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New York International Fringe Festival 2012: Night of the Auk Actor and Script Adapter Michael Ross Albert on Space Oddity

Michael Ross Albert, adapter and actor in the restaging of Arch Oboler’s Night of the Auk, recalls that growing up, he took playing seriously.  He says he “planned out all our games of Power Rangers, Batman, and Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad intricately, elaborately, and in advance” for their school recess. So when director Adam Levi approached him regarding Oboler’s Night of the Auk, he thought that the “play is a challenge, yes, but taking it seriously is even more fun than I thought it would be. I get to very seriously pretend to be in a spaceship with my friends. It’s like being a kid all over again.”

Michael Ross Albert and Hannah Timmons
Photo by David Gazzo

The original script and production can be daunting at over 3 hours of run time.  In trimming the original play to a more manageable one for a contemporary audience Albert dove in and “tried to clarify the action of the story, and to put emphasis on its characters and plot.” Along the process Albert found that “Oboler wasn’t so far off. True, the play is full of technological anachronisms (we still can’t make cocktails in space), but his stark vision of the future has, unfortunately, hit very close to the truth. We live in a world where the threat of nuclear war has escalated, where global monopolizing corporations dictate policy, and where greed and corruption continue to obliterate the planet. The world of the play was science fiction in the 1950s; now, it’s the very world we live in.”

Among the main characters in the play is Lewis Rohnen. Albert describes Rohnen as  one who had “life of wealth and leisure, but he’s always been overshadowed by his incredibly influential father.” Thus when Rohnen singlehandedly funded the first mission to the moon following his inheritance, he “he has put so much effort into this project and he just wants it to be perfect.”  This resonates with Albert who plays Rohnen, saying that “it’s actually very similar to the way I feel about producing theatre independently; you work tirelessly, with very few accolades, for very little money, but it’s your driving passion, and you want it to be the biggest and grandest experience it can be.” Rohnen, he says, “isn’t the nicest guy in the world. But he’s also a really lonely man, with very low self-esteem who overcompensates for his feelings of self-doubt by lashing out (sometimes violently) at everyone around him.” In contrast Albert is humbled by the crew of Night of the Auk and consider them as “a huge gift. Not only are we all great friends, but they’re terrific actors. It’s been a delight. And it’s been really intimidating– I feel like I have a lot to live up to.”

This passion that Albert displays finds a home in FringeNYC.  He proudly and emphatically says that “the community I’ve found here is so supportive and so strong. Its producers, interns, and volunteers sacrifice all of their time and effort in order to support other artists. These are the kind of colleagues I want to impress, the kind who lose sleep making sure artists who rarely have a chance to tell their stories get the opportunity to be heard, and celebrated. It is overwhelmingly flattering to be part of this community, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me.”

L-R: Lash Dooley, Hannah Timmons, Suzy Kimball, Brian Rhinehart, and Michael Ross Albert

Night of the Auk is co-presented by Outside Inside and HUBO Productions, and will run at The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street) in Venue #10 of The New York International Fringe Festival on the following dates:  August 10 @ 5pm, August 11 @ 9:45pm, August 16 @ 4:45pm, August 17 @ 7:30pm, and August 18 @ 5:30pm.  For a detailed performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit www.fringenyc.org or call 866.468.7619.

Michael Ross Albert is the author of several plays, including Chagrin (FringeNYC) and Starfishes which was published in the 2010-2011 anthology of Best American Short Plays.  Selected acting credits include Mr Martin in The Bald Soprano (Actors Studio), Feste in Twelfth Night (Lost & Found), and Orgon in Tartuffe (University of Waterloo). He received an MFA in Playwriting from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University.