Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha and Co. Celebrate Opening Night of Asuncion
Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha and Co. Celebrate Opening Night of Asuncion
Five years ago, Jesse Eisenberg, the 28-year-old actor best known for playing arrogant but oddly endearing nerds like Walt in The Squid and the Whale and, most famously, Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, started writing a play about the ironic insensitivity of political correctness. Then Barack Obama was elected president. “I put it away because I thought, Oh, the play has no relevance anymore because we live in a post-racial society,” the actor remembers, laughing. Luckily, such illusions were short-lived. After a week or so of preview performances, this evening the play, Asuncion, officially opens at the historic Cherry Lane Theater. Eisenberg plays Edgar, a navel-gazing college kid consumed by white guilt, and Justin Bartha (The Hangover) plays his multiculturalism-obsessed pothead mentor and roommate. Their relationship is complicated by the sudden arrival of Edgar’s new sister-in-law of Filipino descent. Eisenberg took a few minutes to chat with us about his fear of pop culture, racism, and why only poseur screenwriters use Post-its.
I saw the play last week and I was pretty blown away. Congratulations. It’s really astounding.
Good, good. Thank you very much for coming. You didn’t see it on Thursday, did you?
No, I saw it on Wednesday. Why, was Thursday bad news?
Yeah, Thursday was really weird, and I’m doing an informal poll to see why it was so weird. I think I’ve figured it out. I think there was some technical problem and there was a buzzing for the first 45 minutes. Not like a hearing aid, but similar. And it was so jarring for us; we’re used to playing to an audience that is experiencing a comedy and laughing at a lot of things.
What is your personal connection to the themes of the play?
I started traveling a lot a few years ago, and went to countries like Cambodia, which my character discusses. I went to Venezuela for a while; I went to countries that are not often visited by American tourists. And my initial reaction was to imbue the people who lived there with great wisdom and victimhood. And I thought, How strange that I would instinctively imbue them with victimhood? It’s so condescending. In fact, it’s more condescending to view them as victims than as oppressors in some cases. That was such an awful quality I noticed in myself. The character is really exploring that.
In the opening scene of the play, he comes home beaten up, and the first thing he does is defend the kid who attacked him. And as an outsider, I feel that’s more condescending than to be angry. And then somebody from the outside world comes into the house, and he immediately imbues her with victim status because he can only see the world in such black-and-white ways, where you’re either a victim or an oppressor, and if she comes from the Philippines she must be the victim, and of course then he’s the oppressor. And he doesn’t know how to act here. So he patronizes her, and he condescends her, and ultimately he exploits her. And that’s kind of my attitude, on a smaller scale. That’s how I kind of treated people from other places.
There is a line in the play that talks about how depression can really be a cover for selfishness. Where did that idea come from?
I often think if you have time to sit around the house feeling bad for yourself, you have time to tutor a child. I’m guilty of that exact thing. I will spend more time sitting around feeling bad for myself than actually helping somebody. And because I’m feeling bad about myself, it still seems like a noble hour spent because I didn’t enjoy it. So it’s masking selfishness by calling it depression. Depression, if it’s an unconsciously elected experience, is a luxury.
In the second act of the play, your character is working on a big piece of writing, and part of his creative process involves sticking Post-its all over the walls. Is that a writer tic that you have?
No, it’s a writer tic that I’ve noticed other people have. I had seen that kind of thing for screenwriters who are not produced. So instead of being produced and working, they had these very kind of visible and ostentatious systems in their house, like colored Post-its for when the bomb blows up and pink Post-its for the romance. To me, it seems like kind of an ostentatious way to show other people that you’re working if your movies are not being made. I thought this is something the character would do: create this elaborate system of Post-its because this is the first serious job he’s ever had to do.
The characters you are best known for tend to have a few things in common — they’re neurotic, they speak in brainy, rapid-fire dialogue. What is your against-type fantasy role? Do you have one?
No, because that’s looking from the outside in and that’s not how I think of performance. I like thinking of the minutia behind a character’s motivation. So to me, one character to another is totally different. It may appear cosmetically similar, but I don’t watch the movies I’m in so that’s not something that affects me. If they appear similar, that’s for the audience to figure out and maybe for someone to write about and comment on. I don’t have this kind of fantasy to play the marine core guy.
The script is rife with cultural signifiers and references — Martin Luther King quotes, I spotted The Cornel West Reader onstage. What are you reading right now? What are you watching?
I don’t have a television. I don’t ever see movies, either, on DVD or at the theater. I have an iPad and I watch three things: The Daily Show, 60 Minutes, and Meet the Press. And I read the New York Times. Sorry, I would read your magazine but I’m so scared of reading about culture that I can’t. But I used to love New York Magazine.
Why are you afraid of culture?
I just don’t want to feel part of it. It’s hard to articulate why, because I don’t really understand it. I guess because, like, it pains me to think about the play we do every night — not to inflate the play to something so special, because it’s really not that special, it’s just another play — but I think of it so personally that it kind of pains me to see it listed. I mean, I’m honored to be listed. I don’t know. I don’t want to feel like I’m part of an industry, because it hurts me somehow to think of it that way.
There is an assembly line element …
Yeah, exactly. Or they’ll put a star near something or a dot near something. It’s reductive in a way that makes me uncomfortable to realize I’m part of that in some way, and it could just be viewed by a mass audience and dismissed or accepted.
Okay, that’s one issue. But in general, you don’t want to read a profile about your favorite actor and you don’t want to see a movie with your favorite actor in it?
I guess for similar reasons. It comes from a place of insecurity about my own creative stuff. I’m also just not that interested in the arts. In the play, what the characters are interested in, that’s what I’m interested in. The only time the characters ever reference something in the arts is when the girl says to me she likes Mariah Carey and I say I don’t even know who Mariah Carey is. It’s a half-joke because he probably does know who she is, but he wants to see himself as part of a cultural elite who wouldn’t know who she is. I’m interested in all the things the characters are interested in: politics and all this other stuff. My degree in school was — well is, I haven’t finished yet — anthropology. That’s the stuff I’m interested in and I surround myself with people who are interested that stuff.
Your script reading process must be pretty interesting, with these restrictions in place …
Well, if you want to be a working actor and have a career and an apartment, you can’t do movies about Cornel West.
(CBS) Megan Fox, Jesse Eisenberg, Sarah Silverman, John Krasinski, David Cross and Woody Harrelson are some of the celebrities that will be gracing the stage for this year’s “24 Hour Plays on Broadway.”
The annual event is a challenge for writers, directors and actors, who literally have 24 hours to write, produce and perform a play on Broadway. According to a press release, proceeds will benefit the Urban Arts Partnership, an organization that promotes arts-integrated education programs in underprivileged communities.
On Nov. 13 at 10 p.m., the full group of participants will begin the process of creating their plays, which will be performed on stage at the American Airlines Theater in New York at 8 p.m. the following day. According to the official website, the plays typically run about eight to twelve minutes each, with three to four actors or actresses in each performance. Typically, about six plays are featured.
Last year’s participants included Gloria Estefan, Elizabeth Banks, Nia Vardalos, Claire Danes, Sarah Silverman Elijah Wood, America Ferrera, Christopher Meloni and Julia Stiles, according to Playbill.
This year’s list of participants are:
Laura Bell Bundy
From The Independent:
Jesse Eisenberg rose to fame as the star of the highly successful and contentious film The Social Network. With the release of his film Holy Rollers, which tells the tale of a young Hasidic Jewish man being lured into dealing Ecstasy, he discusses his own upbringing, why he won’t be signing up to Facebook and the questionable movie scripts from his teenage years.
You researched Holy Rollers by speaking with Hasidic Jews, how was your own Jewish upbringing different?
I grew up in a secular suburban Jewish household where we only observed the religion on very specific times like a funeral or a Bar Mitzvah. When I started learning about the Hasidic community, it was so interesting to discover how even though they were so much more devout and observing – not only on a daily basis but an hourly basis – some of them felt as ambivalent about religion as me. Even though they were dressing in a very specific way and observing in a very specific way, from speaking to them I noticed that some had ambivalent feelings about the intensity of their faith. That was really interesting to me because in the movie my character struggles with feeling both really protected by his faith but also really alienated by it.
Your sister Hallie worked with you in the film, did you find you were more open with each other about your performances?
A bit. I was happy that she did the movie because she was so wonderful and I knew she would be. It did make it a bit uncomfortable; she asked me in between one of the scenes “Why did you keep making that face?” I said “Which face?” She said “This face” and pulled a face. I didn’t realise I was making that face and that’s not really something you want to hear as a actor. When you’re acting you want to work from the inside out. So a reasonable director would say “What are you feeling in this moment?” or “Try exploring this part of it”. Whereas when you’re working with a family member, tact goes out the window.
IMDB cites that you’re known for your curly hair and fast-talking voice, what would you prefer it to say?
I don’t really like to read or hear that kind of thing because it makes me feel commodified in a way that’s not interesting to me. I don’t know…I don’t really care what people write on the internet. It all seems mean-spirited and reductive.
It was highly publicised that you weren’t on Facebook around the release of The Social Network, any plans to sign up?
No, no, no, no, no. The more attention I get as an actor the less I want to be on the internet, obviously. So you can imagine that updating my life on the internet wouldn’t be of interest as other people do it for me, much to my dismay.
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At the age of 27, Jesse Eisenberg tackled the role of a lifetime. Playing Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network," Eisenberg racked up dozens of nominations and awards. But his newest project is off-Broadway at the tiny Cherry Lane Theater here in New York. Jesse Eisenberg wrote and is starring in a new play called "Asuncion." The play explores what happens when a Filipina woman moves in with two ultra-liberal young men. Eisenberg plays Edgar, a bright, young man obsessed with saving the world.
Meet Jesse Eisenberg and see his new play Asuncion in New York City
The winning bidder will receive two tickets to an upcoming performance of Asuncion; a production still, program book, and poster autographed by the play’s cast; The Social Network, Zombieland, and Rio DVDs autographed by Jesse; a handwritten Thank You note from Jesse; plus a private meet & greet and photo opportunity with Jesse after the show! This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the winner and their guest to meet Jesse Eisenberg in person. All proceeds from the auction will benefit Urban Arts Partnership.
Asuncion is Academy Award-nominated Jesse Eisenberg’s hilarious and heartbreaking play which explores the complicated ways we exploit culture and politics for our own needs. Performances are scheduled through November 27, 2011 at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. The winner will be able to request the performance date they’d like to attend, based on availability.
Urban Arts, a not-profit organization that was founded in 1992 to advance the intellectual, social and artistic development of under-served public school students through arts-integrated education programs to close the achievement gap. To learn more about the cause, visit www.urbanarts.org.
Pictures of Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Remy Auberjonois and Camille Mana in Asuncion. See more pictures at the source.
Jesse Eisenberg. An all-weather talent. Snowed us in “The Social Network.” Now shining in off-Broadway’s “Asuncion” at the Cherry Lane. He’s playwright and star. So, what’s it mean? And what’s the pronunciation?
“Some pronounce it ‘Asunseeyon,’ ” said Jesse. “Others, how I call it, ‘Asunshun.’ The title refers to Mary. It deals with a religious experience paralleling Mary’s Assumption. This is basically about assumptions. Like from those people who make you think they know it all.
“I didn’t carve out certain hours daily to sit alone at a computer in privacy as a professional writer might. I haven’t those long breaks of free time. I use paper and pen. I scribble on the back of receipts, documents, across some letter in my pocket. Anything I find.
“This is not the first play I‘ve written. I’ve done several. Listen, I started in the entertainment industry at 7. I had a difficult time in school. Acting, disappearing into another world, saved my life and helped make things possible so that now I can deal with the stresses of career.
“Problem is, having become somewhat well-known I‘ve grown a bit complacent. I don’t write that much anymore.
“Years ago I loved the Rattlestick Theater’s work. So I asked them to produce this. But with productions lined up, they could only give me this date two years from then.
“In the interim, I became popular but always kept this alloted date open. It’s very important to me. Acting success makes me the world’s luckiest person. But playwriting is how I truly express myself. I’ve had to update the script. Revise it to be more timely and change references, like from President Eisenhower to Obama.
“I play Edgar, who thinks he knows about the world, has dogmatic ideas, has two roommates who have unhealthy relationships and over the course of two acts learns he knows less. He’s in politics. Sad, lonely, with feelings of loneliness and alienation, he learns to mask his insecurities.”
So how long will Jesse and his play run?
“Until the end of the year. It’s not open-ended. Certain times are blocked out for other productions. If it does well and I feel good about it, maybe I‘ll do something again next year.”
In previews, “Asuncion” opens Oct. 27.
Jesse Eisenberg, whose performance in the movie “The Social Network,” earned him a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category will appear in “Theater of War,” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24 at the New York State Military Museum, on 61 Lake Ave. in Saratoga Springs.
Eisenberg’s most recent role was in the 2010 film “The Social Network” in which he played Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
“Theater of War” presents readings of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes to military and civilian communities as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the impact of war on individuals, families and communities.
Organizers say by presenting these plays to military and civilian audiences, the hope is to de-stigmatize psychological injury, increase awareness of post-deployment psychological health issues, disseminate information regarding available resources, and foster greater family, community and troop resilience.
Readings from the plays are followed by discussion with panelists from the local civilian and military communities, and a town hall style audience discussion. Each performance runs approximately two hours.
To date, Theater of War Productions has presented 175 performances for military and civilian communities throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. More than 35,000 service members, veterans and their families have attended and participated in performances and discussions.
Also appearing are John Doman, who has appeared in “Blue Valentine” and HBO’s “The Wire,” Glenn Davis who has appeared in “24,” “The Unit” and “Jericho;” and Chinasa Ogbuagu who has appeared in “Nurse Jackie” and “Petunia.”
Theater of War Productions, in collaboration with SUNY Empire State College, the New York State Museum and the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center will host two performances in the Capital Region.
In addition to the appearance in Saratoga Springs, a performance will take place at the New York State Museum in Albany at 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
The performance is free and open to the public, however, due to limited seating at each performance advance registration is requested.
Registration is available online at http://choose.esc.edu/tow/.
For more information, visit the Theater of War web site at www.outsidethewirellc.com.
Two years ago this month, horror comedy Zombieland burst into movie theaters and instantly became one of 2009′s biggest sleeper hits, eventually taking in more than $100 million at the worldwide box office. There was instantly talk of a sequel that might even be filmed in 3-D, but so far, Columbia Pictures has yet to greenlight a follow-up (even with The Walking Dead continuing to demonstrate Americans’ love for all things gross and deceased). Now, Vulture hears the sequel might actually not happen at all, but for a reason that might actually make fans happy: A half-hour TV version of Zombieland is in the works with original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on board. Specifically, we hear talks are well underway with Fox Broadcasting and Columbia’s sister unit, Sony Pictures Television, to put the zom-com into development for the 2012-13 season. If it happens, it will actually be sort of fitting.
As Zombieland producer (and new Vulture columnist) Gavin Polone noted when we called him up to confirm this news, “The original plan for this was to make it as a TV show.” Indeed, CBS actually ordered a pilot script for the concept all the way back in 2005, “but they did what networks do, which is to take all the good stuff out.” CBS ultimately passed and Syfy was interested, but couldn’t make things work financially, Polone says. Ultimately this was good news, of course, since the movie was a blockbuster and helped further the careers of stars Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, as well as director Ruben Fleischer (now helming the Ryan Gosling/Sean Penn drama Gangster Squad). There was serious work on a film sequel, but Polone says that’s now likely on hold: “If the TV show goes, then the sequel won’t happen.”
One good reason to think a series version of Zombieland could be killer is the fact that the writers have been working on story ideas for a show for years now. As Reese told MTV News last year, “We always thought [it should be a TV series]. If you watch the movie with that in mind, you will see some remnants of the television show. We have the ‘Zombie Kill of the Week,’ which was always intended to happen every week. The movie ends on a cliffhanger; it doesn’t have a real resolution.” Polone says the main leads, obviously, won’t be part of the series. But maybe since the project is headed to Fox, Zooey Deschanel could do a cameo as a zombie Jess?