From a Director's Perspective - Observations on "Altman's Last Stand"

A multi-award winning director, producer, and actor, Charles Haid directs the world premiere of ALTMAN’S LAST STAND, which opens on February 6, 2016. Haid is well known for his iconic roles and directorial stints in “Hill Street Blues,” “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” multiple movies-of-the-week, and other TV shows too numerous to mention (including “Breaking Bad,” “CSI,” and “Criminal Minds”). Haid has many Emmy nominations under his belt – as well as a Humanitas Prize-winning TV movie, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award nomination, and a DGA win. Haid was interviewed on 1/18/16 for his personal thoughts and perspectives on his latest directorial project, ALTMAN’S LAST STAND.

 

HOW DID YOU COME INTO CONTACT WITH ALTMAN’S LAST STAND? WHEN YOU ORIGINALLY READ ALTMAN’S LAST STAND, WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE PLAY? WHAT DREW YOU TO IT? 

The play was brought to me by Michael Laskin, who now stars as Franz Altman in this production. I knew Michael from when I directed the film “Iron Will” 20 years ago, and I thought that he was a great actor. On top of that, the play was written by the talented writer Charles Dennis. I was also attracted to the Eastern Jewish experience. I’ve read all of Isaac Singer and stories about shtetl life. One of my idols in photography is Andre Kertesz. He’s an interesting man who escaped the Holocaust and became world-renowned. He was an inspiration to me, and I used him in my research for a directorial approach.  This is a play about a Jewish man from a wealthy Austrian Jewish family and goes all the way up to when he’s 90. I remember Kertesz’s images of this time period, a reflection of the past century. It’s a story about those who survived 

I always want to explore the total experience. There’s a certain way of looking at the world and bringing words to life. The power of the play attracted me, and I employed black and white photography and a subtitle sound design to reflect that style. The play is about an urban development group who want to close down his shop, and he fights them. And he finds a way to win. A young reporter interviews him, and the audience becomes the young reporter. The story of his life is funny and magic.  

I know people who were in the Jewish Air Force and was intrigued by what’s on their doors and walls. They have pictures of camps; and, above the door, they have a mezuzah and the words, “Never Again.” This show hits the nail on the head. You understand the mentality of the people who lost all. The seed is planted in Altman. The play reflects a rich life of personal struggle and of ultimate triumph. 

WHAT DID YOU FIND WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF DIRECTING THIS PRODUCTION? 

That fact that it’s so intimate, and that the material is so powerful. But it can’t be obvious. You have to keep the subtlety alive. Keep it alive, but don’t preach. And keep the human touch too. I knew I was treading on a big subject. I wanted to bring the intimacy of human perspective to that experience. It’s important that Franz Altman doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He doesn’t apologize, and he does not yield.

 

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WORK WITH THE ACTOR, MICHAEL LASKIN, WHO PLAYS FRANZ ALTMAN? 

Michael Laskin was an open book. We could work intimately. He’s willing to take enormous risks. He gets all that material and makes sense of it. My job is to support him. He has tremendous passion for the material. I’m having a wonderful time working with him. He’s multi-faceted; he runs deep…and this is a deep story. 

AS A DIRECTOR, WHAT DO YOU HOPE THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL TAKE AWAY FROM THIS SHOW? 

An understanding of the human condition, and the triumph of the human spirit. The subject has many layers. Everybody will come away with, I hope, a spiritual experience. We’re storytellers in the theater, chroniclers of whatever goes on in the world and the lessons to be learned. We want people to learn from direct human encounters with our work. We want to touch people’s souls. 

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FUTURE PLANS? 

I am directing and producing films and a potential TV series about a group of men who have been playing street basketball for 30 years. They’re every race and type. When I saw them playing together, I was drawn to them and what they represented. The tentative title is “Homecourt.” It’s a documentary.

 

ALTMAN’S LAST STAND opens at 8 p.m. on February 6, 2016 and runs through March 13, 2016 at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $25. For reservations, call 323-960-4412 or go online at www.plays411.com/altman.

 

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