Eric Eastman What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Eric Eastman: Photo by Dina K.
Eric Eastman: Photo by Dina K.

We each became world-aware at a certain moment in pop-culture history when the prevailing tide of the times left it’s indelible mark on those of us who were curious enough and at liberty enough to have been watching. I lived in Northern MA in the mid/late 1970s, and, like so many of my peers, I basked when I could in the revelatory glow of the boob tube. Doing so was as much or more a part of our unfolding cultural initiation as was attending school, an area little league game or even accompanying Dad to the local packie store on Sundays (after 12pm, of course). We listened to WRKO in the mornings, heard the zany yet infectiously shrill vocal stylings of Dale Dorman over our precious Boston airwaves, saw how cool it was to get picked to appear on Community Auditions wtih Dave Maynard, religiously watched the Saturday afternoon “Creature Feature” on UHF channel 56 out of Boston, watched WGBH channel 2 and learned the “0-2- 1-3-4’ – send it to Zoom!” jingle by heart, we dug how indescribably cool Morgan Freeman was as the “Easy Reader” on “The Electric Company”, and had faith that WBZ was the center of the broadcast world – it had to be, right? The point? We 70s initiates saw, learned, and got hip to the notion that to be of consequence in a world keen on mass broadcasting meant that one had to have a special edge. That ‘thing’, that ‘spark’. That quality which made your friends and neighbors and their friends and neighbors want to tune-in and watch whatever it was that you decided to do next. This was the perceptural landscape, the cultural incubator within which Eric got to know his world, and concluded what kind of mark upon that world he wanted -and needed- to leave.

Grrrr. The motorists driving along Argilla Road in Andover, MA, (1976) don’t slow down sufficiently upon seeing the 11 year old boy by the side of the road when they go by emerging from behind streetside rocks, wearing his newest latex werewolf mask, hands raised in mock menace, in hopes of getting a rise out of the captive audience that he thought, by rights, they ought to be while they’re putting-by at 25mph in this provincial part of town. After all, surely they had time to observe how cool and scary he looked, right? After all, they owe it to him, the performer, to register a nice, juicy reaction. Some do oblige. Those reactions are a kind of nectar, a sustenence to the boy. Entertaining was something he did well… And it was something noone could take away. That same boy’s view of excitement, of virtue and his base definition of what really makes a guy something special remains rooted in a belief that flights of imagination are the inevitable route to greatness – they’re the basis of real meaning. They have to be. With it, endless possibilities can be excavated and explored if only you can arrest the intrigue and attention of others. From then ‘till now, not much has really changed for this boy. Truly.

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Photo by Dina K.

As H.S and college unfolds (1978-’85), the “performing bug” remains a central motivation for Eric the born performer. Punk music and the mayhem that often goes with it becomes the medium within which the boy moves. Distinguishing himself as the bassist/vocalist for a bleeding-edge pop outfit at college in 1980 (NH seacoast), the young “rebel within a clue” lands a claim to fame when his group wins a battle of the bands and enjoys the spoils of their victory by being given a berth as the opening act for the next headline act that comes to campus. As it happens, it turns out to be the holy grail of punk – The Ramones. Bragging rights notwithstanding, the boy discovers the power of a rapt and syncophantic audience @ that gig – and never looks back.

A bit later, when the twisted ride that the rock ‘n roll caravan became subsides, the boy discovers the expressive oasis that is Community Theater. With it’s own strange and exciting challenges, it becomes a new sandbox in which to create and explore. It’s a place that gives a creative soul air to breathe, and a ready canvas upon which to paint (metaphor notwithstanding). With the right collaborative partners, local/regional theater can be a frugal and fruitful chance to grow as an actor and performer. So the boy did just that – for 15- ish years.

He worked hard, made good theater, worked with many Directors; some strong, some skilled, some inspired, some ridiculous, and some pathetically lame.. He learned from each and from all. Occasionally the boy developed a “performer’s tick” or two; an unhelpful or tedious thespianic onstage habit which generally needs to be quashed. He eventually got good at recognizing those inclinations, and making adjustments himself. He learned how to perform Shakespeare al fresco and did so with conviction for years. He became adept with musical theater, and learned to sing from the soul and from the diaphragm. He developed into a leading man, and became a skillfully versatile character actor as well. The man-boy found that he had learned to create spiritually and emotionally relevant moments for a big room full of eager audience members at will. He found that he couldn’t stop, even if he tried. This was a place of belonging. He realised that he had found his center. His calling.

Ten years ago, the opportunities of the bright lights and big city have called and the boy has answered. many plays and many films later, twenty five solid years of involvement in theater at the regional and semi-professional level have given way to a prolific pursuit of media production and the elusively tender craft of acting and directing for the camera. Cameras capture performances for big screens and little screens alike these days, and Eric has done ‘em all. Once upon a time, back when mullet haircuts were new, had the boy taken a more traditional and institutional route in his pursuit of this craft, perhaps he wouldn’t be finally writing this retrospective after an entire half century of life on earth. But he is writing it in 2014. For whatever reason, he bucked tradition. Guess he had to. Think of it this way: some fighters are expertly trained to do well in the ring. Specifically. That’s not our boy’s story (he loves stories). He is, comparatively, a streetfighter. He learned the long, slow and hard way how to be an asset in any theatrical production at any level, and he has painstakingly trained himself to be a valuable part of a media production project in front of or behind the camera. Thirty plus years in the making, he is an actor. God knows he ain’t gonna stop…

Eric Eastman behind the camera, Photo by Dina K.
Eric Eastman behind the camera, Photo by Dina K.

Union, non-union, big budget, lo-budget, nobudget, paid, unpaid, webisode, TV, VOD, straight to video or huge blockbuster.

Discovered for fame or doomed to obscurity – some folks care about such things. Alot. Good for them.

Why the history lesson?

Why have I not shared the ‘professional anecdotes’, or the ‘legitimate’ highlights, milestones and victories? (and there are some)

Why not list the titles in which I’ve appeared, provided links to videos, awards, film festival appearances, etc.? (there have been many)

Why not share my highest aspirations and goals in this precocious profession, this this multidimensional craft?

Simple – I already have.

That 11 year boy wearing the werewolf mask by the side of the road got to see himself up on the silver screen one day in Boston. And he fell desperately in love with the fact that his dream really could come true; that he could actually tell a real story.

A really really good story. He knew he had finally done what he was here to do.

That’s all the ‘professional accolades’ that matter – all he needs.

Now he just wants to go out there and keep doing it better.

The rest is gravy.

“There are those who want to act. There are those who “act out” while in the pursuit of decent acting. There are those who do in fact manage to act… and then there are those who, whether or not they are expected to act, simply ‘are’.

That’s what love’s got to do with it.

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