Ty Boice, Theatrical Force & Inspiration

December 10, 2015

I’m beginning a series of interviews with people from various fields to discuss inspiration, creativity, resilience, motivation, and more.  


I decided to start with Ty Boice, an actor, artistic director, and producer.  He’s been in the theatre scene in Portland for several years, and is moving on to new opportunities in Seattle and Washington.  I first met Ty when the theatre company he founded, Post5 Theatre, was just getting started.  I was doing interviews of area artists for a radio program at the time, and was fortunate enough to get that assignment.


Full disclosure:  I had trouble with the first part of our call recording, so I do not have a lot of Ty’s direct dialogue until later in the interview.  Live and learn with technology…  And, I am a season ticket holder and ardent supporter and admirer of Post5 and all its company members.  


Post5, through Ty’s artistic vision, has produced extremely memorable, engaging, creative and successful plays, and I wanted to learn more about his inspiration, how he manages a difficult schedule, and family life with an equally busy wife, Cassandra Boice, also an amazing actor, director and creative force, a young son (9 months old at this writing, and also an amazingly sweet force already).  


Ty grew up in a remote part of southern Oregon, three hours from the nearest freeway, in a town that had no theatre.  At 21 years old, he received free tickets to go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland, and that sparked his interest which became his passion.


As the youngest of four sons in a very athletic and outdoor-oriented family, he was surrounded by storytellers.  As an athlete, he learned how to be successful in both individual and team competition, and developed a drive to achieve and grow from that.  He was searching for his own path separate of what his family was involved in, and he found acting a really great and creative outlet.  


Post5 Theatre began with the vision of making Shakespeare accessible to people like never before.  It was very ambitious.  He and the other founders, Orion Bradshaw and Alex Klein, also stellar actors, wanted to provide productions for free, and set plays in contemporary times to help people more readily connect with Shakespeare’s brilliant stories and texts.  


I asked Ty what was it about Shakespeare that reached him and made him take on this mission:  “The challenge, the love is his words, the pyrotechnic poetry.”  He also sees himself as an advocate for the work of Shakespeare, to help it touch people the way it touched him.


If you’ve ever been fortunate to see Ty in a Post5 production, you know he has amazing comedic timing, really physical comedy, and has created outrageously hilarious scenes that stick with you.  I asked him where his ability to find comedy in any role, came from:  He spoke of how being the youngest of four boys, he often became the punch line of jokes, and the center of his brothers’ antics, and he learned to get comfortable with that.  And, to accept and laugh at his own his bumbles and  blunders. He also thought being an athlete a lot of his life contributed to a sense of timing.  “Being willing to examine that part of the human condition and be willing to distort it and get comfortable with people laughing at you.  That was very fun for me early on, and like I said, growing up the youngest of four boys and being the butt of a lot of jokes.”


Who are your idols, in either acting or directing:  "It’s ever changing. But as far as stage actors, I’ve gotten to work with some of them lately, but seeing Charles Legget very early on, before I’d ever spoken a word of Shakespeare, I got to see him as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” at Seattle Shakespeare Company, it was so effortless how he spoke that text yet he was heard.  He was magnificent. I’ve gotten to work with him twice now. The other would be Dan Donahue of the OSF. I really, really enjoy his irreverence with text in some classical titans, and his clarity is something I really enjoy.  As far as directors go, I’m a huge fan of Bill Rauch of the OSF, not only how he is as a director but also what he’s done with the companies he’s been involved, his desire to create equity, to bring in multiculturalism storytelling, has been really, really cool, and if I’m trying to chase somebody’s shadow, he’s someone I just greatly admire and I hope to affect as many people as he has with his work in the theatre.  Lately my work with John Langs at ACT in Seattle.  He also happened to direct that production of “The Merchant of Venice” I mentioned Dan Donahue was in.  He’s a tremendous storyteller.  He’s terrific in the room, too, how he works to bring us all along on the journey. I have great respect for him and am lucky enough to be working with him in the spring.”  


You started Post5 with your friends, after a couple years, you met your future wife, Cassandra Schwanke Boice, a fellow actor, director and producer, you two got married, and then earlier this year you had your son, the most adorable Keaton Boice.  How did life change for you as an actor and director; I know that’s a potentially huge conversation, but how would you summarize that:  “It’s been insightful, and it’s spurred on parts of me.  Cassandra is a brilliant artist, and she has had a great influence on my work.  She’s very different, she’s very different in how she goes about her work, her skill set is very different than mine, so I get the privilege of benefitting from that.  I get to say, ‘hey, take a look at this, what do you think of this,’ and she in turn will ask me to do the same for her work, and so it creates a really neat union as far as working and art, and of course we’ve had to learn now to not step on each other’s toes and how to work with each other and how we like to work, and when it’s an appropriate time to offer something and when you wait to be asked, and that kind of thing.  But it’s great.  Now she’s a huge part of my artistic landscape, and she is so worthy of joining oneself to her as an artist, she has so much to offer and so much to give.  It’s certainly can be interesting, at times there can be two captains, and a new marriage and a new partnership that we have artistically, you find your ways to best navigate that and how to best work together."



And your son, Keaton?  “Keaton’s great...  He really does change factors, as in, if you’re doing this, and I’m doing this, how do we carve out time for a family, it makes it interesting and challenging.  It’s really beautiful. We’re proud he gets to be brought up in this kind of community that we’re in.  We’re both producers so oftentimes we get to hand pick or hand tailor the environment that we bring him into, and that’s really cool.  He’s got a thousand aunts and uncles that love him.  He’s never not entertained, never starved for attention.  We know that he’s going to see us pursuing something we love to do, and it is a unique lifestyle, and all in all we’re very proud of that.  It’s certainly challenging but we’re very proud of him."


How do you work through the exhaustion of it all, because ever since I’ve known you you’ve gone 100 miles an hour 9 days a week.  How do you do it, how do you stay resilient?  " (Laughs.) Pursuing it as a living, and pursuing it in a realistic way is really important.  I don’t know that I could have run Post5 like I was any longer than I did, having now a marriage and a family.  There definitely was a shifting of gears that needed to happen and did happen. I think now we pursue project that pay a living wage, putting ourselves in scenarios where we can make this thing work, we can continue on this road.  If you love something you’re going to work hard at it, you’re going to work hard for it.  The pursuit of something you love to give something to somebody else, you really can’t ask for anything more from an occupation.  But now we’ll get more realistic with the kind of things we can go after.  We’re definitely going to work smarter.  We’ll always work hard but we’ll make sure we’re not burning ourselves out.  And sometimes that happens and you can’t even forecast that, you just have to be willing to make a change, and that’s what happened with Post5.  A wonderful thing, we’re very proud of it, and it was time to go."  


When did you know it was time to go (as artistic and creative directors)?   "Well, I think it had to do with the community as much as it had to do with looking at Portland as a theatre community.  It’s been good to us, we’re very thankful.  But it just wasn’t for us.  Watching the progress of art being made and how that was received and how that was furthered, it became apparent that this is not the place to put down roots."  


How did you arrive at what you’re doing now?  "Looking around, and seeing that there’s so much theatre in Portland per capita, and it’s not a huge theatre town in that there’s not a lot of audience, and there’s even less funding.  So we quickly thought, we’re young enough and it’s a couple years before Keaton goes to school, let’s take a look around and see what else is out there."  


What is your bigger vision as you look ahead?  Acting and directing both, in the next year, or five years?  "It really is where opportunity knocks.  And I love love love directing, and it’s a craft that I’m even newer at than acting, and something that deserves a great deal of time and respect.  So I think that I’ll continue directing, sure.  I’m enjoying working with various directors right now, so I’m learning in that regard, and I’m going to give myself this opportunity to further my education and continue growing in that regard. As far as five or ten year plan, those are tricky.  I think that as long as I’m helping to develop new audiences and people that don’t know necessarily they have access to see live theatre, and telling the kind of stories that I’m convicted about, whether that be a new play, or a Shakespeare play or whatever it may be, as long as I’m making, creating an open door for people to come enjoy it and access it, I think that I’ll be really happy.  To continue on the track on I’m now and continue to progress and grow."  


So it is theatre, it’s not jumping over to film?  "You know, everybody keeps talking to me about that, and one of these days I’m going to be like, you know, I’m going to go try and do this thing.  Everybody’s been trying to get me to move to L.A. forever, and I just don’t know.  I’ve never had a big burning desire to do that.  If I thought I could, it’s just like directing and acting, it’s its own craft and discipline and you have to really work at it so, with film… I see my friends that are working in film and they’re doing it successfully down in L.A. or wherever and they work very hard to know the ins and outs, and I think, the intricacies of that kind of storytelling and so I have a lot of respect for that, and I kind of what to be able to know what I’m doing before I assume I can jump into it.  But yeah, maybe I’ll do that, get that wild hair and want to pour myself into that kind of work.  Right now it hasn’t happened but I’m not ruling it out in the future."


What do you do outside of theatre to stay inspired and live life?  "My family.  I love people, I love being around people.  It’s the best thing ever.  I just especially love putting myself around good energy and absorbing that energy and meeting new people and getting to know them and their stories.  That’s always been an inspiration to me.  And hanging out with my kid.  He is magnificent... he’s a magnificent little guy, and he wakes up and he just wants to play and he’s always got the big smile on his face when he sees me. That’s what I like to do with my time, is hang out with that guy."


What are you working on now?  "I’ve become the Associate Artistic Director of Island Stage Left (a non-profit theatre company located on San Juan Island, WA), which is kind of a lengthy interview to take over as the Artistic Director.  They’ve got one very capable Artistic Director here now and she’s amazing, Helen Machin-Smith, and she’s getting to a point in her life where she’s done this for quite a long time and she wants to find a suitable replacement to carry on her work and her dream, so that will be a seasonal gig for me.  I’ll continue to pursue other work in the off season, winter months, and will work up here in the spring, summer and early fall."


Upcoming productions? "I’m in “Shining City” up here right now, which is a play by Conor McPherson, and I return back down to Portland to do a play, in the title role of Joe Bonaparte in Clifford Odets’ “Golden Boy” in Portland at Lakewood Theatre, and then I come back up here to Friday Harbor to do a play called “Venus in Fur”, directed by John Langs (Artistic Director of ACT Theatre in Seattle).  And then I’m playing Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” up here.  


And your wife, Cassandra?  "She’s going to be in “Venus in Fur” with me at Island Space Left, and she’s also at looking directing plays this summer.  Excited to act together again."


Ty Boice, Cassandra Boice, ACT Seattle, Intiman Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Post5 Theatre, Island Stage Left. John Langs, Bill Rauch, Dan Donohue, Charles Legget, Orion Bradshaw, Portland Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival



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