Herwitz a thespian at early age

It was really Frida Kahlo who inspired it all, said Zach Herwitz ’13.In his high school sophomore Spanish class, Herwitz’s teacher offered him extra credit for filling in for a speaker who cancelled last minute. The presentation was about Frida Kahlo, and Herwitz took a rather minimalistic approach.

“It was a presentation on Frida Kahlo in front of the entire school. I did a really bad impression with some Wikipedia facts and just drew a unibrow,” Herwitz recalled. “I guess my teacher asked me because I was kind of the class clown.”

Herwitz participated in several high school plays after his debut as the famous Mexican painter, developing a love for film as well. His father was a film aficionado and had a large collection of films, which Herwitz enjoyed, watching a movie every single night, starting his freshman year. Shawshank Redemption is one of his favorites.

“In retrospect, it might not have been the best idea,” Herwitz said. “But I have no regrets. I’m here now.”

Herwitz’s interests have carried through to Vassar; he is a film major and director, and part of the Woodshed Theater Ensemble, as well as the No Offense sketch comedy group. He came into Vassar wanting to pursue film, but required a little cajoling to join the acting world on campus. After acting in a play first semester freshman year on a whim, his friend convinced him to audition for Woodshed. He has played roles in several plays, including Jasper in The Aliens, a cat in Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, and his favorite, Dorine in Tartuffe.

“I wasn’t looking to do acting,” Herwitz said. “It was an impulsive thing, but I really like it now. [Likewise,] No Offense has opened up a whole new world for me, like Woodshed, and it’s good to be a part of extracurriculars.”

The combination of film and acting has allowed Herwitz to have an informed view on the two positions, with each influencing the other. To him, film is a much more collaborative process with multiple inputs which create a final project. Acting is a more internal process that, while individual, is still rewarding. Herwitz admits that, for him, acting can be a more difficult task.

“The diplomatic answer is that both film and acting have their challenges,” Herwitz said. “But acting requires more courage, because you’re on your own in front of an audience.”

Herwitz draws inspiration from both aspects to help with his projects. Directing has helped his experience as an actor, knowing the different positions needed for a film, as well as production requirements. His experience as an actor has influenced his screenwriting; he now trusts his actors more and lets them develop their own characters. “Film and acting all absolutely reflect on one another,” Herwitz said.

Herwitz finds inspiration for film and acting in different ways. He likes to write funny pieces, and draws on past conversations. Acting, however, comes to him after watching movies and picking up characters’ subtleties. “Writing dialogue is hard to mimic that conversational rhythm,” Herwitz noted. “I like finding inspiration from things in the moment, what a friend said, and stuff. We’re so much wittier and funnier in real life.”

After graduation, Herwitz would ideally like to write for a comedy show like SNL or TV sitcoms. He is confident that he will find a way to do what he loves, even if it’s not exactly the way he imagines.

“There’s very little that matches the feeling of writing a really good one liner,” Herwitz said. “Getting a good joke and laugh is great.”

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