Jillian Zylinski is a first-year MFA manager and a graduate of Michigan State University who currently works as the Group Sales Coordinator for Wayne State Theatres. She spent last year as an undergraduate PR and Marketing Assistant working with the Theatre Management MFA students. Brian Ogden received his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Western Michigan University and his Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Wayne State in 2007.
Jillian: What have you been doing since graduation?
Brian: I went to Moscow during the summer of 2007, and then started work at the Purple Rose Theatre in late August of the same year. I’m now an associate artist there and have been involved with four productions of theirs, including Bleeding Red, which I also wrote. I’ve also worked at the Tipping Point Theatre, Water Works Shakespeare, and done some film and commercial stuff.
J: You wrote a play for the Heck-Rabi playwriting scholarship competition that was later produced by the Purple Rose Theatre. Can you explain that process?
B: The process of Bleeding Red was just a lot of fun. I never ever thought that it would be picked up anywhere– it was just an assignment in grad school, so my attitude was, “Well, I’ll write a play that I would want to be in.” And fortunately I was. Working with Guy Sanville and all of the people at the Purple Rose was… I don’t know… AWESOME, I guess. We workshopped it for a while and did a few re-writes, trying to figure out what the story was REALLY about, and then we got it on its feet. The biggest challenge was figuring out where the job of the playwright ends and where other jobs begin. A lot of people wondered if I had any trouble with separating my “actor self” from my “playwright self,” but that was no trouble. The trouble was trying to figure out how much description of the set to include, versus how much to leave to the imagination of the scenic designer. That sort of thing.
J: How did your education and experiences at the Hilberry Theatre prepare you for professional theatre?.
B: I’m director-proof now. That’s not to say that I can’t take direction (in fact I like to think that I’m pretty okay at it), but if a director isn’t that great, it doesn’t affect my work. I’ve got my own process and my own sensibilities– honed over three years at the Hilberry– and I really don’t need to have my hand held through anything. That’s what I see in most Hilberry actors.
J: Is there a specific Hilberry show you were cast in that is especially memorable for you?
B: They were all special for different reasons, you know? People I met or directors I had or parts I played. Maybe… Julius Caesar. Just because playing Marc Antony is like taking the whole first third of the play off, then coming out and giving one of the greatest speeches ever committed to paper, and then taking a nap during the last third, and then curtain call. That was pretty sweet.
J: Any future plans, goals, dreams?
B: There are a couple of plays I’m still working on that I’d like to see produced in the next few years. Other than that, I’d like to break into teaching, and maybe get a little more active in film, but I’m in no hurry. I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with an artistic community that I really trust and enjoy collaborating with. I’m not in any hurry to say goodbye to that.