Interview with with multi-talented artist Raphael Sbarge

Raphael Sbarge seems comfortable with his role as being everywhere you know. Acting for more than 5 decades, he’s been in almost every major television series. One including my personal favorite role of Jiminy Cricket on Once Upon a Time. He directed “The Tricky Part” film and happy to present an OFF-Bway play and bringing it to your home live. Airing April 30th you’ll be able to watch the award-winning play “The Tricky Part” on www.1in6.org

Pierre Diaz 200x300 - Interview with with multi-talented artist Raphael Sbarge
Raphael Sbarge
[Credit to Pierre Diaz]
We are so excited to hear about the live premiere of “The Tricky Part” coming up at the end of April. Right now, the world is in a crazy state with everyone at home in quarantine. Was the plan always to premiere live or has that shifted because of the current state of affairs?

 

We had finished The Tricky Part and were moments, literally moments away from submitting to festivals, just as the news was breaking that SXSW, TriBeCa and Cannes Film Festivals were shutting down. As well, movie theatres were closing and my friends who were doing Broadway shows were suddenly sent home. At that time, Anthony Edwards, my co-producer and the impetus for getting The Tricky Part made, suggested pivoting to reach a “captive audience” by doing a Live Premiere Event screening. We are now quite excited about an online screening event; it’s our chance to reach people at home with this powerful performance. As they say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

“The Tricky Part” will show audiences a live performance by Martin Moran of his play of the same name. What first drew your attention to the play and made you interested in directing the film?

Tony (Anthony Edwards) and I are dear friends, and he has known Marty for years. Tony has also worked with 1in6.org for a long time and felt there might be a way to use Marty’s Obie Award-winning play as a door opener for people to discuss these issues more freely. Marty’s performance is stunning and his writing takes your breath away. Initially, Tony thought we would just filming a few scenes, but after reading Marty’s memoir, I suggested we do the entire play so that we could have more to work with. A small idea became a much bigger one – and what we discovered, in the end, is this wonderful film.

Directing a film of a play sounds like a very complicated process! Can you talk a little about how you approached the task, and what you were hoping to bring to audiences?

Yes, filming live theater is a challenge; whenever I have seen films of plays, I’ve found them difficult to watch, as the audience and the actors are on two different sides, and the stage lights and stage can give a “flat” experience on film. Marty is an extraordinary storyteller, and he makes you feel immediately like he’s speaking directly to you. He is authentic and warm and someone you want to sit down with, and I wanted to get close to him in a way that would make the viewer feel like they were sitting next to him. I aimed to create a sense of intimacy and not feel separated by the stage. I also decided to create an opening sequence and add an end to the show, to give the viewer an experience of being with Marty from backstage, too, to allow the viewer to closely feel this journey.

Can you talk about the difference between directing this film and other ones you’ve done like LA Foodways for PBS?

This is a play that was developed at Sundance Theater Lab, won an Obie Award, was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards Off-Broadway, directed by a wonderful director Seth Barish, and a play that has been performed all over the world. My job was to come in and preserve the beauty of what they created, not change it, but to find a way to interpret it for film. Seth Barish was very generous and gave me the latitude to do that, and I was profoundly aware of their remarkable vision and wanted to both serve it and then shape if for a different experience on the screen. In other films I’ve directed, like LA Foodways, which was a documentary feature for PBS, I did every interview, wrote the outline, and worked with the editor to create that story, and find the “statue in the stone”. For the narrative film I directed called, The Bird Who Could Fly, I worked with the writer, shaped the story, found the cast, and then used our script to tell the story visually. Each project has its own challenges, and while I have never done a play-to-film like this, certain things are the same. Just like an actor, your heart has to connect to the story, you have to find the story you want to tell, and then make sure that that story gets told. In the end, it’s about being a storyteller, and I have come to believe that that is what wonderful plays and films and songs do – they take us back to that primal human urge to gather around a campfire and hear a good story.

What was the biggest challenge you had in bringing the stage to the screen?

The biggest challenge was time! We had two performances on one day! That was it. Once we were done – there was no going back. We had to get it all right within a twelve-hour period, every moment captured, with multiple cameras, and then be on our way. There was a giant amount of pressure about filming; suffice to say – I am happy with the result and how it all turned out, but there were a few sleepless nights leading up to the performance.

Cameron Postforoosh 300x300 - Interview with with multi-talented artist Raphael Sbarge
Raphael Sbarge
[Credit Cameron Postforoosh]
You’ve been acting for pretty much your entire life, I was so surprised to learn you started with Sesame Street at 4! How do you think the industry has changed the most over your career?

Yes, I started acting on Sesame Street at age four, and so now I’ve been doing this for 5 decades. So much has changed, I have changed, and goodness – as I write this we – film and television may be in the midst of one of the biggest changes to the industry we have seen in a century! I love the theatre, it is home for me, my mother was a Broadway costume designer, and I literally grew up in, around and backstage of a theatre. I have done a lot of theatre as an actor, too, and my DNA feels tied to the art of live performance. We are at a fragile moment in time, with all our theatres shut, movies and concert venues closed for the foreseeable future. These are all the places where we come together as a group and enjoy the magic, the dimming of the lights, the hush before the show begins, and a chance to have a shared experience with strangers in a room. As I write this, a month into the stay-at-home orders, I truly miss the opportunities for live theater. I can’t wait to run out to a play or a film at a movie theatre and I pray that the artists and institutions that bring that to us find a way to roar back to life on the other side of the COVID experience.

 

One of my favorite roles you’ve done has been as Jiminy Cricket on Once Upon a Time. I’d love to know how you approached playing his “normal” counterpart of Archie, and how you snuck in hints of your magical side.

I loved Jiminy Cricket, and being on Once Upon a Time was magical. It was such a beautifully produced show, the cast was top notch and we had a wonderful ride! From the beginning, there was a clear vision to make it real, keep the characters grounded, not play AT them, but make them believable. I think that is what brought people in, and what kept people coming back. The writing and stories were equally as spectacular. The “magic” was created in post, and if the cast did their work, the magic naturally happened… There was great pride in being a part of Once that everyone on it shared, both in front and behind the camera. Great care was taken with every detail, and it showed. I loved Jiminy, and particularly loved the world we got to inhabit.

You’ve been in what seems to be every major network television show from Blue Bloods to The Blacklist. What role do you most often get recognized from out on the street?

Ha. Yes. I have been on a lot of shows…. Mostly, people tend to say, “Hey, how do I know you?”, or, “Did I go to school with you?” They know they have seen me— somewhere, but often not sure where. In the past, I’ve tried to help people by trying to list possible options— but have learned better. Just too many things to list now. Lol. Grateful that I’ve had so many opportunities.

Pierre Diaz 2 977x1024 - Interview with with multi-talented artist Raphael Sbarge
Raphael Sbarge
[Credit to Pierre Diaz]
With the world on shut down dealing with COVID-19, what are you doing at home to deal with the stress and anxiety?

Oh, it’s such a complicated time. And there are so many things to worry about… it’s like a buffet of things to fret about on any given day! I have limited my news intake of late; initially, I was watching news all the time. To alleviate stress, I do yoga on an app in the morning and then late in the afternoon, when I start to get itchy, I go for a walk in the park (with my mask and appropriate social distance!). But getting some air, and get out my angst, has been helpful. I also have found myself sleeping more than normal, to which I have just surrendered. Clearly the enormity of this event makes it so that resting more, I’ve heard, helps people process the stress. I also have several other projects I am editing, which have given me something to work on and give me something to put my attention on. So happy about that— my mind keeps spinning and so helpful for me to have a new project to work on.

 

Is there anything else you’d like fans to know?

I want everyone to find ways to reach out to people in your life— by text or by phone, so you don’t spend too much time alone. My heart wants to explode with thanks for all the first responders, medical care providers, delivery people, mail carriers, Uber drivers, and on line teachers who are working so hard to bring order to this time. It is a time to reflect on what matters, and what doesn’t and I am focused on trying to do my best, not get tied up in knots about things I can’t fix, and remain grateful for all the people who are on the front lines. My job, when I’m not connecting with family or loved ones, is to bring my own sense of calm to my own storm, so I can express that to the people I encounter. Strength begins with us – and now more than ever, this is an opportunity for us to bring that to our day. So… Take care. Be well. Stay safe.


You can connect with Raphael Sbarge on social media:

Raphael Sbarge on twitter: @RaphaelSbarge

Raphael Sbarge on Instagram: @raphaelsbarge

Raphael Sbarge website: http://raphaelsbarge.com/

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