The Next Generation Emerges: An Interview With Eli Diamond

There’s a certain tragic poetry to Eli Diamond, the youngest person to ever be involved with Theater Pub, making his onstage Pub debut with Pint Sized IV, our last production at the Cafe Royale. Giving the uniqueness of him amongst the more seasoned cast, we thought we’d take a moment to find out what it’s like to be the guy who shows up just in time for the end of an era.

Who are you, in a hundred words or less?

I am Elijah Diamond, a 19 year old actor who used to write “Theater Conservatory Confidential” for this site but is currently in his first SF Theater Pub. I am a born and raised local who recently spent a year at NYU majoring in Acting at the Atlantic Acting School.

Eli Diamond: Shimmering With Youth

Eli Diamond: Shimmering With Youth

And this is your first time being in a Theater Pub show. How did you get cast?

I had been asked before to do a Theater Pub show, and had been incredibly interested, but, the timing hadn’t worked. Funny enough, the current offer came as a complete shock to me. I was just on the computer minding my own business, when suddenly WHAM! Charles Lewis III sends me a message saying basically “Wanna be in my show for Theater Pub?” And I couldn’t type yes fast enough.

So, you are the youngest person to ever be in a show at Theater Pub, let alone be in Pint-Sized. How is that? Does anyone treat you like a kid?

As “the youngest person to ever be in a Theater Pub”, I was kinda worried that it would be like that, with everyone treating me just as a kid, but I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. I chill with people backstage and around the bar, though of course I don’t and can’t order anything, and I’ve found everyone to be incredibly accepting and loving. It’s interesting, as this is actually the first theater production I’ve been in where I don’t feel like everyone’s treating me like a kid. It’s an amazingly refreshing experience.

Has anyone recognized you as a former columnist for the website?

Sadly no, but I’m partially glad. I feel like if someone did, their first reaction would be “Why aren’t you in an institution right now?

Your column ended with you dropping out of Theater School and moving back to the Bay to pursue other avenues. What have you been up to all summer, and what does the future hold for you?

Recently I’ve been just doing my own thing. I got an internship doing lighting design for concerts, and I’ve been finding myself acting a lot more than I first expected. It’s been nice to reconnect with old friends as well. My future right now is incredibly up in the air, I’m going to see if I can transfer this upcoming year from CCSF, finish my GEs, and just figure out exactly what it is I want to do.

Any dream roles you’re hoping to play? People you are just dying to work with now that you’re back on the West Coast?

There are tons of people who I’m dying to work with. Basically everyone from Pint-sized this year who I wasn’t in a show with. I’d love to work with Paul Rodrigues, Andrew Chung, Annika Bergman, and pretty much everyone. In terms of directors, I’m dying to work with Claire Rice and Meg O’Connor. But I’m pretty open. In terms of dream roles, I used to be really crazy about those, but more recently, I’ve found myself incredibly open in what I get cast as. I find that keeps me from feeling like I’m type casting myself.

On some level, it probably feels like you just got here, and it’s all changing. Any thoughts on that?

That’s exactly how I’m feeling. I’m just like “Awesome, whens the next Theater Pub?” And everyone just throws their hands in the air like “No idea.” It’s a bit disheartening, but I’m definitely going to participate whenever I can.

You’re a young person, and if you didn’t know, the whole theater world right now is dying to get more young people to come to the theater. As a young person who makes theater, and goes to theater, what are your thoughts on how to reach younger audiences?

Honestly, just make it more known that you need and want young people. I just one day went “I’m going to try auditioning for something”, and surprise! Here I am. Young people just think that this is too far of a step away from them, when in reality all they have to do is raise their hands and get involved. Young people making theater tends to make for younger audiences too. We travel in packs.

Any shows you’re looking forward to seeing in the next six months?

I’m incredibly interested in Custom Made’s whole line up this year, most notably The Crucible. I managed to get some tickets to The Book of Mormon, and I’m hoping that doesn’t disappoint. Most of all, I’m just on the lookout for something new to take me by surprise. I like surprises.

You can see Eli and the rest of the Pint Sized cast two more times: tonight, at 8 PM, and tomorrow, July 30th, at 8 PM, only at the Cafe Royale! The event is free, but get there early as we expect to be packed!

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Theater Conservatory Confidential: Hurricane Buddies & Summer Lovin’

Eli Diamond delivers his last blog… for now. 

So this is the end of my journey through New York University’s fantastic theatre program at the Atlantic Acting School. Though I did not manage to spend the two years I should have, I have been able to completely redefine what it means for me to act. In my opinion, through application of the technique, I have become a far superior actor than when I started. Line readings no longer burden me, and I feel a lot freer on stage. I’ve been told that the second and third years of Atlantic Acting School are spent mostly on applying the technique, and though I won’t be able to do that in a classroom setting, I hope to get that same application experience where it matters: out in the real world. I have spent the majority of the first two weeks of this summer auditioning, and have gotten a number of promising offers I plan on following up on. Most of my summer though, will be spent working over at LD Alliance over in South San Francisco. I’ll be working on lights with this company and making some money, which should provide some wonderful technical experience wherever it’s needed. The rest of my summer will be spent in class, making some GE credits for next year.

So recently I’ve been wondering what exactly it is I learned about myself from NYU. I guess I can start with the positives. I’ve learned that I have the capability to live on my own. I’ve learned that I’m not as weak as I sometimes can make myself out to be. I’ve learned that even if a hurricane is threatening the entire city, I can make friendships which I’m sure will last the rest of my life. On the negative side, I’ve learned that I can get incredibly bitter and cynical if left to my own devices for too long. I’ve learned that my mind needs constant stimulation in order to keep myself motivated, and if I don’t get that, I start to go stir-crazy. I’ve learned that I am a much more practical person than I give myself credit for, and have strayed away from the wild ambition that I used to pride myself so much on.

I used to be a wild, proud boy who would do anything to get what he wanted. I would not think of the failures, I would just bolt forward without a care in the world. New York made me see the other side of the coin, and that I can’t just do that or when I hit a wall, I’ll hit it too hard. I need to keep the practical side in my head and in my heart or else I’ll tear myself apart from madness. New York is a cold, passionate, powerful place, and I’m glad to have received everything its offered me. And I hope to bring all my new knowledge to San Francisco, to Olympians IV or Theatre Pub or whatever stage I happen to find myself on. It’s been a blast, and I thank each and every one of you for following me on this journey.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: So long, And Thanks For All The Rehearsal!

Eli Diamond prepares to sign off.

So it’s finally over. My last scene of the year, and my last scene with Atlantic Acting School, went up today to a wonderful response, and I am incredibly glad that Dog Sees God is the note I will be leaving here on. It’s been a rough year, full of breakdowns and stress-cries, but in the end, I think it was what I needed. It was a wake-up call; a chance for me to begin to see my life from a different perspective. Instead of being down in the dumps all the time, I needed to start thinking a bit more positively, and I have. Slowly but surely, I have become more comfortable in my own skin, as an actor and as a person, and this summer, I hope I will have a chance to show some of that off.

My plans for the summer mostly involve an internship and a trip to Cape Cod, but I hope to be doing a couple of shows. This freedom that the summer, and next year, offers me is wonderful. I’m excited to use what I learned at Atlantic to push myself into directions I never expected. I cannot wait to begin working with people, and applying the technique to actual plays rather than just class-work. My relationships with my friends back home will be revisited and hopefully expanded upon. This to me, felt like one giant rehearsal for my life.

That’s not to say that I don’t hope to stay in contact with everyone here. There are many wonderful people who I am incredibly glad I got to meet. I’m just sad because I realize that odds of me staying in contact with 85% of them is incredibly slim. I never fit in the way I wanted to, but that’s okay, because that taught me a lot about myself, and ways I could work on being the me who I want to be. I am happier now, because I feel like, for once, I am confident and calm just being myself.

I’m Elijah Diamond, and I’m pretty damn weird, but I love that. I love video games and theatre, and all sorts of random shit. Staying at home next year will be a little bit of a drag, but I hope to rent an apartment or something within the course of the year, but until then, I’ve just gotta wait for my registration for City College courses. That is, if they aren’t already full.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: And Your Prize Is Work

Seeing as it’s been a while since I last wrote about the work, I decided to do a brief summary of my largest projects right here. The work-load has most definitely increased this semester to astronomical proportions, with all of us doing at least 7 scenes this semester, alongside all of our papers and other homework. My scenes have all went pretty well, with a few rough edges here and there, but nothing I can’t really polish off with the knowledge I’ve been given.

The first scene we did was a scene dealing with a character’s temperament. Using our knowledge of the play, we’d analyze the character’s temperament to make a better choice in action for the scene. For this scene, a friend and I made a decision to do Rabbit Hole, and, although we ended up rehearsing the scene for upwards of 40 hours, we constantly had it rejected by our teacher, up until the final run-through, which our teacher said was astounding. It was interesting using temperament work to study the character, because, I feel like at first it made me act more of a basic archetypical character, rather than an actual person.

The next scene we had to do was a scene with an external. An external, through Practical Aesthetics, is any accent, disability, or thing that needs to be added on top of all the work. For this, I did Dublin Carol, using the externals of drunkenness and Irish-ness (in other words, just being Irish, my teacher joked). This scene was quickly rehearsed and finished, and we had it run-through and fixed in record time.

Not as fast as our multiple-person scene though, which is exactly what the name describes it as. For this, we learned how to do scenes with more than two people, using other people as tools to get our objective from the person our test was in. It was rough, but the scene from Children’s Hour proved to be strong material for us to use, and after about 30 minutes in class, we never had to do that scene again.

In my Script Analysis class, I have been working on a ten minute scene from Shining City, which has quickly become the bane of my existence. We have brought it into class 4 times now, and been shut down each and every time. I need to discover a truer form of guilt in myself in order for the scene to work, and not just spout defensiveness, which the scene can quickly devolve to if not done well.

In Repetition, we had to find a historical figure we loved, write a monologue as them, dress ourselves, act out the monologue, and improvise a question and answer session afterwards. I chose Emperor Norton (homeless guy in San Francisco thought he was Emperor, city played along with him, fun stuff) and my class seemed to love it. Every moment I performed that was gleeful and exciting.

The other scenes I’m working on and will be putting up before the end of the year are excerpts from Breakfast Club, American Psycho, Clue, and Dog Sees God. I’m really excited for all of these and these have all held strong places in my heart. Almost makes me regret leaving. Almost. On the other hand though, the last time I was really inspired at NYU was in a Meisner and Strasberg class, so who knows? Maybe I’ll find something else somewhere.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: The Choice

Eli Diamond comes to a tough decision. 

This may come as a bit of a shock to those of you who only know me from reading this article, but I have made the decision to leave NYU to pursue a degree in Computer Science. I have had a really interesting experience here, making wonderful friends while undergoing an education that can really be only described as top of the line. But I have seen a drastic change in myself. I have become incredibly bitter, angry, and depressed since coming here. My days are often spent in my bed surfing the internet, for want of a better life, and over the course of this semester, I made the decision to go find a better life for myself.

Along with my parents, I developed a plan involving going to community college next year to fill up all of my General Education requirements. Along with going to school, I will perform in as many productions as I can, in order to get used to applying the technique in a real world setting. You see, I still hope to continue acting, but the $67,000 dollar tuition was a little bit too steep to bet on a career that doesn’t guarantee much of a return. Computer Science on the other hand, is a career with many job opportunities and high starting salaries, and I should have enough time to continue my acting career on the side. As I’ve said to numerous friends, if I make it as an actor: Great, if not: Great. There’s a 100% less chance of homelessness caused by this.

My parents, girlfriend, and friends have all been incredibly supportive of me in this time. I will be completing the semester, and I will continue to put in hard work. I know some people may see this as sad, but I don’t. I had a wonderful time here for what it was. I met some people, I learned some things, and most importantly, I learned about myself. I discovered things about myself that I never would have discovered at home. I was pushed to limits I never thought I could be pushed to, and it was wonderful. I also discovered that my emotional state is occasionally a bit more fragile than I give myself credit for. That’s not bad. It’s just something I needed to know about myself.

Overall though, I’m excited to return home and begin working on everything, be it in the classroom, or the theatre.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: Rehearsal 24/7

Eli Diamond continues to brave his first year at theater school.

So spring break is almost here, and I find it really sad that I haven’t really been talking about the actual meat of what I’m learning here, so I guess this is where I’ll get into that. The biggest issue for me coming back from winter break had to be the disconnect I had from staying in the moment. I kept intellectualizing the work too much, as opposed to simply experiencing each moment as it came, and reacting to that. This was seen, and commented on by my teachers in my first scene (This is a Chair by Carol Churchill). I had to go into a lot of intense repetition in order to get my moment to moment work back in action, which I was luckily able to do, thanks in large part to my scene partner Heather.

Heather and I are doing a scene from Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire, and the fun of repeating with her really lies in the amount of animation she has. She’s a very open, expressive person, and as such has allowed me to really become expressive in all my repetition, not just that with her. Our scene from Rabbit Hole has become an exercise of endurance, for what used to be a 2 minute scene has, with all the pauses our teacher insisted on, become 16 minutes. Our last rehearsal ended with both of us face down on separate couches, praying for sleep.

This is another reason I love this technique: It really makes you feel. Like if you have a scene that would be representative of an exhausting encounter in real life, by the end of the scene, you will feel as exhausted as the character, if not more so. It’s a truly remarkable technique in both its simplicity and depth.

Recently, I have been working on beat changes, namely in my scene from Shining City, by Conor McPherson. Changing entire actions when using this technique is an exercise in trial and error, as oftentimes I find myself merely inhabiting the idea of the action rather than truly feeling it in me. The scene is going fantastically though, as my scene partner and I performed it last weekend for Script Analysis and, even though she edited our analysis quite a bit, she thought our moment to moment work was beautiful. So we’ve got one thing down.

So I’m kinda glad I get this much needed break now, for I have to start working on my largest project for the semester: Writing, performing, and improvising a monologue and Q&A session as a historical figure, but that’ll all be news for after break.

Theater Around The Bay: Let’s Hear It From You

Stuart Bousel takes a moment to talk about how our blog has been growing steadily upward.

February has proven to be a breakthrough month for the San Francisco Theater Pub blog!

For the first time since the blog was started by one of our founding artistic directors, Bennett Fisher, in March of 2010 (so we’re coming up on our anniversary!), we have shot past 4,000 hits in one month- and a short month at that! Where as once we usually got about 25-50 hits a day and 500-800 hits a month, we now average 150-200 a day and 2,500-3,500 a month. This increase in traffic is, without question, due in large part to having moved to more regular content, and it’s thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cowan, Eli Diamond, Helen Laroche, Marissa Skudlarek and our various guest bloggers (like the cast and crew of The Odyssey on Angel Island, and Nicky Weinbach from Made in China) that we can start to say the Pub’s online presence is delivering the same mission of inclusivity and being a platform for the community, as it does in the flesh at the Cafe Royale each month.Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it: contributor and reader alike. We hope you stick around for more!

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be adding actress/writer Allison Page to the regular writer rotation, alternating weeks with Cowan Palace, and next week we’ll begin a new regular guest blog by actor/writer Evan Johnson as his new play moves towards its premiere production at the New Conservatory. That will be running alternate weeks with Theater Conservatory Confidential, on Fridays. Additionally, we have a new monthly event, being presented in conjunction with the Exit Theater, starting March 23rd, called Saturday Write Fever. Like all other Theater Pub events, it’s free and all about creating collaborations between artists and busting down the wall between the audience and the creators, so please join us!

At the same time that the blog has been gaining momentum and increasing its profile, I personally have found myself having more and more conversations with various theater people about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what they hope to get from it versus what they actually get from it and just how they feel about that. A lot of those interactions have started with, “I read your posts from a few weeks back and it’s had me thinking…” and I have to say, it’s been wonderful to hear that and even more wonderful to have so many exciting dialogues about this art form and all its social and practical complexity. In the last few weeks my life has been characterized by some of the most honest and inspiring talks I’ve ever had in the ten years of being part of this theater community. It’s been like… final semester of college level of sincere and memorable, but unlike the last semester of college, it doesn’t have to end.

The “Theater Around the Bay” section of the website (basically every Tuesday we don’t have a performance that night- which is most Tuesdays) has always been, and will always remain, an on-going catch-all for whatever news, rants, musings someone wants to contribute and I want to take a moment to remind people that we’re always looking to publish something- the days we don’t it’s literally for lack of content, not because we turned someone down. We shy away from reviews (unless it’s happening in service of a larger thesis) because we want this to be more of a discussion/process/promotion part of the internet (there are plenty of other places to post reviews), but after that caveat almost anything theater related could potentially have a home here. An article about what’s troubling your theater life. Your favorite place to get a burrito before a show. A profile of someone you think is doing great work. A profile of your own work. Upcoming projects or on-going concerns. All these things and more are welcome. Please pitch us if you have an idea! We want to hear from you, and the more voices we can get on here over the course of a year, the better.

On that note, thanks again for reading. And because I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about this lately, if you have moment, leave a comment about what inspires you to keep working and making theater. I feel like every one of these great conversations that I’ve been having lately, that’s the one thing we don’t talk about enough. We talk about what is wrong, sure, and we talk about our work, usually, and we talk about other the tenor the scene and other people, always, but I think it’s just the nature of many artists (or maybe it’s just human nature) to forget to take the time to also focus on what does work, what infuses us with the will to keep on, what makes the baloney worth cutting through and putting up with. So, today, let’s put things back in balance and tell us what you love about the medium, the scene, or yourself. Or all three.

The best thing about the internet is that there’s always room for more.

Stuart Bousel is one of the founding artistic directors of the San Franciso Theater Pub, and a prolific writer and director. His website, http://www.horrorunspeakable.com, will tell you all about it.