Alec: On some level, it's possible for me to fall in love with a goat
Updated: Jul 3
I met Alec in summer of 2019 at an art community in Los Angeles. What I remember from the last encounter was him telling me about a play he was working on - his character fell in love with a goat.
In this crazy year of 2020, we reconnected and had another conversation, starting from his situation as an international student in the US to his passion for and understanding of acting.
Hope you enjoy it and get inspired as much as I did :)
Narrator & Photos provider：Alec
Interviewer & Editor：Nox
About two and a half years ago, I came to Los Angeles and started my study at Stella Adler Academy of Acting.
In July, the US government told us international students that we couldn't remain in the country unless we're taking on-site classes. My school made a difficult decision to go all online because considering the number of COVID-19 cases at that point, and to go all face to face would just be really irresponsible.
I was told on a Friday that I had to leave as soon as possible. So I bought a plane ticket, a new suitcase. I leased out my place, sold a bicycle I just bought, and closed my bank accounts and everything. So I was ready to go.
And then on the following Tuesday, the US government reversed their decision.
So then I was told that, “It's okay, you can stay after all” - at which point I said: fuck it. This is ridiculous. I'm done.
Mentally, I was ready to leave.
I had dinner with some of my close friends and said goodbye. I lined up a few things for this whole moving process. My friends and my family are all back home in Australian. The economy was opening up again. They've got a lot less COVID cases compared to here in the US.
But I started getting really anxious about it when the day was coming up.
Logically speaking, it was the right thing for me to go home at that time. But that's not what I wanted.
It really made me think about why I wanted to be here and live in this country.
I came here to see some things through. I know this country's going through a lot of things; it's a messy and complicated place. But I want to experience it. I want to be part of it, for better or for worse, and maybe even contribute in some way to what's happening.
I didn't want to just leave when all this was happening. So I decided to stay.
I drew some money out and got a lawyer. I've been working on getting a visa and starting a residency process now.
I've been here in Los Angeles for two and a half years now. And in Australia - all of my life. But neither quite feels like home right now because I haven't put any roots down. I kind of always had a suitcase on my carpet and always felt like I could just pick up and go at any second.
Being in a limbo kind of helped me in a way that I didn't have to make any significant decisions that are gonna cause a lot of stress. But that's not really a way to live. And I thought, stop pretending now.
This whole pandemic thing has helped me land on one side, to decide to live here, in the US.
I mean, I love Australia. I feel very grateful that I grew up there and have had a very fortunate life. But it doesn't extend more than that.
In my mind, Australia's always gonna be okay. It's gonna be doing just fine. But I'd rather be in a place where there's movement towards something.
I first came to the US when I was 15.
I came for a trip with my school and we went to DC, Pennsylvania, Gettysburg and saw many historical marvels. I had a great time. I always wanted to come back at some point. I always felt like I would.
One of the best experiences of that trip was I accidentally met Arthur Miller. He's a playwright and wrote famous plays like "The Death of a Salesman."
I was wandering around the halls and I probably shouldn't have been in this room and there was Arthur Miller in this office. I was just standing there sipping my drink, looking at him. The secretary or whoever was talking to him saw me and shut the door in my face… but that was cool. The trip was great.
At that time, I was already passionate about plays and acting.
My favorite pastime has always been reading. I like reading plays and especially Shakespeare's plays. My dad had a huge collection of the plays so I just pulled out of the shelf and read whichever play I opened up at the time and I was fascinated by them. I started to read whatever I can get my hands on.
And I liked acting as a kid. But I only thought of it as something to do as a kid because no one told me it was okay to pursue it as a career, a craft or anything like that. I was expected to get a proper job when I finished school. And I believed it. I didn't even question it. So I just went to university straight out of high school and forgot about acting.
But I always felt like it's more than just a passion or something I did as a kid. It should have been more. But I was too scared. I repressed it so much and I didn't realize that I was just denying this huge part of who I am, which is crazy.
I know it might sound corny but acting is like part of me, like an organ of my body that I cannot do without.
No one should, and I hope, no one should have to not be able to fully realize who they are and do what they wanna do, whether that's by force, by someone else, or by your own. That's what I kind of did, getting in my own way and didn't know that there was another way of doing things, until much later.
I dropped out of my university and ended up working for a company that sells board games and tabletop games. I worked there for about 10 years, on and off.
It was a big, international company. I kept getting promoted and became the regional manager. I got to travel for a living, flying to different countries for business. It was a pretty cool job and I was passionate about it. But… it's not acting to me.
I was searching for something else but I didn't know what that was. I was feeling lost. So I quit that job and got heavy into drinking and drugs. I wasn't very healthy.
I returned to university and started studying Economics and also taking some acting classes. I started working in real estate as well, and doing all these different things at the same time. I guess I was just trying to find something.
One day, I was sitting there writing an economics paper and I was thinking about this scene that I was working on. I was doing the lines in my head and thinking about the characters.
And at one point, I just dropped my pencil, thinking, “What the fuck am I doing?”
I'm thinking about this scene and the performance in my head all the time, but I'm pretending to write this economics paper.
I realized that I've just been pretending to do all these other things the whole time. But what I actually wanted to do was this other thing. So that was when I decided to quit everything, the real estate, the thought of making money, the idea of securing. I just decided I'm gonna go into full-time acting.
That was about six years ago.
So I found a part time job at a bookstore and started taking full-time acting classes. I did that for two years in Sydney and started auditioning for things and getting a couple of plays here and there.
It just kept going like that until I went into a play festival with a friend who asked me to play Arthur Miller, the person I've met 17 years before but back then, I had no idea I'd be playing him one day.
So I did this play and my friend and I both won the acting awards, and that also gave us the scholarship to come over to America to study at Stella Adler for two years.
So that's why I ended up coming over here and started acting.
I've always wanted to play people who were vastly different to me. I always wanted to understand people on a level that isn't my experience.
For example, playing a character like Martin in Edward Albee's play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, a man who ends up falling in love with - not just having sex with - but falling in love with an animal of another species, a goat. This is fascinating.
On the surface, it's an almost impossible task because… well, I'm not into animals in that way. But I think the way you start understanding someone is to understand what moves them to get to that. What is it? Who are they on a very fundamental level? And what's possible for that person?
When you reduce that to that level, then it's possible for me on some level to fall in love with and have sex with a goat, not that I ever would as me, but it is possible. I don't know what the future holds. I hope it doesn't hold that. (laugh)
What’s fascinating about this play is the guy himself… he doesn't have a fetish for animals. He's never slept with animals before. He's never been in love with animals before. It's just this one goat that he falls in love with and has an affair. Yeah, he has an affair with a goat.
So this whole play is about this fight between him and his wife Stevie, after he confesses that he's been sleeping with a goat and her trying to wrap her head around it.
Sometimes people ask “Why?” and it's a useful question. But sometimes there actually legitimately is no answer, or at least the answer eludes the person himself. I think this is one of those situations.
She even asks him in the play at one point like, “Why?”
And he says, I don’t know.
I believe him. I do not think he knows because that's what the play is about.
It is about love. Love comes up and also free will, in a sense that you can't decide who you fall in love with.
Sometimes we can't explain why it's that person at that time that moves you so deeply that you have to call it love. This play is about that. He can't explain it. But he loves the goat.
It's madness. But it's a very real madness.
So I think, to get into a person like that is to try to truly understand the motivation. It's not literally imagining myself having sex with a goat but it's imagining myself falling in love, which is not hard to do.
And going from there and stepping into the character like that, regardless of what form that love might take. And find the truth of that. It's very real and pure, and also fascinating.
The whole reason I love this job is diving deeply into these people who just want really different things or have very different circumstances to me.
If you boil it down, reduce it down, your life is just one step away from their life.
So it also helps me to think about my own life. To think of it as highlighting facets of you and exaggerating facets and turning down facets. Like a rough cut diamond, you're showing the light in a different way so you reveal a different part of yourself that, given the right set of circumstances, could very well be you.
Acting on stage has been my path so far. I love the stage for the communal nature of it that you're sharing the experience with a group of live audience, and I love its immediacy. Great performance or bad, it's just purely in the moment. And once it's done, it's done forever. No two shows will ever be the same, ever.
I love its instantaneousness, the life of it, the nature of life in performance. I found it fascinating.
Recently I've been working on preparing paperwork for my visa application, so I have to collect all the proof to show that "I'm an actor worthy of working in the US." And it all made me reflect on my past experiences and my motivation for choosing what I want to do.
I just wish that one day I’ll be able to say that I am a master of my craft. I have to be the best that I can be at this thing that I’ve decided to do. That's the thing that drives me the most.