Local theater regulars know former actor John Moletress’s name. But like many creative types, he’s grown restless and is pursuing new artistic vistas. Last summer he started force/collision, an interdisciplinary performance ensemble based in Washington. It kicked off with a piece called “Collapsing Silence” at the Source Theatre. Next month his company will unveil “The Nautical Yards,” a 60-minute site-specific show at the Washington Navy Yard that will tell of two lovers separated by war and sea.
“I think it’s important that we create a large script between the arts and work more holistically,” the 34-year-old Pottsgrove, Pa., native says. “I’ve worked in traditional theater forms, been in lots of plays and musicals, but when we band together it opens up the door to explore different forums and takes us into the next generation of making art together.”
Moletress says some of the traditional forms feel somewhat exhausted to him.
“When you run out of a way to tell a story by speaking it, I think there are other ways to do it,” he says. “Like with dance … when you run out of words, there’s a certain collective memory our body has that we can share with movement. Our bodies become storehouses for our memories.”
Moletress studied acting in college, both in Allentown, Pa., and during graduate school at the University of Tennessee. He spent two years in London in the ‘90s studying acting and modern dance and worked in regional theaters around New York City where he lived in the early ‘00s. He came to Washington in 2008 after two years working as an artistic director at a company in Pennsylvania. In 2009, he started Factory 449, a Helen Hayes-winning project from which he’s since parted ways. Force/collision (force-collision.org) was started with a grant he got through Source Theatre.
Moletress lives in D.C.’s Navy Yard area and enjoys reading — “I have hundreds of books in my apartment” — and decoupage in his free time. (Photo courtesy Moletress)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Pretty much since high school. Before the Grindr phenomena, we had AOL chat rooms. It was a fun little platform for meeting other high school guys who were for the most part, not out. I can’ t say I really made the choice to come out, so much as outed myself with a crumpled up page ripped from an International Male catalogue I left in my pants pocket. My mother was doing laundry that day. I don’t think she was really surprised, given that my early obsessions included Cheryl Tiegs workout videos and musical theater.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Does my couch count? Honestly, wherever my friends are. I adore them.
Describe your dream wedding.
No, thank you. Although if I ever found myself wearing a white dress, I’d most likely be standing on a cliff somewhere on the Galway coast of Ireland, contemplating two choices.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Genocide and reconciliation. My friend, Erik Ehn, is a playwright who founded an annual conference to investigate theatre on this subject. He writes about collective trauma. I’ll be directing the premiere of his new play “Shape” which infuses the stories of blacks in 1900 Ambrose Park with the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.
What historical outcome would you change?
This is a challenging question. I believe we are where and who we are because of our histories. I would negotiate peace and dialogue before violence.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Manic Panic hair dye and Siouxsie Sioux on high school Sundays with like-minded outcasts.
On what do you insist?
Pausing and breathing. Oh, and Diet Pepsi.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
@soulographiedesignmeetings at The New Schoolpic.twitter.com
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
I’d have to look to Jackie Collins for inspiration. Perhaps, “The World Is Full of Married Men” or “Lady Boss.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Either run screaming or mount Tom Brady.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Connectivity. Universal law. Energy and frequency. Love.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Persevere. Trust your instincts. If one door closes, open another.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My friends. To have seen Velvet Underground perform live.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I’m sure I pretty much fit all of them at one point or another. However, I wish we could all be more open to the possibilities of gender duality. Regardless of whether people think I swing more toward my feminine or my masculine side, nothing turns me off more than men who state they are “straight acting” when they like to play leap frog with other men.
What’ s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Mommie Dearest.” The gay man’ s guide to opera acting and OCD.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Bjork’s Polar Music Prize. I wish I could be as brilliant as her.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That I was going to live past 25. I certainly didn’t behave that way.
I’m attracted to the sizzle of American politics. The Hill staffers are cute, too. I dated one for a while. Moreover, this IS a theater town and the resources here for my profession are overwhelming. Source Theatre/Cultural Development Corporation has played an integral part in getting my work seen. I owe a lot to them, especially Jenny McConnell Frederick.