Prelude: At only 25 years old, Charles Adams has accomplished what most of us would hope for in a lifetime. I met Charles at Java Haute where we sat and talked for nearly three hours. When he applied for a scholarship, he was first told that acting was not a real career. What a lot of people don’t understand is that no matter what the career path a person chooses, success only comes with diligence, hard work…and passion. Charles Adams’ work ethic makes most us of look like wimps. He is following his passion and is an exceptionally talented, intriguingly funny and highly intelligent young man. Remember his name… the best is yet to come.
Brian: You have had quite a prolific career at such an early age. How did you get started?
Charles: I attended North Decatur High School in southern Indiana where I was heavily active in the drama department. I was very lucky to have great drama directors there in the form of the talented and erudite Dan and Amy Borns. From an early age the works of Tim Curry, Richard Griffiths and Ian McNeice, who I have since befriended and chat with often, inspired me. In that same respect, the Dune novels are probably the biggest literary influence on me. I love them, and I’ve used them as a tool so many times in regards to my work. Those things were really the basis of it all. And I had a lot of imagination–I’d go around creating worlds, characters in my mind. I was very much a young Don Quixote.
Brian: What did you do during and after high school?
Charles: From age 16 to around 23 I did work with several radio stations. I had my own show (one on Saturday morning and another on Sunday nights) in which I spoke about current events, art and so on. People that I interviewed while doing that included Russ Streiner and John Russo from Night of the Living Dead, Takayo Fischer from Pirates of the Caribbean, and Vincent M. Ward from The Walking Dead. In fact, I wrote a radio drama that featured all of them and more. The play was a quasi-sequel to the French filmmaker George Melies’ film, A Trip to the Moon. I even had Melies’ great-granddaughter Pauline Duclaud-Lacoste agree to take part. She flew in from Brussels and was the most fun. That was for WTRE radio, where in addition to the stuff mentioned I also did board-op work, reporting and community events. I also helped edit radio promos as well as write scripts for other stations, such as Q-Mix, MOJO and others.
Brian: Did you have any experience in radio to get that kind of job at 16?
Charles: Oh no, none at all. I just liked Orson Welles and his radio work. And, you know what, in the beginning it was freaky. My first day was spent alongside a DJ named B.J. It was her job to show me what to do. That said, on the first day, we went to this town hall meeting about which I was going to record a report for the next day’s morning news coverage. A lot of what they were talking about I didn’t understand. I went in with a recorder, and after the meeting I bombarded the various politicians with so many questions that I know they were thinking, geez, where did they find this one? Afterwards, we went back to the station and B.J. told me how to work the control board and various other programs needed to record it. As she did so I was frantically writing everything down. Then she asked me if I understood what to do. I told her that yes I thought I did and she replied, “Okay I’m going into this room to do some work. You go ahead, record and edit the story. I’ll listen to it after. It’ll air in the 6 a.m. slot and go at the top of each hour until noon.” She then went into the other room and I thought, “OMG!” What really got me was that on stage, I say it and it’s gone, I don’t have to hear it back. But hearing myself in the recording was so different. I got so technical about it. You know like, “Oh, that inflection was so bad;” things like that. Then about two hours later she came back in and asked me if I had finished. It was only meant to be a minute-long story after all. Finally, she said, “Let me just edit it.” The final product went over well. The manager called me the next day and said, “We had some really good feedback on your news story. That was a really good job.” All the radio stuff was really learn-as-you-go. I always made myself available. If someone called in or someone cancelled and couldn’t do something, I immediately got the call. I have to say that it is somewhat a trait that has followed me. I am, for a lack of a better phrase, very whorish. I'm a whore. When someone asks me if I’m available, I tell them I’ll see if it fits into my timetable and if I’m available, I’ll do it.
Brian: How did this lead to your present acting and playwriting career?
Charles: After graduating from high school, I took a year to just do radio and plays. My family didn’t have the money to send me to college, so I was sort of figuring it out while I did my thing. A retired doctor who listened to me on the radio eventually reached out to me and told me of a large scholarship he thought I’d most definitely get. I went in for the interview and they said they’d love to give it to me, I was an ideal candidate, and then asked what I wanted to pursue. I told them theatre. You could have heard a pin drop. They told me that was not an option as they were going to be “investing” in me and that wasn’t a real career. They told me that if I chose any other field/major that I’d get the money. I said I wasn’t going to. They said that it was a big decision, and I should go away and think about it. Come back in a week, that sort of thing. Everyone I knew, including my mother, was appalled that I wouldn’t change my mind and pick a major or field of study that would get me the scholarship, which was worth a lot of money.
Brian: So, what happened when you came back?
Charles: A week later, I came back and told them the same thing. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to get the scholarship, but I felt I had to be true to myself and to them. They said to me that this was a lot of money and they just wanted to be sure that they were investing in me for something that I would actually be doing. I told them that I had recently been reading a book about Henri Matisse and his art, and I had just read this little excerpt that had really spoken to me and wanted to share it with them. In this excerpt Matisee was drawing his wife, who was posing in the corner. She kind of shifted, and Matisee told her not to move. This happened a couple more times and each time he yelled at her. Finally, Matisse got so frustrated that he started throwing things around; he roughed up the room and just stared at her. Then they both started laughing. After I told this to the committee, they were all looking at me like, “WTF is this kid talking about?” I told them, “Yes he was grouchy and they had lots of bills,” but the idea that in spite of it all, in spite of his outburst, they looked at each other and they laughed, it was inspiring. In the larger scheme of things those frustrations they had were nothing. Trifles. They had each other and they had his art. Eventually it led them to where they needed to be. I told the committee, “I would much rather be in that chair, slightly irritable, making some kind of art with somebody than doing something that just drains my soul.”
Brian: Then what happened?
Charles: I got the scholarship!
Brian: How did you choose Indiana State University?
Charles: I applied to a bunch of schools, and I got into a bunch of them. For whatever reason, I chose ISU. People have asked me why I chose ISU, and I tell them, “I don’t really know.” Advising me during this process were two actors who I had become friendly with. They both told me not to look so much at the institution or the university itself, but rather see if there were faculty there that I could actually connect with and create with. One of the advisors was Walter Williamson, an actor and playwright who has become a very good mentor and friend. I wrote to him in high school as I was a fan of his film appearances and writing. That first letter I wrote him was when his play True Love first opened in Los Angeles. As I couldn’t see the play, I asked if he would please send me the script to read. He did. He was very responsive and enthusiastic. This started off a friendship that has been so very important to my growth as a man and artist. Since then we have written back and forth regularly sharing stories of our lives and work. He started writing novels a few years ago and will sometimes send drafts for me to read and give feedback, and, in turn, I send him works I write to get his feedback. Offhand, of his novels, I read the first drafts/gave feedback on Bobby on Broadway and Bertie Stopford. So anyway, when I came to ISU, I found that faculty member I had been told to look for in the form of Arthur Feinsod. I graduated from ISU in 2014, and I was very, very active in the theatre department. I should also mention Jim Fisher who has also been a great mentor that I met during my college years.
Brian: Since graduating from ISU, you have built an impressive resumé. Can you talk about some of your experiences since graduating from ISU?
Charles: I served as an understudy/stage manager for the premiere European tour of Coming to See Aunt Sophie. I traveled throughout Germany and Poland, and have a lot of fun stories relating to that experience. I have since written and taken around several one-man shows, which continue to travel to various different venues. I have also taken commissions. One is called Couples, which examines the life, love and art of two different artists (poet W.H. Auden and actress Ruth Draper). Then there is The Raggedy Man: The Life of James Whitcomb Riley, which was commissioned and has been performed around various schools and libraries. That one is quite popular, actually. Then I have Can’t Put My Finger On It, which is about funny stories from my life and how they shaped my view of the world. I am working on a few others now. One I’m really aiming to get together is one on Charles Laughton’s life.
Brian: You have also been in some films. What are some of them?
Charles: Yes, I have. Do it a lot now. Some of my film credits include The Painting House (Hepp Katt Productions), Take Me Away (Dead Idea), The Drunk (Shatterglass Studios), Virus (Dead Idea), The Shattered Vial (5th Wall Filmworks), the animated Tell-Tale Heart (Dead Idea), Head Shop of Horrors (Short Bus Talking), and the television movie Dunkirk due out in 2017. The last one is suppose to be released internationally on DVD and Netflix in 2017, I’m told. I have several film projects already scheduled from now through June 2017, so lots popping up on that avenue, quite a number of baddies. Oh, and I also was featured in a 2015 advertising campaign for LEAP Managed Co. titled Tea Time. That was pretty popular with people.
Brian: What are some of the new things you are working on?
Charles: I’m involved with Theater 7, and coming up I play a character named Charlie in Here in the Universe, a rap musical. Charlie is a high school student who is music oriented, but struggling with his sexuality. In March, I’ll be in Glenngary Glen Ross directed by Ethan Alltop. In June 2017, I’ll be in Theater 7’s production of Death Of A Salesman. I have several one-man shows scheduled each month and am doing some workshops in Indianapolis with students. Several movies scheduled, too. Playing two different villains in two different films in January and February. Also shooting an interesting mini-series project in May.
Brian: That is an incredible range of roles. How do you manage it?
Charles: I like to play a variety of roles, I’ve never been pegged, I feel. One week I’m a drug addict, next I’m a solider, next I’m an Irish immigrant and so on. And I love learning, researching. And in regards to creating them, years ago, Walter told me to go out into the middle of a cornfield and rehearse. Bellow the lines out into the air. Actually, I continue to do this. I’ll learn/rehearse lines in places like cemeteries, to work out my mind and how to prepare for the role. I find a daily planner helps too.
Brian: What do you do in your downtime, or do you have any?
Charles: I have a dog, Royce who is my best friend. I rehearse in front of him a lot…if he could only talk? I don’t watch television. I don’t even own a television. I do watch movies on my computer. I love traveling and visiting antique shops. I love to hike and walk. Walking is my number one pastime, along with reading.
Brian: What motivates you?
Charles: Let me preface with this. A lot of things in my life have come full circle. I am usually working on something. I don’t like not working on something. One of my teachers in high school, John Pratt, put in my mind, “Don’t be afraid to ask.” Another fellow named Gene McCoy, a radio salesman, always told me, “It’s a 50% yes until they say no.” I’m a daydreamer. A lot of my dreams have become reality because I wasn’t afraid to ask and go in search. I dreamed of going to college and I was able to go. I wanted to do a play in Europe and that came true. I always wanted to meet my idol Ian McNeice and now we are friends; my dog has even met him. Ian and several others told me, always find something you can do in between gigs…I guess to answer your question, I just love learning.