The Academy Abroad: A Conversation with Alistair Ward
Alistair Ward is an actor, writer, director, and published playwright hailing from Australia. Speaking with him, even if briefly, revealed someone whose kindness, sense of humor, and warmth disarms anyone in his presence. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
So, Alistair, you’ve written two plays: Drama School and Twenty-Something. I must ask, did your time at The Academy inspire Drama School?
100 percent. All the details, well, I had to broaden it out a bit, because it was getting very similar, but it totally did. It was my own way to express my time at drama school, and heal, in a way.
To heal? How was your time at The Academy?
It was beautiful. I was in New York for three years, and it was beautiful, and it was also extremely turbulent—there were so many different chapters. It was everything I needed, and all the growth that you don’t think you need.
What about a specific moment, or perhaps a teacher who really challenged and shaped you?
[Alistair chuckles, then continues] I can think of someone specific right now. I look back now and laugh because I have these memories of screaming at each other from the stage and him trying to get me to move—I was so tense without even knowing it! He was so good about calling me out on my BS.
That’s great, there’s always that one teacher who knows exactly how to do that. On the training side, is there anything you have kept with you?
The training left me with such a belief system in my acting—I fully believe that I can deliver because of the training. It instilled in me such a confidence that can’t really be shaken, no matter how many rejections or difficult moments.
Are you one of those rare people who doesn’t suffer from self-doubt? Because if so, I need to know your secret.
As of today, no, I don’t. I decided one day not to have that fear of success or of failure. Instead, I chose to believe in myself fully and follow the signs that pop up, and see what happens.
And what does that look like for you? How do you go about living the actor’s life?
A big thing that COVID helped me with was realizing that my worth isn’t tied to my being an actor. That mentality can be really detrimental, that anytime you’re not working, you’re a failure—and there can be a long time between jobs. There are so many things about me, and this is the one that I’ve decided to give everything I have to.
And the other pieces of your life?
It’s important to recognize the fact that acting only takes up so much of your time each week. Now, I spend a lot of time working on my inner life and wondering who I am, and what I want. I’ve started spending more time listening, and I love being a wallflower whenever I can—I don’t feel the need to be the loudest voice in the room. I feel like everyone should go to drama school. You learn how to get rid of your inhibitions and to really listen.
And our instrument, our body, is so delicate.
Yes. And now, when I hear that ego voice say “no,” I will very quickly throw it off. I just think, “I’m going to own this space,” and that helps me a lot.
In a different vein, how do you end up selecting material, and how do you approach the work as an actor?
It’s interesting because now, the right ones end up coming to me. As a queer person, the last couple of years, I was just like, “why would I want to play a straight man?” and now I’m always seeming to get good gay roles. I would be happy to go my whole career playing gay men. Also, some of my writing has sprung out of that—when there are years with little work, I figured I could either wait around to be hired or write something and star in it.
What’s the next step for you?
I’m trying to surrender, to allow what’s to come to arrive. I’m directing and currently writing my next two projects: one a play that’s a bit more conceptual, and my first short film, where I’ll act, direct, and write. I hope to get all that out this year!