5 With: Max Wojtanowicz

January 7, 2015

I'm thrilled to be kicking off the final batch of 5 With interviews with my friend Max Wojtanowicz. I've known Max since we were in college, and it's been a total joy watching him take what he loves and make a career out of it. I'm especially impressed by his ability to balance performing in the work of a wide range of Twin Cities theater companies with launching his own work as a writer. You can find Musical Mondays, the monthly cabaret series that Max cofounded, at Hell's Kitchen on the first Monday of each month, and keep up with his performance schedule on his website over here

Describe your current creative work and what drives it or inspires you: 
I'm a performer, mostly. I'm most interested in how to use the voice to communicate a message, not just with text but with music. I really believe (in musical theater especially) that no actor is "also" a singer, nor that any singer is "also" an actor. When the two are never mutually exclusive, but truly blended, you have magic onstage. I love exploring how you can blur the lines between speaking text musically and singing music with an emphasis on the word; it's in those in-between spots that I've been most inspired by performers. I've always thought this, but it's only in the past few years that I've been able to articulate it, and it's taken all that time to experiment and play with this idea. I'm certainly nowhere near done!

I've also start to write in the past few years, particularly lyrics in conjunction with a few composers. The art of lyric writing is something I've started learning about from a few mentors and a lot of trial and error. A great lyric is a thing of beauty to me.

What are your biggest creative challenges?
As a performer-- remaining focused on the work and not the business of it. Being fully present in a rehearsal room or onstage can sometimes provide challenges when you're thinking about your other jobs, your family, what you need from the grocery store, etc. Keeping the distractions out so you can be clear and truly engaged in the room with your company is something that takes a lot of work, no matter how disciplined you think you are.

As a writer-- staying motivated! Writing is a very lonely business, and even when you get the joy of collaborating, there's still so much solitary work to be done that requires great concentration and motivation. 

How do you balance work that pays the bills with work that's creatively exciting to you? 
So far in my career I've found ways to make these one in the same. I've found acting work that pays well enough that I can occasionally take work that doesn't. I also work several other part time jobs -- coaching, teaching summer camps, singing at a church, commercial and voice-over work -- that supplement that income. I try to fill my spare time with writing and developing other projects, which will hopefully lead to more!

Give some advice: what resources have been helpful to you? 
Some tough love from a few college professors proved very helpful: they balanced motivation and encouragement with nuggets of harsh truth: "The world doesn't require you." "Make yourself necessary." "How are you more qualified than everyone else your type?" "What makes you different?" No other resource has been more helpful than the constant pursuit of my voice and my viewpoint: seeing all the theater, concerts and movies that I can, and constantly encouraging and engaging in dialogue about them, has been my greatest resource. You never know who will have wisdom that resonates with you. 

What's inspiring you right now? 
At the beginning of 2015, I officially launched my new theater company, The Catalysts, which focuses on inventive musical theatre through social justice teaching and sustainable playmaking. This is a venture that's really inspiring me right now -- it's one of those I have to pee I have so many ideas! type of things. We're developing a few new works and putting together a season for the coming year, so I'm looking forward to a creative and motivated year of making it go!

[For more Max, go to twitter or his website or The Catalysts' website. For more 5 With, head over here.]


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