A Happy Ending

As referred to in Managing Artistic Director Benjamin Rexroad’s essay, Theatre: An Actor’s Medium, Heads Up is an artist-centric organization – placing the actor at the heart of the creative process. The actor is charged with not merely discovering the form but filling it.

Heads Up’s ensemble uses its training to instill a certain level of discipline in order to achieve performances that are real, immediate and impactful. While an actor may be ‘playing’ a character, the actor should be truthful in his playing– by means of associations and awareness. We are not creating caricatures: we are creating ourselves.

My performance as Michal in The Pillowman was no exception. Using Stanislavsky’s Method of Physical Actions I was able to discover a precise score of action that I attempted to perfect night in and night out.  I was also asked to fill this “form” by creating a believable character.  Combining these two elements proved difficult. It took every ounce of energy in both my body and voice to be precise, alive and open each night. Each performance came with a tidal wave of emotion, adding yet another element into the mix.

Concluding the run of Pillowman I was eager to receive feedback, both compliments and criticism, in order to assess my growth. After all, at the end of every run there is an opportunity to reflect on your performance, to sift through what worked and what did not. In this way the actor learns what direction to head in his training. Reflection, however, can only be undertaken after the actor, to a certain degree, has disassociated himself from the show.

The days that came after Pillowman were unlike any following a show I have ever experienced. Rather than disassociate, my connection to Michal grew stronger. He was the song I couldn’t shake out of my head. I was constantly running through my score of action, recalling details and critiquing myself. Moments of laughter at Michal filled my dreams – were they laughing at Michal or me?  Where did Michal begin and I end?

I had a rough week. I was agitated, annoyed and bitter. All of the compressed emotions I felt as Michal were trying to free themselves. Much like Katurian, I realized that in order to move on I had to give Michal the happy ending he always wanted. I had to “kill” Michal.

Using our training, I performed several exercises to release all that had been compressed during Pillowman. Only then have I been able to step back from my performance and meditate on my progress as an artist.

The Pillowman and Michal will remain a part of me for the rest of my life and, to me, that seems like a happy ending.

-TJ Jozsa
Artistic Director


  1. This speaks fully to the impact that truly becoming your character can have on an actor. Your performance was moving, inspirational, and believable. Never once did I think TJ is doing a really great job in this role; I wasn’t watching TJ, I was watching Michael. I am not surprised that letting go of this character was such a large task. I agree that you definitely have a happy ending here, a very rewarding one as well.


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