Company Profiles: Greg Marzullo

This is the sixth in a series of posts profiling our company members — get to know the Synetic family of actors. I sent a few questions out to some company members, and their responses, as well as some info on the actor, can be found in this series. Enjoy!

What will he do with his hair NEXT?

Greg Marzullo. I totally stole your pic off of FB, gregoriko.

Today’s profile is of one of our veterans (we’re barely old enough to be a veteran theater company, however, so this says very little about his age, right Greg?). Were I to go into detail about all the roles he has played in Synetic, I might run out of bandwidth (much the same as with his Other Half, Mr. P. Fletcher). Recent roles have included Virgil in Dante, Roderick Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher, Dr. Faust in Faust, Jonathan Harker in 2005’s Dracula, Jason in Jason and the Argonauts, Herod in Salome, Serpent/Cain in The Bohemians, and Laertes in several incarnations of Hamlet…the rest is silence …to name a few.

1. Where are you from? What is your training?

I mostly grew up in New England, although right before high school, my family moved to Maryland. I attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, a high school-level program, where students studied their standard academics for four hours each day and then their art major for four hours. It was only later, when I was out in the professional world of theater, that I realized how well that schooling served me. We studied different theatrical techniques with the same vigor and focus as college-level conservatory programs, and I credit the teachers there with laying a wonderful foundation for me as an artist.

2. What was it like to start working with Synetic? How was it different from your other experiences?

I began working with Paata and Irina in the fall of 2001, shortly before they launched Synetic (spring 2002). They were still part of Stanislavsky Theater Studio at Church Street Theater in Dupont. I was 24 at the time and searching for a theatrical experience that lived up to my visions of theater as a hypnotic, physical expression of our collective inner landscape (although I probably wouldn’t have put it this way at the time!).
Irina was about 8 months pregnant with their daughter, and “Don Quixote” was being remounted. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 struck shortly after we began training, and Washington was rife with military personnel and rumors of people in hospitals succumbing to strange chemical agents that would claim everyone in a short period of time. So, the time was intense, and yet the training and artistic expressions developed by Paata and Irina helped to ground and focus the tumultuous goings-on of the world into something that was life affirming and deeply fulfilling.
My first Synetic show was everyone’s first Synetic show – “Hamlet…the rest is silence.” I remember standing in the wings during a rehearsal and thinking, “I love this play,” shortly followed by the realization that the version of the story we were telling was not the standard play but was so deeply true to Shakespeare’s vision and brilliance. Opening night was nerve-wracking, because who knew how it would be received? After that success, things began to unfold, not without pain and struggle, but certainly with excitement and inspiration.

Synetic does some of the best theater around – hands down. I personally love that they focus on physical expression as the main mode of communication. The body doesn’t lie. We see this in people’s physical bearing as well as in their patterns of physical tension. I think Paata and Irina both have an unparalleled asthetic sense that’s also highly emotionally attuned. All of the roiling emotions that writhe and pulse within our bodies are then writ large on stage through their vision, and audiences connect with the surrealistic nature of this not because it’s just a cool visual, but because it reflects an inner truth we carry within us.

As Roderick Usher in "The Fall of the House of Usher" (with Irina Koval)

On a personal level, I love working with the company, because Paata turned me into the actor I’d always hoped I’d become. His skill as a director is remarkable. He allows me the freedom to play and then knows how to communicate with me in a way that I can best serve the work and his vision, which I trust implicitly.

3. Do you have a favorite role?

I have a few favorite roles with the company, but I think the top prize goes to Virgil in “Dante.” That show was the culmination of a dream I’d had since I was 15 and first read “L’Inferno.” As a young acting student, I remember thinking what a great piece of drama it could be and I’d hoped that I could be part of a stage production some day.
I spoke with Paata about doing the show about four years before it actually happened. The right cast wasn’t assmebled at that time, but it finally all came together so amazingly – again, not without some of the roughest artistic birth pains I’ve experienced, but what a child to bring into the world!
I was also really happy to play Virgil himself. There are some silmilarities between Virgil and myself, not the least of which was that he had romantic relationships with men all his life. This gave me license to play a bit with his gender expression as being a bit more androgynous. Some scholars feel that the ancient Italian poet was also an initiate and devotee of the goddess Cybele, whose male priests often dressed in women’s clothing and participated in wild, ecstatic rites of dance and song. This also inspired me to portray him as a mystic, a poet, and someone trapped in a cruelly patriarchal spiritual construct.

Other than Virgil, other favorites were Herod in “Salome,” the Serpent/Cain in “Bohemians” and Roderick Usher in “Fall of the House of Usher.”

As Virgil in "Dante"

As Virgil in "Dante"

4. Any crazy stories from rehearsal, performance, etc.?

Given the physicalized nature of the shows, injury is always a problem. I point to my Synetic scars like an old war vet, telling people, “This is from the ladders in ‘Host & Guest,'” “This is from when I tore a large patch off my skin in ‘Jason & the Argonauts,'” etc.
One great thing about Synetic training is that we’re always doing improvisational work, and thank God, because it’s served me well when things have gone awry on stage. During “Dante,” the lights came down very early during a scene where souls in Virgil’s own circle of hell writhed and suffered on specific music cues. The lights went down on all of them leaving a center spot downstage that became a light for me to turn that stretch of music into Virgil’s Divine Punishment Ballet – some random movement improv on my account.
At the end of “Jason & the Argonauts,” as Medea was dancing around the bodies of her dead children, I, as Jason, would run in circles around her, having completely lost my mind. Slick shoes + carpet = a nasty fall, but I turned that into some rolling around on the floor in Jason’s Madness Floor Ballet.
The legend, though, is the opening of “Bohemians,” one of Paata and Irina’s most creative pieces, I think. On the day of opening, Paata called me at 3 a.m. and said, “Don’t go to your children’s show today. I cancelled it. Come to the theater. I’m changing the ending.” This was no minor change. The entire storyline was completely transformed, new choreography created, and in a place where I thought I was finished, I now was the featured storlyine for that entire ending. It came off swimmingly, and, again, Paata’s instinct was right on. After that, I never had any fear about going on without enough preparation, and I learned a great lesson in non-attachment. The show’s not finished until the curtain comes down on opening night.

Thanks for the hand, Virge.

Thanks for the hand, Virge.


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~ by synetictheater on November 10, 2009.

2 Responses to “Company Profiles: Greg Marzullo”

  1. Greg what wil be your next show or the character you’d love to do it

  2. Hey, Dzigda,

    Perhaps it’s in my blood, but I love the ancient Mediterranean stories – the Greeks, the Italians. They’re all so incredibly rich, and very often they allow for a broad emotional expression, that is often forbidden to men from other cultures (some have been known to call them drama queens, right, Philip?).

    Thanks, Ben, for publishing this, and for readers, head off to see Dracula this weekend – I know I’m going!

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