SPACE: What is the company name and project that you have been working on at SPACE on Ryder Farm?

Alejandro: Well, I am the recipient of the ASTEP scholarship, which it is also the first time it has been granted. Artist Struggling To End Poverty is a nonprofit based in New York that operates all around the world [in sites both in New York and Florida, as well as in India and Africa] and we bring the arts to underserved communities. This is the first year that ASTEP has partnered with Ryder Farm to give one of our volunteers an opportunity to develop a creative project here and I was very grateful to be awarded that scholarship, so I have come to develop a one man show for myself entitled Shook Ones, and I have developed two characters of a potential six.

SPACE: So, that kind of covers where you are in the process here, but would you like to describe the two characters?

Alejandro: Ultimately the piece functions as a sort of photo gallery of these portraits of twenty somethings in America at a place of questioning ‘what next’ - actually, probably a subtitle would be “what’s next?” The first two young men that I have been exploring here at Ryder Farm, and that I’ve developed material for are Antonio, who is a 26 year old employee at a cellular device shop in the Heights, born and raised in NY by Dominican parents. The other young man is named Logan Meyers, and he is originally from Phoenix but has been living in Zuccotti Park as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement for 4 months. I’ve got about 10 minutes worth of material for each of the characters, and i’m in the process now of editing, revising, and beginning to stage it.

SPACE: How have you spent your time at SPACE besides just developing the two characters?

Alejandro: I have done a number of things both related to my project as well as sort of related to the farm and the going ons here that have been actually influential in my creative process. Related to Shook Ones, I have been obviously writing material and putting it up, along with filming myself to get an idea of what these characters look and sound like in space. I have utilized my colleagues here who are in residence, and their artistry has also been so helpful. I’ve been interviewed as my two characters and sort of allowed to improv in those two personas, and I’ve used the stage, as I said before, to begin putting these characters up on their feet and exploring what space they live in and where they might be talking from in these monologues. Indirectly related to the project and more related to Ryder Farm, I have helped build a dock with Bleeker Wheeler which we just pushed into the water last night. I’ve enjoyed some incredible, fresh, healthy and delicious meals prepared for us with love by the staff here.
SPACE: Working on [liking] salads?
Alejandro: Yes, I'm also building up my palate and tasting new healthy options…I had pesto pasta for the first time this afternoon which is a huge triumph. In addition to that, the conversation has been equally delicious. I’ve been very grateful to be in the company of some great writers and performers as well as some amazing cooks and directors, and we have talked about everything from the NBA playoffs to Herman Melville’s legacy and whether or not he can be considered handsome by contemporary standards.
 
SPACE: How do you see your project proceeding from this residency?

Alejandro: I plan on adding at least three more characters by the end of this summer to my existing two.

SPACE: Do you know what you have in mind for them?

Alejandro: I know the next gentleman, well I have the next three in mind, but the next young man is named Stephen Harper Jackson and he’s from North Texas. He has recently arrived from two tours in Afghanistan, so he’s a young vet. I’m hopefully going to be getting to meet him - or starting to meet him - I know thats a funny way to talk about people who I will be playing, but its the way I think about it, I mean I don’t know him very well now, but I hope to grow more familiar with him. Actually, i’ll immediately start to work on it, but at the same time I’m going to be bringing the work that I’ve done at Ryder back to my community in NY and start to get helpful feedback in terms of both the material I’m writing for them as well as how I’m putting it up in terms of theatrical presentation. So I’m hoping that within the next 2 weeks I will have set aside some studio space and invited a small audience of colleagues and peers in NY who I know can give me some helpful feedback, and I’ll share the work I have put together here at Ryder farm, you know, the voices of Antonio and Meyers and hear what they think about it and what they think some challenges are as well as some strengths to see where I might proceed. I’ll be simultaneously putting up the existing work to refine it, as well as developing new material, and hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll have five characters done and maybe begin a process of seeking production or workshop opportunities.

SPACE: If you came back in another life and were a vegetable or farm animal, what would you be?

Alejandro: Oh, I would be one of those amazing chickens. Well there’s that one rooster and all his damsels, but I have sort of studied the chickens, and they are amazing clowns. And when they emerge from their encaged area, they look like they’ve been born…you know, like it’s always birth for them. Their head goes up immediately and they look left and right totally shocked and in awe of the planet, and I think that innocence and that bravery that it takes to be born everyday and emerge from your cage and say, what will the world bring me, is fascinating. So yeah, I think I’d be  one of those chickens…but not one that gets consumed…

SPACE: Yes, that’d be sad. Have you enjoyed your time at SPACE?

Alejandro: Immensely… Absolutely.