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Iru Magazine - Blake Delong

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Blake DeLong is a classically trained actor and can be seen gracing the stage of the Public Theatre In the new play, written and directed by Richard Nelson, Blake plays David Amran, the first composer for the Public Theatre. The Public Theatre is one of the most prestigious theatres in New York, and Blake is honored to not only grace its stage but also portray one of the original artists responsible for its early success.

Blake’s Start in Acting in 9th grade, Blake’s choir teacher encouraged him to try out for a school musical.He did his first real show at age 15, where he played Jack in the musical ‘Into the Woods.’ Blake showed up to the audition in the same sweaty clothes and cowboy boots he’d played sports in, and proceeded to sing and act. He thought little of the audition, and his acting ability, and left without a second thought. Soon after Blake received a callback, landing him his first major acting role.

With a smile and a laugh Blake jokingly said, “People in Texas find a way to turn everything into a competition.” Blake began acting in regional One-act play competitions, where schools would compete against each other, and he won Best Actor at the regional round. His team made it to finals and then lost, but ever the child of fortune, Blake was invited into a summer program for outstanding high school actors at the University of Texas, where he also played the lead in West Side Story.

 

After high school, Blake felt burnt out and a little turned off by the acting world. He felt that his fellow thespians were always “on,” always acting, and lacked authenticity. He was also unsure of himself, unsure of his ability to make a living out of acting. So he turned once more to his musical roots. Similarly to many students, he started a band in college. Although many people suggested that he major in acting, Blake instead chose history. He loved literature and learning and decided that if he were going to go to college it would be purely to further his academic prowess.

Although the band maintained mild success, performing gigs twice a week, upon graduation the band dismantled. This left Blake unsure of what to do, and so he decided to backpack around Europe in an effort to find himself. Blake stayed in hotels and lived a humble existence, while his heart stayed in Texas. It was in a basement of an Italian hotel in Venice, where the realization hit him: Acting was his passion. With this epiphany came a bout of laughter, as his room slowly flooded with rainwater, causing him to remove his backpack off the floor and onto his bed.

Running on pure instinct, Blake returned to Austin and began auditioning for everything he could. He landed a job with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, along with roles in local shows. It was at one of these shows that he was spotted by a faculty member of the University of Texas. Fate struck again and Blake was offered a scholarship to the University of Texas for theatre.

 

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Years prior to his European excursion, Blake admits he wouldn’t have been ready to receive criticism for his acting. However, at this point, Blake understood the necessity of criticism and credits his teacher, Lee Abraham, with developing his acting. Lee told him that his acting was a gimmick, a series of tricks he had learned, and not authentic. Oddly enough, Blake was the very thing he’d so despised about his fellow actors years earlier.


During the summer between courses, Blake traveled to New York and began a program at the Public Theatre, called the Shakespeare Lab. At the audition, Blake walked up to casting directors, Jordan Thaler and Heidi Griffiths and said, “Hi, I’m nice to meet ya!” Jordan and Heidi laughed and laughed while Blake was mortified.

The program was a conservatory style 6 day a week program, which lasted for a total of 14 weeks. Blake loved the Public Theatre, the actors, and the environment. Not long after his Shakespeare intensive, he landed an apprenticeship understudying for roles in the Shakespeare Theatre in DC. Here he met his first agent and earned his equity card. With his Master’s of Fine Arts in hand, Blake was finally ready to take New York by storm.


As every actor that moves to New York with a pep in their step and a dream in their heads, Blake struggled with the realities of the artist’s life. He auditioned for lots of plays and first started booking roles in regional theaters, then television commercials. Eventually he began to be cast in plays in New York (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812; Othello with Daniel Craig), television shows (“The Blacklist” and “The Following”) and feature films (We Need To Talk About Kevin), though all the while, work at his beloved Public Theater remained elusive. He was seen many times over the years for roles in Shakespeare plays and other work at the prestigious theater but never got the gig. One day he received a script, Illyria, by renowned playwright, Richard Nelson. Blake went into the audition and was received with such warmth and kindness from Nelson.

Richard Nelson was intent on having the play feel as close to real life as possible. He uses a very intricate sound system, with microphones hanging above all the actors. Richard wanted to ensure that the play had “verisimilitude,” a word the noted director coined, meaning extreme likeness or extremely real and authentic. This makes for very conversational dialogue, with no yelling, overacting or unnecessary drama.

 

The play, Illyria, which opened last week and runs till December 10th, highlights the creation of the Public Theatre, and the journey of Joe Papp, the founding producer, as he fights tirelessly to bring theatre to the people. Blake’s character David is part of a first-rate ensemble of characters, the artists, and friends who kept the theater alive through its i️nfancy. I asked Blake how he related to his character,  “The thing is my character is based on a real person, but in our play, he’s actually sort of Richard’s specific creation. So it’s sort of like there are three of us, you know? There’s David Amram the person, there’s David Amram the character, and then there’s me. For example; in real life, David is a genius musician who plays 60 instruments. In our play, he is a guitarist because I play guitar. I’d say all three of us are pretty connected by our love of music and our passion for art. The two Davids are both more ladies men than I am, I’d say.” Ladies man or no, Blake is unquestionably talented. Knowing this, my last question for Blake was…

What’s the most important thing you learned in your career?

 “That there’s a big difference between art and business. And I think after some time learned that I️ just care a lot more about the art than the business.”

Blake has asked young actors, “What is important to you? Is it the allure of fame? Is it just to live an actor's life or to dig deep, confront yourself and be honest with yourself? But now it seems there are too many distractions for young actors, particularly in the form of social media.”

What do you think is young people’s fascination with social media?

Blake, “Easy feedback. You post something and people instantly like it, it’s instant positive feedback. Whereas if you’re reading plays and scripts all day, fine-tuning your auditions and monologues, no one gives you feedback. You have to do it for yourself and be so motivated that you don’t need outside reinforcement. You just have to do it because you love it.”

//Aisha Marie Sho @Shaka_Sho