Friday, November 13, 2009


Erasing the Distance's newest addition to our talented company -- Remy Ortiz -- recently joined the cast and performs in the college show "Facing the Rain." Earlier this week, I had a lively phone conversation with Remy about his journey in theatre. I learned, among other things, that he's a big Freddy Krueger fan. Interview follows...
~ Oriana at Erasing the Distance

Oriana: How did you get involved in theatre?

Remy: I'm a big film person. Growing up we didn't have a lot of money so we always went to the movies. I wanted to be an actor.
I used to be obsessed with Freddy Krueger and would pretend that he was chasing me around. Freddy Kreuger is what made me want to be an actor. I don't know if you've ever seen those movies, but they really lend themselves to the imagination, in a messed up way.

Then I wanted to pursue acting and I wanted to go to classes but we couldn't afford it. I took soccer classes instead. I think it was the norm to be enrolled in soccer, and I think my mom could have enrolled me in acting classes for the same money if we had known.

Then in high school there was a chance to go to a public arts school for acting. I think there was one day left for the deadline, my mom said "Look, if you want to be an actor, this is it, we don't have to pay for anything, it is a public school."

I was really shy, and I didn't know how to act. I had never taken any classes or anything, I didn't know what you were supposed to do, so I would just go up there and act. At the department review, one teacher said to me "Your scenes weren't very good this semester, but you want to be a designer, right?"
Actually then by the end my senior year, that teacher cast me as a lead in all of her shows.

So I wasn't really sure if I was good were not. Since my high school was a low-income, public school, 20 schools from around the country come to you to audition, instead of you having to go to fly out to each of them, and then you audition and if they accept you they accept you. I'm really hard on myself, so I said if I get in then I'll go, but if I don't I won't. Acting is hard enough as it is, I don't want to not be talented.
So then I did my monologue for 19 schools [at the group audition], and I got into 18,
and the one I didn't get into was an all-girls school.

Oriana: Wow, the only school you didn't get into was the all-girls school? That's great.

Remy: Yeah... So the one I ended up going to was really small, only took 20 students (out of 1000), and my best friend got in too. It was the Guthrie School in Minneapolis, and while we were there we also went to London and studied with The National Theatre and The Globe.
Then I moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and then I moved here.

When I first moved here I wanted to take a break, and I was really stressed because I was nervous about supporting myself as an actor. So I did [take a break from acting], and I supported myself and got an apartment and was just a real person without acting. (laughs) Then a friend told me about general auditions at Teatro Visto. The casting director said "I don't know where you've been hiding but you are so good and I'm going to call you for everything I do," and I thought she was jerking my chain, but then - she did! Then Teatro Vista/Collaboraction cast me in El Grito del Bronx at the Goodman, and.. so that's my story of theater. I hope that wasn't too long!

Oriana: This is terrific -- thanks for sharing. So you have been performing in shows in Chicago, how is that going?

Remy: Chicago's been great. I'm kind of awkward -- kinda shy but not really -- but its really nice to be able to be myself and have a nurturing environment because I came from a really cut-throat environment with students that had been taking acting classes since they were three, and I was like "I didn't and I'm here." Also, being an actor of color, there were only 3 of us out of 20 in my college class and one of us was my best friend.
Chicago has been such a positive experience, where people say they are going to do something and they do it!

Oriana: Okay, so Stephanie [who also performs in the college show "Facing the Rain"
] recommended you for Erasing the Distance. What drew you to Erasing the Distance -- or once you were introduced to ETD, what do you find compelling?

: Well, I said to Stephanie to send me the [audition] monologue and we'll see. So she emailed it to me. Basically, when I read the monologue -- its pretty much, without the substance abuse, its pretty much identical to my story, personally. I struggle a lot with depression and stuff. Yeah, so. ... it was just like a glove, emotionally I connected to it. I really like Erasing the Distance. I actually don't like touring shows for schools and stuff because I think they are actually condescending. As an audience member when I am approached in that way, I automatically shut down even if its good advice. I'm like "You're not making it real, it's not real so why would l listen?"
Erasing the Distance isn't like that at all. The stories are real, it's not censored, and it's more effective that way. And it's not black and white -- just like it's not always black and white in real life, even when it's hard to accept that.

I would have liked to be part of Erasing the Distance a long time ago, I just didn't know a
bout it!

It's real, it comes from the heart, it educates people. It educates me! At the talk-back I want to ask questions too. I am really picky about my work, I like work that doesn't make people feel alone. Like, I like really depressing movies but it doesn't make me depressed, it makes me feel like its okay and other people feel that way too.

For Erasing the Distance, you can tell by people's responses and by the questions and answers in the discussion -- and that they choose to sit there and stay for the question and answers -- you can tell that they are engaged and... and that's the whole reason I am an actor.
I'm a big advocate for it.

Oriana: So in addition to playing Jaron in Facing the Rain, what else are you working on? Or do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to plug?

Remy: Well, I just finished my show ["El Grito del Bronx"
] at The Goodman. That was a big thing for me not only because it was at The Goodman but it was really awesome, really intense and fun. I met the playwright and she was with us the whole time, and everyone was like "oh my god, how did you go there?" -- I would get smothered in blood every night -- and it was actually fun to go to that place every day. I've gone there before, but I've never shared it with people. It was really therapeutic to go there every night.

I'm really drawn to really intense work like that. The Jaron piece is actually really perfect for me because that's why I do theater.
Oh, and I'm in a commercial right now, I'm in an IADT commercial about fashion design.

Oriana: That's awesome!

I was in a seatbelt commercial. I was really lucky with the show at The Goodman because after that I got agents like that.

Oriana: So people can see it in the Chicago area?

People have been texting me "I just saw you on the TV."

I'm really happy to be part of Erasing the Distance. I'm more than happy actually.
I have a hard time being fake which is why I'm sometimes shy, and I'm happy that I'm proud of something that I can be part of and be an advocate for as well.
In college I never told anyone about my shows, and I was like "don't come, don't come, it doesn't really matter," and with this show I've been telling everyone
"you have to come see this."

Come see Remy perform! Online calender is updated as performances are added... or, maybe you can bring the college show to your campus! Have a healthy weekend and thanks for reading -- and thank you Remy for sharing! ~ Oriana.

1 comment:

  1. We love Remy at ETD and are thrilled to have him involved as one of our artists. Not only is he a fantastic actor but he is a sensitive and generous person -- with the other actors, with the audiences, and with the person whose story he is sharing on stage.

    Executive Artistic Director