Carlo Lorenzo Garcia is an actor/director/writer from Chicago, he is a company member of Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company where he has acted, directed and produced over 20 productions. He is also an artistic associate with Chicago Dramatists, Teatro Vista, and Wayward Productions. Carlo has worked with Goodman Theatre, Collaboraction, Teatro Vista, Mary-Arrchie, Strawdog, Wayward Productions, Lookingglass, and more.
In 2013, he started Arrow & Key Productions to produce film, TV, and web content. He mostly recently produced/co-wrote/directed a TV pilot, COWL GIRL, a comedy about an agoraphobic fan girl, which is currently in Post-Production. This year he also produced SUGAR, a comedy TV/ web series pilot and is currently in Pre-Production on UNDER COVERS, a web series that revolves two hapless private detectives. As an actor, he has worked on several feature films, shorts, and web series, and most recently filmed an episode of EMPIRE on FOX TV.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor and when did the aspiration expand to being a director?
I actually got into acting in high school. I grew up in Chicago south side. I was looking for something to do after school to get me out of trouble. I started doing theater. I felt like I was pretty decent at it so I decided to pursue it as a career. I went to Illinois State University for four years and majored in theater. Kind of did more and more acting and community theater while I was there and then I moved to Chicago. The first show I did with Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company, which is this location, was called MOJO directed by David Cromer. And this was one of the most professional experiences that I had up to that point. That summer, I got invited to be a company member here. I’ve been with this company since 2005, so it will be ten years this summer, which is kind of a long time to work for a theater company. About three years in, I found this play that I really wanted to do called Our Bad Magnet. I brought it and I pitched it to the artistic director at the time. He said you should think about directing if you have this many good ideas for it. So that was the first major play I directed in 2008. And we are actually remounting it this year. We are rehearsing it right now (Our Bad Magnet) so that will be open on March 26th here at Mary-Arrchie. It’s kind of nice you come back to direct a show after so many years, having pretty much the same cast with just more experience, you know. I really like directing, but deep in my heart I definitely want to be an actor. That’s where I get the most satisfaction. But I do enjoy directing and find a pleasure in it. It also helps me to be a better actor, as I can see both sides of the stage or the screen in that way. It evolved organically, I guess you can say, but it all revolves around my love for theater.
What are the differences as being an actor and a director?
As a director, you are given lots of responsibilities. You are responsible for all the design aspects, as well as all the movement on stage, and the entire story arc for the entire production, as well as each individual character arc. For example, if you have a four-character play, you have to kind of know all four characters’ tracks. You have to get deep inside like “what is going on with that person” or “what does that person want or need from other people in the scene”. So you really have to dissect things, and I think that’s what appeals to me because I like to take things apart and put them back together. There’s so many elements you are in control of. That’s really exciting to do it as a director. I watch this character’s track and how do I plot that out and how do I help the actor find that on their own without trying to give it to them. One of the challenges is don’t just give them what to do but how to help them find it, so it’s more organic for their experience.
How does the experience of being a director help your experience of being an actor?
You have to analyze characters, you have to break down the story, break down the wants, desires and needs. That alone just being able to break down dialogue, and break down intention, helps me as an actor. A director is doing it for multiple characters, so when you come back you a singular character, it’s like “okay, I can do this, this is one character I have to focus on." Also, knowing how to communicate with the director, trying to feel out what the director is looking for. You have a better understanding when you are on the other side of the table and the communication between director and actor becomes a very integral part of the process. Being able to see both sides is very beneficial. Not a lot of actors can direct, not a lot of directors can act. There’s a small set of people who can actually do both.
Do you have any suggestions for the young upcoming directors?
Most of the shows I directed are on the Chicago storefront scene. The reason I love working in these theaters is because you have a lot of freedom to do exciting and daring work. We don’t have a really big subscriber base that we have to appeal to like many major theater companies have to do for their subscriber base, that has its pluses and minuses. We are able to do the type of work we want to do, and to do it fast and not be worried about a lot of things bigger theaters are worried about. We can just focus on the work, and focus on producing the show that we want to see.
I would recommend young directors that are coming up to go to all the storefront theaters and find the ones that appeal to you. There are so many theaters in Chicago, there are over 300 non-equity theaters and there’s usually new theater companies born every day, because people graduate from college and want to do something together so they start a theater company and do a show. Some of them last and some of them don’t，but if that’s something you want to pursue, I’ll recommend just go seeing shows and finding companies that speak to you. And trying to find ways help them out. You can work your way into that company or you can go do something on your own. There are a lot of opportunities as long as you have a voice, as long as you have a passion, and it's something you really want to do, there’s space for it.
Can you talk more about your recent project COWL GIRL? Which demographics are you targeting?
COWL GIRL is based on a play from Anna Capunay who is a playwright in New York. I read the play and I really liked it, I asked her whether she wanted to turn it into web series or a TV pilot. I really wanted to create a show that, for one, supported Latino artists, actors or actress of Latino descent, to give them characters that are not stereotypes, that was the first goal. The second goal is to speak to some social issues. The idea of bullying comes up in the pilot, there’s also this idea that comes up later of being accused of being a fake geek girl. Because the story revolves around agoraphobic fan girl, who’s trying to overcome fears and go to San Diego get her Pee-wee Herman doll signed by Paul Reubens. We see the geek culture from a female perspective, which is something you don’t really see in traditional media. You have Big Bang Theory, but most of the show is from the male side of things. Cowl Girl comes directly from the female side. Many geeks are involved in this project, Anna is very geeky, a lot of cast have their own fandoms that they are a part of. But in terms of demographic I would say they would be from teen to adult, there’s a lot of humor, but there’s also a lot of real emotion and real drama. It’s a hybrid, like New Girl meets Big Bang Theory meets Kick Ass.
What’s your plan to develop the show?
We are working on pitching it to production companies as a TV Show. We were going to do web series at first, then just decided to do the first episode. We are in post-production right now, working on color correction and sound mixing. Then we will pitch it out to some production companies and networks.
What’s your expectation for digital distribution of this show?
We will hit the major networks, but we also want to hit Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, streaming sites. The way consumers are using digital media is changing. I mean, people are watching shows on computers, iPads, and iPhones. Many people don’t have cable anymore. We will see a big shift towards streaming media as way of distribution. It’s already started. You look at the last Emmy Awards, some of the major winners are streaming shows. Like Transparent, which is an Amazon original series, won several awards. House of Cards also nominated for several awards. You see the shift towards digital streaming and digital distribution. I think there will be a lot more of that happening.
Any other projects you are working on that we need to know?
I’m in pre-production on a web series called UNDER COVERS. It’s about two, not so great, private investigators, who are usually scoping out situations where a lover is suspected of cheating on another lover, that’s kind of like their main market. It’s really silly; it’s just something fun to do. I want to write a ridiculous comedy and do it with some friends of mine. So that’s how I put together the production team, and we are gonna film the first episode by the end of the month. Our goal will be ten episodes for season one. It’s just a bunch of ridiculous stuff.
How did you know You’re So Talented and Sam Bailey?
I met Sam for the first time here at Mary-Arrchie, she’s a friend of one of the company members. We met while she was still in college. She’s got a great voice. I support all the people who go out there and try to make their own work. And I think that’s one of the most important thing that we can do as artists is to create art and content. Lot of times, we as actors rely on other people’s creative content or being part of the content that’s already created. Creating your own work/content is one of the most rewarding things I've done as an artist. But, what Sam and I do best is help each other out. We help each other back and forth. It's important to support your friends, if you see a friend who is promoting a project, and they are trying to raise money for it, give them a little bit. If you can’t give them a buck, share the message, share the link. Show the support in that way. I always believe if you support somebody else’s work, someone else is gonna support your work. It’s chain reaction.
Interview moderated by Diandian Gao