Ben Pfeiffer knows the Australian arts industry from all angles. Working as an actor, director and the founder/Artistic Director of The Artisan Collective, he is constantly immersed in the world of Australian theatre.
We take time to chat with Pfeiffer – a VCA Graduate and co-writer/co-director of The Artisan Collective’s new show Requiem for Dalinka – about life as an artist in Australia.
What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Ben Pfeiffer and I’m a Melbourne-based actor and director.
I launched my company The Artisan Collective in 2009. I divide my time between creating my own work and professional acting gigs.
In Australia it’s imperative to be self sufficient with your craft, make your own work and be a multi-faceted artist.
What’s your most underrated or unknown talent?
I’m a secret real estate mogul wannabe. Well, not entirely wannabe; I look at real estate at least once a day.
I also studied interior design after VCA. It was a great segue – being able to take my theatre experience into the world of interior aesthetic. The two worlds are not so different. You’re trying to create a mood, an atmosphere and evoke some sort of emotional response.
What makes you laugh?
My partner. America’s Next Top Model. Sarah Silverman and Kristen Wiig.
The things I find funny are usually pretty quirky, a little left of centre, with a dark underbelly.
Sometimes as an adult I forget to laugh. I feel like, as a child, laughter was my primary focus – I mean really, how good is a great big belly laugh? The kind that makes your insides ache.
What are you reading?
I just finished reading Finding Fernanda – a book that documents child trafficking in Guatemala.
“The dramatic story of how an American housewife discovered that the Guatemalan child she was about to adopt had been stolen from her birth mother.” It’s a great read; heartbreaking but great.
Who is your role model?
Most of the role models in my life are women.
My Mum and my two sisters have mostly informed the person I am. My Mum is a really good woman; I often think of her in tricky situations.
She is pure, kind and non-judgemental. She always taught me to never assume anything.
“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
The world needs more…
… of my Mum.
The world needs less…
Narrow minded politicians.
What tools do you need to be creative?
Passion and playfulness. You have to be a big kid. If you can’t access your imagination without your cerebral adult self trying to filter your every thought, then you can’t truly create.
Striking a balance between intellect and imaginative impulse is what makes good art. It’s bound to result in a work of complexity, conflict and danger.
What’s your happy place?
Which show (other than your own) you think people should drop everything and see?
Basically anything that Back to Back theatre produce.
I believe they are the number one company in Australia. Their work is exquisitely crafted, super smart and bursting with truth, soul and humour. What more could you want?
What was the last piece of theatre/film/TV that really left an impression on you?
I’m obsessed with the British TV series Black Mirror. If you haven’t seen it, you must. It contains some of the most sublime writing, conception and acting I’ve seen. It’s been around for a few years, and is absolutely worth a look.
There isn’t enough art about …
Food. I want to see more food in my art.
What three things can’t you live without?
Theatre. Project Runway and my partner. (In no particular order)
Go-to shower belting song?
At the moment all I sing is Hebrew and Yiddish songs, and not just in the shower, in the car too. It’s at the core of our current production Requiem For Dalinka.
If you could change one thing about the Australian theatre industry, what would that be?
Finance. In particular, financing new, independent work. At the very least offering free space to artists who are trying to create something.
What’s the most used app on your phone?
One guess. Real Estate.
What do you wish you had been told before starting in this industry?
Don’t ever grow up.
What are you addicted to?
What city do you live in and why?
Melbourne. It’s the city of soul and substance.
It’s able to sustain you creatively and intellectually. Even when finances are low I still feel rich and fed in other ways.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Exactly where I am now – with a baby, or two. Still making theatre and performing.
For me there is no other alternative. It’s an absolute privilege to be an artist.
Requiem For Dalinka is a new Australian work presented by The Artisan Collective at Gasworks Arts Park.
12 – 22 November, 2014
Mon – Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm
Bookings: 03 9699 3253 or online at www.gasworks.org.au
Venue: Gasworks Theatre – 21 Graham St, Albert Park