Artist of the Month-March-Andy Chworowsky

This month's AOM is Andy Chworowsky. Andy is well known as a public speaker, emcee, actor and jack of all trades who also treads the boards in Hong Kong. He is currently playing in Love Letters at Brave Heart Theatre through March 14th. Raised in Hong Kong but trained overseas, Andy is a great example of a "made in HK" talent.
1. Name, Birthplace, Age:
Andy Chworowsky; Milwaukee, Wisconsin: extremely late extreme as to, strictly speaking, be in the low 50s.
2. How does where you're raised affect your work?
I was raised in Hong Kong. This probably manifests itself as realism regarding the financial viability of a life in the arts.  You're bucking the odds anywhere in the world, more-so (by a huge factor) here.
3. Where did you train?
I did a lot of theater while in university at Cornell.  But, I was in the Hotel School, so it would be a stretch to claim that was formal training.  They have a decent theater department and I got the chance to learn from a lot of talented people simply by osmosis...but I guess that's true no matter where you are.  Well,  at least, if you surround yourself with good people.  It's just as easy (easier, no?) to pick up bad habits as good.

4. What is your favorite style of theater?  
Good Theater.  

Sorry, I don't mean to sound flippant, but I think that's like asking "what's your favorite kind of book cover?"  What matters is how the contents are put together.  OK,  I would probably raise an eyebrow before agreeing to see a one-man show about double-entry accounting with no set or costumes delivered in Esperanto, but, until I see it...actually, come to think of it, I WOULD go see that show.  My point is, Shakespeare can be great in the right hands and awful in the wrong ones.  Same holds true for a murder mystery, French farce, Broadway musical, whatever.  If it's done well, with commitment, and it transports's my favorite for that moment.

5. What was the best show you EVER saw?  
"Best" is a tough word to work with, but probably the most memorable was Man of la Mancha, with Richard Kiley.  I saw the touring company in Philadelphia when I was 13 years old.  It was memorable because I was allowed to go all alone, my uncle bought me a seat right up front and it was the first "big professional" show I'd ever seen.  I couldn't believe they did this 8 times a week.  It seemed that they should have had to recuperate for a week after every performance!

Two other standout shows I saw were Angels in America and An Inspector Calls -- both on Broadway.  The former was (at the time) very avant garde for Broadway; and the latter, a stodgy morality piece written in the 20's, was adapted and revived with gasp-worthy staging.  Both melded incredible technical stage craft with top-of-the-food-chain performances and direction.  They were both perfect examples of what you can (and should) do if you find yourself blessed with virtually unlimited talent and funding.  (There are many more examples of what not to do; eg. probably more than half of everything else that makes it to a big theater in NYC.)

6. What was the best show in HK you EVER saw? (You cannot say your own.)
Another tough question without having the word "best" defined.  I was impressed with the staging of Richard III with what's his name from House of Cards but i swear I had a lot more fun at a few of the Molly's Music Halls that (I think) Garrison Players used to to do years and years ago.  Don't get me wrong, of course Richard III was flawlessly put together, and Kevin Spacey is as good as it gets, but for just pure, genuine, raw, earnest enthusiasm, well, this can be a talent in and of itself...maybe not acting, singing or dancing talent...but still entertaining.  Here's an illustration:  Look up Maria Callas singing Queen of the Night on Youtube.  Brilliant, right?  Now look up Florence Foster Jenkins singing the same aria.  Now, which will you be telling everybody to listen to?  Now, there's impact.

7. What piece of work are you the most proud of? (please include photo, if possible)
Probably the first leading role I had, as Buttons in the Christmas Panto, Cinderalla.  This was for the long-defunct British forces club, Theatre 51.  I was 14 years old, the only American in sight, and It was by far the biggest part in the show.  It felt good and I felt grown up having that responsibility.  Also, I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the cast who wasn't totally shitfaced by the second act.

8. What is your process like?
I don't think I've really thought about it.  I guess I go big to small, making sure I understand what sense needs to be made with a line to support the plot.  Then, decide through rehearsal what subtexts might reasonably be assumed, and then usually by the 9th or 10th performance, decide on one.  If it's a character role...I guess I decide on someone I have known who is closest to the character and try to inhabit that.  That sounds pretentious and isn't entirely true.  I guess I play with the mannerisms until something feels right...or makes someone laugh.

9. What is your dream project?
When I was in my early 20s, with Actor's Rep, we did a yearly satirical review taking the piss out of politics, society types, local TV, anything that stuck in our craw.  They were called, Skitsoid, Bastoid (Son of Skitsoid), and Paranoid.  For 3 years, we had an amazing confluence of talent driving this thing.  Stuart Wolfendale, Harry Rolnick, Teresa Norton and the late Barry Bakker writing sketches and lyrics, with Peter Lally writing the most amazing original music.  Teresa, Stuart, Hugh Trethowan, Hilary King, Jenny Tarren and myself all performed in them over the years.  We had other performers, Seppie Hope (nee Vale) and Sheelagh Cullen providing back of house support along with our full-time business administrator, Mary Connell.  Putting the shows together, work-shopping sketches, even choreographing "dance" numbers had us more often than not howling with laughter -- and we would sellout 400 seat venues for weeks in a row.  And it would set us up for the rest of the year to put on good but maybe more challenging theater that perhaps had less drawing power.  It was a great setup.
Sorry, what was the question?  Oh, right, dream project. It would be great to try and recapture that.  Not only does Hong Kong need a VERY heavy dose of stop-taking-yourself-so-damn-seriously, but selfishly, to work in that collaborative environment with really funny and really talented people like that again would be a dream.
10. If you could change anything about the art scene in Hong Kong, what would it be?
Venues.  We need more of them, managed well, and in good locations. I have no suggestions on how to achieve this though.

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