Acting Thesis Interview: Where Do We Live

BY Devon Kidd, November 15, 2019

Columbia MFA Acting Thesis Where Do We Live brings conversation around sexuality, relationships, and community to the forefront. For the second of two thesis productions featuring the Columbia MFA Actors presented at Lenfest this November, 20-23, Where Do We Live examines the path to self-expression and identity in the face of oppression.


We sat down with cast member Clayton David McInerney to discuss decompressing when performing heavy material, his aspirations, and Where Do We Live.


When you found out that you would be acting in Where Do We Live for your thesis piece, what steps did you take to prepare?


Clayton McInerney: I was in Edinburgh, Scotland doing a show when casting was announced.  Luckily, I had a copy of the play so I rushed to read it that night after the performance. I’m a history buff so my first interest was to read up on the events and experiences of New Yorkers on September 11th and LGBTQ stories from this uniquely troubled time. A generation of young men were coming of age who had not personally experienced the fear and trauma of the epidemic two decades before and subsequently there was a rise in HIV rates in the city in the early 2000’s. Given that this production is happening in the 50th Anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots it was important to me to take a retrospective look back at the events that led to where we are now. There is a particular need in the here and now to be asking the questions this play asks.

What has it been like to rehearse for Where Do We Live?


CM: As Ron, our director, has said, we don’t have a lot of time so we have to work slowly. We started our process with table work, thoroughly examining the text, sharing our own personal stories of September 11th and discussing what community and empathy really mean. 


Because of the intimacy the play requires, we have been working with Intimacy Director Alicia Rodis. This has been a new addition to the rehearsal process for me personally. The intimacy is choreographed and methodically marked before every run. Ideally, sex on stage or screen should never be gratuitous, there is always a story being told and that is our job as actors in the production, with the creative team we build the intimate choreography but then we work within that choreo to create the story.  


Can you share some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits about performing in Where Do We Live?


CM: Our amazing Stage Manager Kait Mahoney sends out quotes in the report after each rehearsal and they usually become hilarious memes among the cast and crew. We’ve all learned a lot about each other in the rehearsal room. I think that is a sign of the enormous trust we all share. Plus there is always great music playing from the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. 


How do you decompress as an actor when you must perform heavy subject material?


CM: With this kind of work that is very intimate and physical I am finding it important to have a check-out process with the other actors. To remind ourselves that at the end of the performance we are friends and classmates, regardless of what the text demands of us. It’s an amazing group of actors so we all take care of one another and allow each other whatever is needed to decompress so we can keep this up run after run. 



What kind of work do you see yourself making in five years?


CM: I’d be very happy if I could keep making work like this! Well told, beautifully written, meaningful stories that demand talented directors, curious actors, and engaged audiences.  


Finish this sentence, if I was not an actor I'd be a "_______ because ______."


CM: A spy because isn’t danger so exciting? I wrote to the CIA when I was a kid to see if they were hiring. They wrote back but sadly there was no job offer made. Obviously I wouldn’t be a very good spy because I talk about it too much. Maybe that would make me a good double agent though…

Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 8:00PM
Thursday, November 21, 2019, 8:00PM
Friday, November 22, 2019, 8:00PM
Saturday, November 23, 2:00pm, 8:00pm

By Christopher Shinn
Directed by Ron Van Lieu

It's August, 2001. The stock market is humming. Rudy Giuliani is cleaning up New York City. Drugs and sex are pervasive. Love is hard to come by. Suspicion of "the other" is rampant. A group of young New Yorkers are looking to define themselves. Christopher Shinn's Where Do We Live explores all of this with compassion and humor; a rare opportunity to see this 2005 Obie Award-winning play by one of America's most incisive writers.