Nobody writes about a dysfunctional family as well as playwright Sam Shepard.
A Lie of the Mind is yet another Shepard play about yet another dysfunctional family, but in his hands, it’s pure gold. The play is by turns funny, sad and always engaging.
The Savannah College of Art and Design School of Performing Arts will present A Lie of the Mind Feb. 14-17. Director Mark Tymchyshyn is delighted to be directing a Shepard play as his first production as a performing arts professor at SCAD.
“Because it’s Sam Shepard, it’s a great opportunity for the kids here,” Tymchyshyn says. “The demands on actors in his plays is so difficult, they can only become better by doing it.”
The demands require the actors to get it all right, or the play doesn’t work, Tymchyshyn says. “It’s like riding a horse,” he says. “If you fall off, it’s almost impossible to get the play on track again.”
As an actor, Tymchyshyn is a fan of Shepard’s work, but says it is a challenge to direct it. “A lot of young actors learn to be naturalistic. You can’t be naturalistic in a Sam Shepard play. There are intense feelings and they’re not played by the rules. You have to commit to it 110 percent,” he says.
“There is a 60-year-old man, a 50-year-old woman, all mothers and fathers,” Tymchyshyn says. “They’ve lived hard lives in a way these students can’t fully understand.”
After earning a graduate degree, Tymchyshyn fully intended to teach, but was offered so many roles, he became a television actor instead. He has appeared on episodes of series as varied as Seinfeld, ER, Ally McBeal, Reba, Boston Legal, Cold Case and many more.
Tymchyshyn has a recurring role as Mel Powers on George Lopez. “I was lucky in television,” he says.
“But I was playing the same role over and over again. I wanted something challenging.”
So Tymchyshyn joined the SCAD faculty. “I do feel reborn,” he says. “I feel I’m doing something more important than playing a part on George Lopez.”
At SCAD, Tymchyshyn teaches acting-for-the-camera classes. “Kudos to SCAD for having the class,” he says. “It’s so wonderful to see the students learning.
“Acting for the camera is much different than acting on stage,” Tymchyshyn says. “The demands are so different.
“On stage, an actor must speak to everyone from the first row to the last,” he says. “Everyone in the audience knows they’re not really King Lear.
“TV, as seen by the viewer, is real. They have to believe every word the actors say – unless it’s a sitcom.”
Tymchyshyn has been in Savannah since August and lives with his family on Wilmington Island. “Savannah has the most gorgeous setting I’ve ever seen,” he says.
“I liked the idea of an art school,” Tymchyshyn says. “They’ve hired so many people with such excellent credentials at SCAD. You’re going to see performers here who will knock your socks off.”
The Savannah College of Art and Design School of Performing Arts presents A Lie of the Mind Feb. 14, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. at the Mondanaro Theater, 217 MLK Jr. Blvd. $10 general admission. $5 for seniors and students. SCAD students, faculty and staff free with a valid SCAD ID. Call 525-5050 or visit www.scadboxoffice.com.