question prepared. Now I leave myself open to the moment for a question to come I had no idea I would be asking — and it sometimes leads to the most amazing answers!
13. How can I get a personalized/autographed copy of your book?
Ronald loves to meet and sign books and does so a number of times each year at book signing events. If you cannot attend a book signing, write to Ronald at email@example.com regarding signed copies of Ronald’s books.
14. Tell us about your first book, “ACTING TEACHERS OF AMERICA”?
“ACTING TEACHERS OF AMERICA” brings together fifty of the most influential acting teachers, actors, and directors who teach acting to share their insights about the process and craft of acting, how they teach, and what they feel is necessary to be a successful actor. I also interviewed a former student of each teacher, so the book includes acting teachers including William Esper, Michael Howard, Maggie Flanigan, Kathryn Gately, and Robert Modica, actors who teach acting including Olympia Dukakis, Andre De Shields, and Marian Seldes, and directors who teach acting including Lloyd Richards, Zelda Fichandler and , plus interviews with actors including Sidney Poitier, Gene Hackman, William Hurt, Edward Norton, James Gandolfini, Laura Linney and Steve Buscemi.
15. Why do you feel so strongly about the power of creativity?
We live in a time when the need to share all of the creativity is more important that ever — we have so much in common across the globe. It is a time of great expansion, and our creativity is always there to bridge our hopes and dreams with others. I’m amazed by the creativity of every single person in CREATE! Every one is a remarkable example of how creative we can be.
16. Why do you want to perform and teach around the world?
It give me great hope to meet young people around the world and guide them to release their inhibitions and dive into the swirl of creating through art. We learn from one another and find out we have a great deal in common, even though we may speak different languages. I feel greatly honored and blessed to be able to travel to foreign lands as a performer and teacher.
17. Are you working on any new movie or stage projects?
Yes , I’m in the midst of a new screenplay, “GROUP PARADISE,” bringing to the big screen the inspiring story of The Group Theatre, America’s greatest acting ensemble of the 1930’s founded by Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford, which included Stella Adler, Phoebe Brand, Morris Carnovsky, Clifford Odets, Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Ritt, Mordecai Gorelik, Paul Green, Sidney Kingsley, and Luther Adler.
I’ve written the libretto for a new opera, “IBSEN” with the composer, Hartmut von Lieres, which is under consideration by several opera houses around the world.
18. How can I contact Ronald?
The best way is through his publisher at Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can write directly to Ronald at email@example.com
20. What is your greatest wish for the world?
When I travel to perform and teach and talk about my new book, “CREATE!” I meet so many beautiful people who care greatly about making this world a more beautiful place to live in — to find ways to have greater compassion for one another. This is my greatest wish — that we’re able to live with a greater understanding of one another, to find ways of living with ourselves and bringing out the best qualities we have to offer to the world. We’re all creative beings, and when we’re encouraged and given the opportunity to share this part of ourselves, so much more good comes into the world.
21. How do I book Ronald to speak at an event?
Write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
It gives me great joy to discuss the art of creating, acting and directing. I have given talks and workshops in 23 countries and over 20 states across America at many schools, bookstores, universities, colleges, conferences, festivals, theaters, and libraries. I was chosen five years ago as a Fulbright Specialist, and it’s given me the unique opportunity to teach and perform for 6 weeks across Bosnia & Herzegovina and Malaysia.
22. You’re also a director?
Yes - my award-winning production of Murray Schisgal’s play, “LUV” is running into its 5th year at the famed Chamber Theatre 55 in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. I was graciously invited by the Artistic Director at the time, Dragan Jovičić, to direct an American comedy with three of the most talented young actors in that country, Zana Marjanovic, Moamer Kasumović, and Muhamed Hadzovic. I chose “LUV,” and even though I speak no Bosnian except for a few words, I worked with a gifted translator on the script, who was also my assistant director, directing the actors, which has been translated into Bosnian beautifully by Mirjana Jovičić. Directing “LUV” at Chamber Theatre 55 in Sarajevo was truly one of the most satisfying and artistically fulfilling experiences of my life, as these three fine and highly skilled comedic actors, all the designers, crew and staff of the Theatre helped to make the play come magnificently to life. The production continues to be performed to sold-out audiences, and has traveled to Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, and across Bosnia & Herzegovina, winning awards in festivals.
23. We are a public library interested in acquiring foreign editions of Ronald’s CREATE! How might we obtain copies?
By contacting Nancy Cleary, my publisher at Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing at email@example.com
24. What advice to you give to someone who’s starting out?
It’s always a mystery finding that singular person who also believes in your dream — but amazingly they show up — and I was very lucky to have found such an exceptional and gifted publisher for CREATE! I was also lucky finding Allworth Press who published my first book, ACTING TEACHERS OF AMERICA. I think its exceptionally important to persevere even in the face of rejection letters but equally important is creating a manuscript that reflects what is most important to you, and will help illuminate the human condition in an engrossing and positive way. It’s also very important to stay focused with a clear strategy and plan every day towards the fruition of your dreams.
25. Where do you find your joy in creating?
In every blade of grass, in every wisp of a cloud, in every meeting I have with another person, in my dreams, in waking up and seeing such a bright and beautiful world we live in. Every new play or poem I read, every new book I delve into, every performance I see, every new work of art awakens me to the greater possibilities of the heart and soul of life. We are our world and every thing we do is a reflection of all time and the future to come.