By Barbara Kowal
(An interview with Bhakta Wallace Dorian the Artistic Director of The Vedic Theatre Company)
Barbara Kowal: (BK) You seem to be riding the crest of a wave.
Wallace Dorian: (WD) Yeah. Letâ€™s hope it doesnâ€™t come crashing down on me. Ha!
BK: I donâ€™t think it will.
WD: One never knows in this crazy material world.
BK: Thatâ€™s what I wanted to talk to you about. So much has happened in your life since I last interviewed you about your novella, â€śDesert Rainâ€ť last year.
WD: I know. Itâ€™s truly phenomenal. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
BK: When I called you, you told me all of a sudden youâ€™ve been getting back into acting and you have four feature films coming out in 2008.
WD: Yes, but how that came about is a strange twist of karma as they say. I wanted to be an actor since I was 14 years old. At 16 I joined a teen theatre company and got the lead role in a stage play and thought to myself, â€śGee, a person might be able to make a living out of this acting thing.â€ť Of course, everyone around me told me I would never make it and how cutthroat show business was but I always felt deep down I would make it sooner or later. Looks like it was a lot later, much to my chagrin.
BK: How do you mean?
WD: Sometimes we get sidetracked in life. Iâ€™ve always been a late bloomer. To make a long story short I went to New York City in the 60â€™s to pursue acting but then became very disgruntled with the cattle calls and making the rounds so I drove a taxi on and off for six years. The years seemed to roll by pretty quickly and I decided to concentrate on writing and working in theatre because it was the most accessible. I didnâ€™t have too much luck with that. One day I saw the Hare Krishnaâ€™s in Washington Square Park, it was 1966 I think and I had just turned twenty years old. I thought they were weird but never gave them a second thought and went about with my life. Later of course I turned to things spiritual and leaned toward the teachings of the east and the vast treasure of philosophy from India etc. and suddenly I became more interested in spirituality than in the pursuit of my acting career. Then, ironically in December 1979 I ended up at the Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles and the rest is history.
BK: So you dropped out of acting?
WD: Yeah, for almost 30 years. Ha!
BK: Thatâ€™s a long time.
WD: Yes, it is. But in a way I felt I had discovered something much more important in my life than acting.
BK: What was that?
WD: Believe it or not, Krishna consciousness.
BK: Yes, I was shocked when you told me you are a Hare Krishna.
WD: Well, after 28 years associated with the Krishna movement I still consider myself an aspiring devotee. I suppose that makes me humble. Ha!
BK: How does one go from being a Hare Krishna to ending up doing four feature film roles in one year after having been out of the profession for so long?
WD: Thatâ€™s a good question. I donâ€™t know. Probably it is all due to divine intervention? To be honest, Iâ€™ve never been a moneyed man. Most of my life has been spent in the hard struggle for existence. I fathered two children, now grown, and so I attribute any so-called luck Iâ€™m getting to technology, the Internet and the fact that my kids are grown and that Iâ€™m older and a certain â€śtypeâ€ť of actor. I just turned 61 last January so most people my age are either dead or gave up their acting pursuits.
BK: So that leaves you with an open road.
WD: Yeah, if I donâ€™t crash. I mean, I’m not making any big money yet. It’s still a struggle.
BK: So do you think its Krishna that is making all this happen?
WD: I think so. But sometimes a supposed blessing can be a curse. The way I look at it now is that if Krishna is giving me some modicum of material success now than there must be a reason.
BK: Whatâ€™s the reason?
WD: To glorify Krishna. But to do that within the realm of theatre and film in a big way costs big money and big connections. Whether that will transpire from the release of these films that are coming out I have absolutely no idea. But just in case it does Iâ€™m working on an original screenplay called, â€śBhagavatamâ€ť which I hope to push in the coming years. It will cost 50 million dollars but it will be a knock-out. I would use Krishna devotees and name movie stars. Yeah, Iâ€™m serious. I think Anthony Hopkins would make a great King Dhrtarashtra in the â€śMahabharata.â€ť Maybe Tom Cruise can play Arjuna the warrior. Although he might be too old now. Ha! Gotta think big!
BK: I wish you luck. What about The Vedic Theatre Company? Have you had any luck with that?
WD: No. Nothing. Zero. Itâ€™s very hard to raise money to do plays in a professional manner due to high theatre rental costs and then the plays only run a short time locally and disappear. How many people will see it? But with film and video, it can reach many millions of people through TV and worldwide theatrical distribution. The idea is to get people to talk about God, Krishna.
BK: Yes, I see. So what has Krishna consciousness taught you?
WD: In a nutshell? Itâ€™s all temporary, this body and this life. But if we can do just one glorious thing in Krishna consciousness before we leave this mortal world than our mission will be successful. It also might just be sitting in a cave and chanting Hare Krishna in the end. Thatâ€™s also glorious. It depends on the individualâ€™s proclivity and karmic destination.
BK: When you speak of a â€śmissionâ€ť what do you mean?
WD: That, for example, if I can do one film like this â€śBhagavatamâ€ť and one person sees it and becomes a Krishna conscious person, than I have succeeded. Long after I am gone, anything that is Krishna conscious will be of eternal benefit to the viewer one way or another. Itâ€™s not material. Itâ€™s not temporary. Itâ€™s eternal. I wish we had more space and time to explain all this.
BK: No, I understand. You feel you have a mission in life and thatâ€™s good.
WD: Fortunately, Iâ€™m not alone. I think soon many will come out of the woodwork and I see this beginning to happen in many ways. Sometimes things seem to move at a snail’s pace and then, Boom! We’re back in business.A new Hare Krishna explosion will suddenly take place. I don’t know the time and place but I see it coming. It’s gonna be fun again.
BK: Are you familiar with â€śthe Secret?â€ť The laws of attraction?
WD: Yes, I have heard all the hoopla surrounding this phenomena which I understand it is making million of dollars. For the people who created it, thereâ€™s no secret. Making money. Material gain. However, while there are beneficial things contained within the concept of visualization and positive thinking, there is really nothing new. Itâ€™s just dressed differently in the guise of some new-age phantasmagoria. I think if Srila Prabhupada were here today, he founded the International Society For Krishna Consciousness in 1965, and was asked the same question, he would probably say that the only secret is to find the solution to birth, death, diseases and old age. Now thatâ€™s a big secret but one that the devotees have been trying to bring to the world for the past 40 years. After all, weâ€™re all going to die, that is, leave this material body. Lord Krishna has explained this to Arjuna in the famous Bhagavad-gita. How do you explain to children dying of terminal cancer the concept of â€śThe Secretâ€ť when the real root of the problem is to prepare them for going back home, back to Godhead? The real secret is trying to chant Hare Krishna, Hare Rama and leave this miserable world. Itâ€™s the only game in town right now. However, it is easier said than done sometimes.
BK: Whew! Thatâ€™s a lot to swallow.
WD: Well, we shouldnâ€™t choke on it. Just take little morsels of Vedic knowledge every day and sooner or later you will see the Absolute Truth.
BK: Which is?
WD: God in the final analysis is a Person. A transcendental Person and His name is Krishna. He is the ultimate creator of all that is. It can be a long and winding road to that truth or a quick and easy route. It depends on the person and the convictions of his or her realizations.
BK: Okay. You also have a play opening up in October.
WD: Yes, this is another surprise after writing for 30 years. Itâ€™s called â€śThe Women of Mahabharataâ€ť which I adapted from the ancient epic as a monodrama for six women. Iâ€™m very excited about it because itâ€™s the play I thought would least likely ever get produced. This is all new to me. I hope it goes well.
BK: Iâ€™m sure it will. It was nice seeing you again and on that note I wish you all success in your film endeavors and spiritual life.
WD: Thank you. I can give you a copy of Bhagavad-gita if you wish.
BK: Okay. Thank you.
(This interview was conducted in Los Angeles May 18th 2007. Those wishing to contact Bhakta Wallace may do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org)