Whether the piece is classical, contemporary or somewhere in between, count on Bernard K. Addison to master the role.
The versatile performer, who has excelled in dozens of Shakespearean and Greek plays during his long career, takes on a modern character in “Water By the Spoonful,” a Center Theater Group production running at the Mark Taper Forum through March 11.
“Spoonful,” set in an online chat room, examines the lives of various recovering crack cocaine addicts and Addison portrays Chutes&Ladders, a man who struggles to abstain from drugs even after 10 years of sobriety. As the play progresses, the audience learns how his addiction negatively impacted his family and although now sober, continues to affect other areas of his life.
“Chutes&Ladders has been an interesting role. The play is a beautifully constructed piece and it’s a piece that gets under your skin. The people in recovery in this chat room are doing their best to put the pieces back together and are making strides,” said Addison.
“Each character has had some kind of rejection by their family. Even though you get to meet these characters and see they are working their butts off, when they are confronted with their family, their family only see them as on dope and that makes it very hard for them to connect. So they have created their own family,” he explained.
Addison’s convincing depiction of the character is no surprise considering the variety of roles in his resume. He has appeared in a range of plays such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “The Ballard of Emmett Till” and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” His recent television credits include “Modern Family” and “Rake,” and a Walmart commercial. On film, he acted in “Celebrity” and “The Farm.”
In addition, he teaches at Los Angeles High School of the Arts and Cortines High School of the Visual and Performing Arts as well as conducts workshops in theatre arts, voice and speech, audition techniques, and playwriting with elementary, middle and high school children.
“I’ve had this wonderful symbiotic relationship between the academic world and the professional acting world,” Addison said. “One of the things I get from my students is they show the mirror of what it means to be a performer, what it means to take a risk, to be scared, not quite understand something.
“As I help them through those things, I’m actually teaching myself how to handle those things that happen in the professional world. Every actor has some moment of insecurity, not sure of what they’re doing and hoping it goes well, playing it safe. I’ve learned not to play it safe with my students because that’s what I encourage them not to do.”
Addison has experienced both success and longevity in his profession and along the way, learned two valuable lessons that he passes along to his students and others desiring an acting career.
“Acting 101 – learning how to use your body, how to use your voice – is key. Learn the basics. Once you get down the foundation, you will become a more flexible performer,” he advised.
He also recommends learning about the business side of performing by taking an economics class to avoid getting “ burned as an artist.” And Addison urges actors to “stay current” on the trends in the industry.
“The more modern plays ironically are coming to me now at this stage of my life and that’s been quite interesting to see that part of myself come to fruition,” he noted. “It’s good that a lot of platforms have changed to be creative and commercialized that you have a little more ownership of your work and that’s great.”
For information about “Water By the Spoonful,” visit CenterTheatreGroup.org. To learn about Bernard K. Addison, visit bernardkaddison.com.