Steve Lichtenstein has played a smart, powerful, edgy underdog lawyer, judge, doctor, father, and shady businessman. His producing journey began with the short film, “Justice,” in which he played the lead. Other recent films include “Like Daughter Like Mother” which has been screened at many film festivals and won awards for Best Film. He received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Uptown Manhattan Film Festival for his role as Ronald, the powerful quirky dad and widower in the film. He can also be seen in the festival award winning short, “Sure-Fire,” which has garnished much attention all over the country. Steve is currently in pre-production on a short film entitled “Aaron With 2 A’s,” where he is the co-writer, creator, executive producer and star of the film. His new production company is called Baby Boo Boo Productions LLC.
Q: Tell us about the new film, “Aaron With 2 A’s.”
A: I am super, uber excited about my own short film project. The title is “Aaron With 2 A’s.” I am the Executive Producer/Creator/Co-Writer/ Lead of the film. We are currently in pre-production. I never thought in a million years that I could have this many slashes. The film is being directed by Michael Goldburg. It also stars Pamela Jayne Morgan and Anthony Robert Grasso among an incredible cast and crew. The producer is Randi Sloane, and my co-writers are Mark Resnik and Montana Rock. It is about an older man who is an underdog following his dreams and choosing to live his life to the fullest if he can only get out of his own way. What drew me to Aaron is my own journey and seeing how an underdog who shifts his attitude can change everything. Three years ago, I wrote a monologue and started to find a story I wanted to tell. I came up with an idea and got together with Mark Resnik. We started to flesh it out and once I knew the message I wanted to tell, it morphed into a very personal, yet universal and dynamic story that I think will impact and inspire people. Hopefully, they can see some part of themselves in it and see that they can follow their dreams no matter how old or the risks. It is quite an amazing thing to have people believe in your vision and want to join. The film takes a lot of effort by a lot of people who believe in the story and message. It has taken hold of me deeply, and rooted itself in my being. This, and a couple of other recent projects I’ve done have taught me that to make any film is an unbelievable accomplishment that takes a belief in the vision, dedication, hard work, fun, and fortitude. I admire all the dreamers who inspire me. We shoot May 22nd – 24th.
The project has been delayed due to COVID-19 for over a year. So, it feels like we’ve waited an eternity. Although I’d like it to, the film will not solve the world’s problems, but it is an important film because it brings inspiration, hope, and joy into the world at a time when we can all use that!!! I hope that people will take the journey with us and donate to our GoFundMe drive. Film making isn’t inexpensive. I hope people will be part of making this dream come true. We also have pages on Facebook and Instagram. Please feel free to visit, like, and comment on posts. Aaron With 2 A’s GoFundMe link is: https://gofund.me/dafae7d2
Q: What challenges you the most in this film?
A: Well, the challenge for me is that “Aaron With 2 A’s” is my first film that I have worn so many hats with. It is a great responsibility. It is a universal theme but uses an actor’s story to make the point. I am grateful for my management team including, my producer Randi Sloane and my line producer Meghan Martin, who eased the way and are doing amazing jobs but being an executive producer, co-writer and creator on a project is a large responsibility and certainly keeps me busy! I love the journey. Preparing to act as a character so close to me, and who I created, is a different challenge. Letting go of all my other hats when I get to rehearsal and shooting will not be easy but must be done. It becomes the vision of the director, Michael Goldburg, at that point. So, there will be a fine line between collaborating as an actor does, and putting too much of my writing vision in it. One major challenge was being delayed over a year due to Covid. As many people who have had to put their dreams on hold know, it is difficult to wait, but it afforded time to revise things in the script and make it a better film. Coming back from Covid has affected the budget, as well as dealing with many other details to be in line with SAG rules and guidelines for the safety of everyone. Fundraising at this time is also challenging. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask people to donate whatever you can at the link in the prior question. We need you.
Q: You’ve appeared as a lead in several award-winning, Baltimore Playwrights Festival World Premiere plays. Tell us about your favorite roles.
A: So, let me go back to memory lane. I played a modern-day sheriff in a play about a school mass shooting. A father whose daughter was killed, kidnapped one of the killers and I am bringing him to justice. It was a very gripping play, and the role was part sage, part sleuth and had a moral edge. It is always fun to be part of a play that is original and has not been done before. Being part of boosting a playwright’s work is wonderful. In another one I played Jordan, who was a playwright and his interactions with his own characters pushed him over the edge and landed him in a mental institution, where they have taken away all of his writing utensils and paper etc., but he finds a way to break a glass and start writing on his own skin to finish. That was quite the challenge. We used a fake glass, but I used the plastic to write. There is a fine line between actually doing the action and lightening up. It was so intense that I kept scratching myself doing it, because I was so into it. Howard Siegleman is a Jewish man in the south during the 1940’s and has been commissioned to build a town church. In order to do it, he hires a black man who is extremely talented. When the town finds out, all hell breaks out. Again, it was a gripping script and a great challenge. Finally, I played a middle-aged widower who kept himself hidden so he never had long lasting relationships. He meets the love of his life who slowly comes around. It was a romantic comedy. I actually had to learn to swing dance and sing along with a Sinatra recording. I apologize to all the swing dancers out there. The play was a huge success and was extended. I had a great director, Barry Feinstein.
Q: How do you prepare for your roles?
A: Now you’re asking me to reveal my secret sauce. Uh-oh. Seriously, I think each actor has his/her own process. Mine is culled from my myriad of training and trial and error. The first step I think, is to read the whole script a few times if you can. Look up the style of the writer, director etc. My own private work includes a lot of detective work, script analysis, and understanding what the writer has given you. I do physical work and imagery work. I dig as deep as I can and get as specific as I can. I justify as much as I can about the characters’ world and past. I work to personalize circumstances, places, things, and people. Flexibility is a must as an actor. In theater, rehearsal is an absolute and it is where you can play, build chemistry, shape the story etc. In film, rehearsal is great if it is available. So much can change on set but, if you do your personal homework, then the character is with you and you can adapt while making it about the story and not yourself. I get excited by the collaboration with a director. I personally love adjustments or trying things in different ways if there is time. Being open, curious and in the moment is everything. My training has been a mix of Meisner, Alexander, other physical work and a bit of method just because. I think you study and discover various methods and then use what works for you. I guess that makes me kind of a mutt. I am thankful to my world class master teachers in New York; Deena Levy scene study, Alexander Techworks with Jean Louis Rodrigue and Kristof Konrad for physicality and embodying the character, Larry Moss for everything acting, and Anthony Robert Grasso for on-camera work.
Q: You play Roy Cohn in “Angels in America.” What led you to this project? What intrigues you about this character?
A: So, what led me to this project was always the beautiful writing of Tony Kushner. He gives you so much and such a great guidepost of the piece. It always excited me. There were so many themes and messages about our society, and even though it’s about AIDS, there are more themes that apply to us today. Roy was a very complex person with so much hidden and denied on the inside. I love characters who are that complex. During COVID-19 I have been given the great opportunity to delve into and perform many large roles that I have wanted to, as part of what was the Weekend Play Readings. The title does not do the group justice. We put on some amazing productions with professional actors, props and costume changes and a good amount of rehearsing. It has been so successful that Insomniac Productions has been born and will bring these pieces to staged productions in the future.
Q: What genres interest you?
A: I have worked and played in both drama and comedy. There are variations of each of course. I’m interested in complex characters who are grey. I like dramatic and comedic roles that have underdogs and people with chips on their shoulders. There are also dramatic comedies which I like the best. Comedies can be broad, black, classical, modern, sit-coms, etc. Dramas can be soap operas, mysteries, tragedies, and on and on. I think the one thing they all have in common is a strong story. If the story is real and the character is real to the actor, then that is key. Comedies for the most part, have a fast pace, switches, and sense of timing. In a drama you always look for the humor in it. You need variation, surprises, moments, doing, behavior, etc. At its root, there are rhythms, arcs, conflict and more. You still have to be creative with choices and specifics to bring it all to life. You just have to know how to work in the world you are in. If you are in a western drama in the 1880’s, then you have to dress and move in that period. If it is a comedy in the same period and is more of a farce, you could use references to modern day things as a comic bit. It all comes down to the writer and honoring the writer. I love it all. Always stretch as far as you can.
Q: How have you evolved as an actor? Where would you like to see your career in 2021?