“I’m a big believer in treating the audience like another actor, hopping off the edge of the stage, interacting with them.” Antonio Mántica
Tell me about your awesome last name? Your family?
My family name originated from Northern Italy. I definitely wouldn’t be very theatrical without my family. I have great memories of my father entertaining us at the dinner table with improvised costumes, like a pillow under his shirt and silly glasses. He would do funny voices, and we would just laugh and laugh and laugh.
I’ve seen you do a Shakespearean comedy, which is not easy to pull off in 2018, and I’ve seen you do pure parody. I’ve seen your arm get eaten by a rabid zombie at the Second Annual Athens Uncharted Athventure Ghost Show we did at The Foundry. I’ve heard you give a curtain speech. And I’ve heard rave reviews of your children’s theatre work. Do you have a preference?
I’m very passionate about Shakespeare. In a roundabout way, he paid for my undergraduate education. I was Georgia Shakespeare Scholar at Oglethorpe University, meaning I was part of a scholarship program the university used to have that sponsored students with a passion for Shakespeare. I graduated with a degree in Physics, but I was pretty much continuously in a play during my time there.
What do you ask yourself about a show before auditioning?
Nowadays? My first question tends to be, Am I going to get paid? (laughs) I don’t have all the time in the world! Joking aside, I like to read the play before any audition so I know the story, and know what characters I would like to be, so that I can go into the audition ready to give the director something meaningful.
Is there any type of theatre you wouldn’t do?
I’m not sure, but I’m willing to discover if there is. Maybe one of those experimental let’s-pretend-to-be-statues-for-twenty-four-hours-as-a-political-statement types of show.
Are you sure?
Ha! No, I’m not. I guess I’ll have to try it and get back to you.
What are some of the differences between children’s theatre and adult shows?
I think one of the biggest differences for the actor is to know how over-the-top you can be. When I’m the sad Woodcutter in Hansel and Gretel, I can flail my arms around and boo-hoo-hoo and say, “We have no food to eat!” Children will roar with laughter. For obvious reasons, this sort of thing would not be similarly appreciated by adult audiences.
Is your preparation different?
For preparation, however, I think it’s important to approach both the same way. Actors want to work their best to bring the vision of the director to life, while simultaneously expressing themselves as characters as best they can.
Do you feel like your performances are different?
Sure, I think in a children’s play I can get away with interacting with the audience more. Maybe this comes from my experience in children’s theatre, and it happens in Shakespeare everywhere, but I love to interact with the audience. It’s one of the things that theatre has over other art forms. But in more serious, adult, modern shows that interaction doesn’t happen so much.
Is your thought process any different with adult and children’s theatre?
For children’s theatre my thought process is pretty much, “How over-the-top can I be?” Or “Where can I interact with the audience more?” Or “Would this silly face or sound be funny here?” Those kinds of questions.
What’s been your favorite moment on stage?
Oh dear. Like a funny experience? I once heard a story from a friend about a dramatic play with some story along the lines of a jealous husband who was going to kill his wife’s secret lover (who was also his brother—something like that). The two men were standing at opposite ends of the stage, and the script called for the jealous husband to fire a gun and kill the other man. But one night, the gun malfunctioned and would not fire. So, with what might be considered too much haste, the jealous husband yelled out, “Well…I hope you don’t have a heart attack!” The other actor had no choice but to then pretend to have a heart attack and die, so that the show might continue. The play went on, but the audience howled with laughter. What a silly nightmare to be in.
And your favorite moment in children’s theatre. Why?
For children’s theatre it’s a tie between two moments for every show. One is the first time I hear the audience laugh. For some bizarre, biological reason the sound of two hundred first-graders warms my heart in a way that adult laughter never would – it’s very pure. The second is meeting the kids in character after the show. It’s a magical moment for them, it’s a magical moment for me.
Even as you juggle acting with pursuing your PhD in Physics at UGA, what advice would you give children who might want to pursue a life “trodding the boards”?
Don’t be afraid of failing. Go out and audition for things. Make interesting choices. Have directors tell you, “That isn’t going to work, let’s try something different.” I am a big believer that it’s important to fail at things in order to learn.
What was your first show? What do you remember about it? What did you take away from it?
My first play was in the 3rd grade, I think. It was about a boy in Christmastown on trial for saying that he hated Christmas. I played the judge. think it was Judge Candy or Judge Christmas? Something like that. I remember being very nervous. And no matter how much I went to the bathroom beforehand, I still had the feeling that I needed to go backstage. But once I was the character on stage, saying the lines, there was no turning back. I’ve been dedicated to being in theatre ever since. And something that really struck me was that, after one of the performances, an adult came up to me and asked me to sign his program. Now, I know that was just a kind gesture from the adult, but it was a real “You like me! You really like me!” moment, and now I always make a point to ask kids for their autographs whenever the opportunity arises.
Did you play a lot of make-believe when you were young?
So much make-believe. For my action figures, I would make up all kinds of full background stories and relationships with each other, and they would go on the most amazing adventures, fighting a variety of bad guys. I played in different places for different scenery, although sometimes my bed would have to be different locations itself. There would even be cliff-hangers when I had to go eat dinner or something. In one adventure I remember the heroes had to kill a fierce gryphon, but they discovered that the gryphon was just protecting a nest of eggs and they let her be. OK, I guess I was an imaginative child…
Do you think the onslaught of computerization and flashing boxes robs young adults of their chance to hone their budding creativity?
I don’t think it’s the case that children have less chance to develop their imagination. I think their opportunities to express their imagination are just different from mine, which were different from the generation before me, and the one before them, etc. Action figures didn’t come around until the 1960’s, and yet I wouldn’t say that action figures gave me any more or less chance to be imaginative over children of the 1950’s. Instead, I’d say that I had different opportunities, or different ways available to me, to express my imagination. With these “computerized flashing boxes,” I think children will find new ways to grow their imaginations, no matter the environment.
“I did 16 plays in college. After I’d lived in Athens for a bit and realized that I hadn’t done a play in over a year, there was a gaping void.”
Did you see many live plays when you were little?
Interestingly, no. I have no memories of actually attending a play as a child. I sometimes have a difficult time going to plays now. If it’s a bad play, then I wasted my time seeing a bad play. If it’s a good play, then I’m jealous that I wasn’t a part of it.
Your favorite actor? Favorite play? Movie? Book? And same questions, but this time for 12-year-old Antonio.
ACTOR: I might have to pick Al Pacino for this one, The Godfather, Heat, and his recent Merchant of Venice are some of my favorite plays: Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. There’s a great movie version of this starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.
BOOK: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It still guides me today.
For 12-year-old Antonio.
PLAY: I guess I’ll have to default to something like Romeo and Juliet for this one…12-year-old Antonio probably couldn’t name that many plays.
BOOK: I’d have to go with this book series I loved about a boy and a girl who discover they are actually half-human/half-dragon, called Dragons in Our Midst. I tore through those books. When a cast is having fun, the audience is having fun
“Community Theatre is a bunch of people from all different backgrounds coming together to tell a story.”
Any parting words before the curtain closes?
Thank you for the chance to speak and for listening to me. I hope this helps in some way.
Antonio is such a nice guy. Actors have this diva reputation, but honestly, very few of the good ones are like that. Most of them are decent and intelligent people, diligent students of human nature. It’s Judge Candy’s fundamental human decency that let him efficiently adjudicate all of
Christmastown’s legal squabbles. He must’ve been doing something right. The crime rate in
Christmastown is amazingly low.