Logan Black connects his world to ours with a very special Bond
“I love to step into another world and make you believe in that world,” Logan Black says, in an e-mail, about performing. The actor, teacher and, now, playwright, does what he loves in Bond: A Soldier and His Dog, a one-man play that he penned and appeared in last summer at the KC Fringe Festival. “Not to be missed,” I wrote of his first script, his deeply affecting personal account of having been a specialized search dog handler in Iraq. When he reprised the show in September, at the Fishtank, I sought it out a second time and was again touched by his story of the relationship between him and the bomb-sniffing yellow Lab Diego — and what that war costs them both.
For its “vivid and moving hour of first-person storytelling,” The Pitch awarded Black “Best Original Play by a Local Playwright” in its 2015 Best of Kansas City issue. Now, in partnership with the Kansas City–area chapter of Pets for Vets (an organization that rescues, trains and pairs shelter animals with veterans), KC Fringe’s “Fringe Presents” brings an expanded version of Bond this month to the National WWI Museum (April 8-10) and to Johnson County Community College’s Polsky Theatre (April 22-24). Ahead of these productions, Black answered my questions by e-mail.
The Pitch: What drew you into acting?
Black: I love to tell stories. I love that words have power, that they can wound and heal, can be an embrace or can cut you down at the knees. And when they are used with skill, imagination and in service to a play — and by that, I mean devoid of any ego — a play can change an individual’s world.
What drew you into playwriting and, specifically, into writing Bond?
Honestly, it came down to being an unemployed actor. I had no summer work, and I asked a wonderful friend and mentor, actor Bob Brand, if he knew of any one-man shows I could do for KC Fringe, and he said, “Yeah, yours.” So far, it’s the only thing I’ve written.
How and when did you decide on a life in theater?
I had always enjoyed high school drama classes, but the big moment came when I saw the VHS of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet in 1996, and I was captivated by it. For four hours, I was transported to another world, filled with lavish and complicated language and these exposed nerves within the human condition. It was cathartic to be touched by a story like that, and I realized that I wanted to do that to other people, to have an interaction between audience and actor or, better yet, between audience and story that causes some shift or pivot in perspective or in thought or in the heart.
Where did you train?
I did my undergrad in the actor training program at the University of Utah, and grad school here at UMKC.
What has it been like for you to both write a play for the first time and enact your personal experiences on the stage?
It’s a double-edged sword, both in the writing and the performance. It has had a kind of purging effect to share my experience, but it has also triggered my PTSD during the writing. I put my own experiences under a microscope, and that brought up a lot of difficult memories, made me question some of my actions. Did I make the right or wrong choice? Was a right or wrong outcome even possible?
I would get trapped in a memory during the writing and sit for hours at the computer and then come out of it to find that I hadn’t written a thing. At other times, words would pour out for pages. In the performance, I can’t think of it as my own story too much. If I do, there is a danger that I’ll trigger my PTSD or get so lost in a memory that I won’t know I’ve gone off the script. This happened a lot when I first started rehearsing the show. I’d relive a moment, and that’s not theater — that’s something emotionally dangerous.
How does the process of writing compare with that of acting?
They both take so much! But I think the writing can be a bit easier when it’s flowing. I could find myself in a technical place in the writing. How does it flow? What arc am I on? Where do I want to take the audience next? Of course, as I said earlier, when I would get lost in the writing, that would take a toll, but I would come out of it and walk away eventually. Acting, on the other hand, always takes a toll. I believe theater demands that you spend yourself as an actor each and every performance, regardless of the part. In every show I do, I want to give the play to you, and if I give you something, that means I no longer have what has been offered up. That offering is different in every part, but the very act of giving is rejuvenating.
What’s the hardest part about what you do?
Keeping it fresh and alive. This show is all direct address, so instead of another actor, I partner with the audience. It’s a deadly trap in any part to just say the lines. I can’t just tell you about camel spiders; I need to make you see the camel spider. That’s part of the theatrical event. Otherwise, I might as well be giving a TED talk.
What’s the best part?
Changing someone. I don’t mean to say every play is a revelation, but change is always present. One of my favorite memories in the theater was seeing a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at Creede Rep last summer. The intermission break comes after the wedding of George and Emily, the lights come up, and a few seats away from me was a very, very old couple, and the man was crying a little. His wife asked if he was OK, and he said, “I remember our wedding. I love you so very much,” and he kissed her cheek.
What’s the worst thing that has happened during a performance?
During Bond, it was having the cot completely collapse while I was sitting on its edge. During another show last year, I slipped onstage, fell into the splits and fractured my tibia. I didn’t do any of the dance numbers after that, but I finished the show.
What’s the future of Bond, and what other upcoming shows will we see you in?
I’ll tell this story as often and for as long as I can find places to do it, and I hope to get the script published. I would love to see what another actor would do with these words.
As for my next show, I am very excited to be working with Kansas City Actors Theatre in the fall as the cowboy in I’m Not Rappaport.