An Interview with Tyler Hammond on True West
Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach, FL is gearing up for True West, a searing drama by the late playwright Sam Shepard. We sat down with members of the cast. Here's actor Tyler Hammond, who plays Lee, and his thoughts on the show.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I started acting when I was in high school. I very suddenly became immersed in theatre as I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I went to school for acting and eventually switched to technical theatre. After school I began working as an extra for The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, local branch 115. This was the best decision I ever made as I now work professionally as a cardholder and am involved in theatre practically every day.
Why were you attracted to auditioning for this production? What does it mean to YOU as an artist?
Sam Shepard has been a favorite playwright of mine for years. The authenticity of the characters he writes far exceed our expectations of realism on the stage. With this particular script, the use of opposites is what I love exploring the most as an actor. Where there is resentment between two brothers, there also is nostalgia. Where there is pride between them, there also is jealousy. Lee and Austin appear to be completely different from each other at first but the more time they spend together, the more alike we find their ambitions, their downfalls, and their motivations to be. I love working on a character who is so different than I am. Just as Lee and Austin examine themselves through one another, I too have found similar truths while working on Lee.
Can you tell us a little about the character you're playing?
Lee is one of Sam Shepard’s most coveted roles. He is ruggedly charming and has an unworldly ability to turn his own luck. For all his faults, Lee represents a character that many people wish to be like; someone who doesn’t use much effort, but carries an aura of satisfaction. He is a champion of failures. He is unaffected by the expectations of others, and only motivated by his own gain. He has a fierce passion for doing strictly what he enjoys to do. When he stops enjoying something, he stops the activity altogether. Many of us wish we could act so rashly but such actions carry many consequences. Those are all consequences that Lee embraces: isolation, alcoholism, family estrangement, and many more. He is a rich character that has been an absolute thrill to study.
Why is it important to tell this story?
The story examines the historic west (a sort of adventurous desert shrouded with uncharted territory and mystery) against the modern west (where we find Hollywood producers negotiating movie contracts on the golf course). People today stand firm in their ideas of what America is supposed to be. This play examines the idea that such ideas are as opposite as the old west and today’s.
What is community theatre to you?
Working with local theatre's has been an important aspect in my life. There is an entire community of theatre artists in Jacksonville that solely exists due to the city’s community theatre scene. It provides me a place to do what I love most and continue strengthening my craft.
How has your experience working at PBTS been so far?
This is my first time with PBTS and I have absolutely loved it. The production staff are very accommodating and the studio atmosphere is a great place to grow as an artist. My experience here has been a blessing and I definitely intend to audition here again in the future.
What do you hope audiences leave thinking or feeling after the show is over?
I hope that audiences are greatly affected by what they see. Sam Shepard’s writing has a knack for harboring powerful reactions from his audiences. The stories are perplexing and question the ideas of societal norms. If people leave the show with a profound response than I believe we will have done our job. It doesn’t have to be the same reaction I have had from this show.
See Tyler Hammond in True West here at Players by the Sea from March 15 - March 31. Tickets are available at playersbythesea.org or by calling 904.249.0289.