By Editorial Team
January 25, 2018
“Thinking differently is not enough for me–I want doing differently.”
About Robert Galinsky:
Robert Galinsky is a contributing writer to The Fresh Toast, is Head Speaker Coach for TEDxTeen, TEDxFultonStreet, and teaches writing and performance at Rikers Island Jail, through the non-profit Literacy for Incarcerated Teens and GalinskyCoaching.com. His work asartist-activistvist has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and on The VIEW, NPR, ABC Nightline News and many media outlets.
About The Bench:
“Extraordinary…” Backstage Magazine
“Lovingly Rendered… Scrumptious… Vivid…” Broadway World
Based on true stories, The Bench is set in urban decay and rubble and explores the emotional heartbreak of five homeless characters and the catastrophic hysteria surrounding AIDs in the 1980’s.
It’s a solo theater piece wherein one actor plays five characters, written in dialogue form, as opposed to one actor doing monologues with blackouts.
It’s a script that has been rewritten dozens of times and is the best work I believe that I can bring to our culture right now.
The show gives voice to people relegated to the trash heap and is a window into the real feelings and personalities of those people so that they might reclaim their dignity as human beings.
It is also one result of my breaking away from my destined future as a conservative, white, American male.
In my early twenties, I consciously broke from the comfy confines of the paternal suburban plan and program, and The Bench is one outcome of my freedom and exploration.
Admin: What was your inspiration for standing behind this story? Why this?
The inspiration behind this story is driven by how we often marginalize people in our society and whose voices get lost because they have few advocates to speak for/with them and few channels to be heard from.
I sought conversations on benches, in soup kitchens, in halfway houses, and in shelters and it radicalized me to take some of what I heard and to create something that we all might learn from.
I hope to move people to consider that ALL people have back stories that are valid and that inform the way we operate in society.
If this realization is made by others, I believe every human one comes across will be valued and appreciated.
The significance of one actor playing five characters is based on two ideas.
The first is practicality. It costs an incredible amount of money to put up any show and by reducing the cast to one actor, the costs are dropped significantly.
This also parallels life on the street and the economy of mind that anyone on the street needs to survive and further, thrive.
So inherently, by reducing all costs at all times possible, the parallels to being ‘thrifty’ are clear.There is very little waste with this show and there is very little room for waste on the street as well.
Secondly, after experimenting with the one person format, I discovered that some people walk away from the performance wondering if the one actor on stage is actually performing one character, with multi-personalities i.e.: a mental illness (by the way, 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness.)
Often I walk by homeless people speaking to themselves, and though in passing it seems non-sensical, when you sit and listen for a while, the “babbling” is actually the coherent storytelling of their lives.
So the one-person show concept is a perfect way to bring even more meaning to the condition of the homeless and to alter our views on humanity.
A: According to you, what is the deeper meaning behind traversing through a story about the heartbreak of different homeless people? And what’s the significance of having the setting be the “AIDS epidemic” in the 80s?
The deeper meaning behind traversing the heartbreak of different homeless people is to convey that no matter what storm one has weathered, no matter how ‘out there’ or ‘lost’ someone seems, there is still a spirit, a soul, and a personality that needs expression and is in a joyful state when heard.
In my research and cohabitating with homeless people, I rediscovered that all people are burning to share who they are, what they’ve been through, how it has affected them, how they have failed and succeeded in life.
These experiences all carry some kind of emotional content and I love the exploration of that. And now, we are living in an age where real experiences are not actually valued.
There is a whole generation that can turn to the internet to view experiences as opposed to be in experiences.
We can ‘google’ most anything to find the ‘answer’, to view and participate virtually, and I think it’s important to show that there was a time (the 1980’s in this case) where electronics were not as prevalent as today. Where being and doing were done differently.
I find that most millennials, for example, love the show because the time period elicits interesting language, behavior, and references that are much different than today.
Also, The Bench is so real and gritty and raw that it’s a pleasant shaking and awaking of the senses!
A: Tell us how you got into a theater production. What inspires you and what is your motivation to create theatrical work?
My motivation in creating theatrical work is based on giving the audience a more than worthwhile experience when watching the stage and to motivate them to somehow do something different after they leave the theatre.
Thinking differently is not enough for me–I want doing differently.
I want people agitated, activated, and motivated to go try something new whether it be do a kind deed for someone or a take a personal risk in their own lives.
I got into theatre production because I was exhausted by the bland and commercial ‘art’ and ‘media’ that I see being produced and I felt that taking matters into my own hands was the only way to satisfy my soul and restore the glory of live theatre.
It’s the spontaneity and the unpredictability of being in the room with a plan, some words, and a crowd of friends and strangers that’s fire to me.
Theatre is about planting seeds that an audience will go out and grow, with their own personal flair and panache! So I’m NOT telling you how to do change… I’m just asking you to do change!
You can buy tickets to watch The Bench here!