New York and Thespian Footsteps. A Chat With Zachary Guttman.
Thomas Burns Scully & Sam Jourdan
- OnStage New York Columnist
Acting schools in New York produce a constant flood of new actors. Every few months they release their latest progeny on a city that knows Thespian footsteps all to well. Many get chewed up and spit out. However, many don’t. Plenty of actors muddle through, make their livings and leap from job to job, gig to gig, all the while building their reputations and resumes. One such actor is Zachary Guttman, one of the bright young things to have recently graduated from the Atlantic Acting School. I sat down with him to have a chat about all things acting, and shed a little insight in to the life of a working actor.
What made you chase your passion to study theatre in NYC?
I was in my last semester of Dawson College’s professional theatre in Montreal, my hometown; and I knew I had to make a big step in my career. I juggled between going back to school or dive head-first into the industry. A mentor of mine, a former teacher, told me I should continue school in large acting market where new, creative opportunities would be readily available, once I graduated. I had always been fascinated by the U.S. market and loved the idea of living in a metropolitan area similar to Montreal - New York City’s Atlantic Acting School was the obvious choice for me.
You’ve recently graduated Atlantic Acting School, what have you been up to since you’ve finished?
It’s weird to hear that I’m a graduate! When I started at Atlantic, I hit the ground running - eager to work with as many other creative professionals as I could. Atlantic has a wide and vast network of writers, directors, actors, and professionals alike. I spread myself thin and got involved with as much as humanly possible. I’ve been fortunate enough to have work opportunities in a number of different avenues, in both stage and screen performances.
This led to many cool opportunities - after I graduated, I was cast to perform two back-to-back shows in a theatre festival in Chelsea. In March, I was constantly auditioning for new roles while I played Charles in “Clean House”. I am now in a live theatre production called "The Trial of Mrs. Surratt" which will be touring this summer!
Was it a challenge to transition from education into the real world to find work?
I graduated my program in December 2015. It’s more challenging to find work in January than it is in May or June. The real adjustment for me was filling my schedule with auditions, meetings, and consistent work. I was used to getting up everyday to go to school and now it’s the grind and hustle that I rely on to get me up in the morning!
In that vein, how supportive are you of your fellow thespians in New York?
The acting community in New York is just fantastic, I've met some of the most interesting and supportive people in this city.
With absurd theatre, tell me about playing the role of a character where you don’t understand the language.
I did a hilarious absurd theatre show called A Decadent Void. I played Stuart, a man who made a void in space and time. It was an interesting experience that used such heightened and crazy dialogue. The first time I read the play I didn't understand half the of what I was reading, but I got a sense of who this person was. Understanding the character you play is more crucial than the dialogue itself.
In “Love of the Nightingale”, what was it like to play an eight-year old boy?
I had the absolute best time playing an eight year old boy! It was just a great opportunity to let my childish side come out. It was almost too hard to go too big! Our costumes for the production had a similar feel to that of Mad Max - I was essentially playing a topless eight-year old boy. I had to change my physicality and my pace to convey to the audience that I was indeed eight. My biggest worry is that the audience would see me in my costume and not fully understand that I was a child.
What are your plans for the near future?
Currently, I'm in a production called "The Trial of Mrs. Surratt". This production will be touring Vermont, Washington, and New York City all summer long, with few breaks. During my downtime, I’m working on a couple web series’ and some new works that I can’t talk about just yet! I'm also writing a TV show with 3 of my best friends which has been such an amazing experience so far! - Stay tuned…
What are your opinions on the theatrical industry in New York and what advice would you give to young actors looking to pursue a career in drama?
I remember the first year I moved to New York, I saw a show that was just so racy for the stage in my opinion but it changed my whole view of the theatre! I was so blown away at what New York artists were doing and what the community was like here. I would say find out what about the arts really gets you going and just follow that feeling to the ends of the earth. The most important lessons to take away is that rejections are not always a bad thing - stay positive and keep hustling because you never know where a failed opportunity may lead you.