Mon 7 Feb 2011
Scott Wright on Building Character:
Well, being cast in the role of Sir John Falstaff has been at once exciting, intimidating, frightening, and exhilarating. Much has been written about the jolly knight in one form or another. Scholars, wits, and critics alike have spent words and/or wisdom in plenty writing about Jack Falstaff.
The scholars write of the way he makes a phrase of simple prose seem like the very best of a compelling poet’s quality. The wits use Falstaff’s humor for his own ends. The critics, with their own incisive wit skewers the actor who either makes the character blustery, or funny, or believably human – or not – and uses his bully pulpit to inform the world of his opinion of what makes the character lovable, and believable, and funny – or not…
One might wonder – why….?
Falstaff isn’t a noble character. Despite his knight-hood he is a thief and a rogue of the commonest sort. It seems that most of his charm, after all, lies in his earthy, unapologetic, common-ness. He is an unrepentant liar, schemer, and cheater, defrauding anyone with the means to make it worth his while. But he manages to do it in an inept and lovable style that never seems to make him truly a villain, and which always seems to make us smile, and laugh, and forgive the bombastic, vain, and likable old bastard.
So, as an actor charged with bringing such a character to life, the challenges have been daunting. Jack Falstaff is a larger-than-life personality. Scott Wright – at the risk of saying so myself – not so much…
This fantastic ensemble has produced ideas, and suggestions, and support throughout the process that has been at once encouraging and challenging, and has helped me feel like the Falstaff we’ve created is almost right. The weak link yet, it seems to me, is whether I can do it with all the enthusiasm and commitment they’ve given to me.
Scott Wright on Building Buck-Baskets:
When we first began conceiving “Merry Wives”, the pivotal element of the Buck-basket came up and I have to admit, I drew a blank. What sort of laundry basket would be big enough (and strong enough) to carry a very large man in…?
The first thing I imagined was a sort of wicker laundry basket, such as I’d know growing up. That particular basket had disintegrated in a relatively short time of moderate abuse and I wondered what a buck-basket (big enough to hold a month’s worth of dirty underclothes – not to mention a very corpulent knight…) might have looked like.
Ultimately, knowing that no modern wicker-work (even modified to safely carry an actor of “any reasonable stature”) would be available within my budget, we had to imagine something that would satisfy all the requirements
i.e. : allow two actors to safely transport a third actor (who could not in any way aid them off stage), look to a modern audience like some sort of laundry basket or hamper, evoke the Elizabethan period that the play was to be set in, be fairly easy to build, be able to broken down and packed for touring AND be INEXPENSIVE.
We found a nice big round piece for the base and some casters with a sort of old-fashioned-looking bronze swivel that looked about right. We also found some wooden closet pole, 20-odd feet of 3-strand rope, some scraps of mahogany, and a very skilled and dedicated person who could sew us a 5-sided canvas bag. We had to come up with a fixture for drilling holes on a 14 degree angle, and one to make a circular plywood reinforcing panel for the bottom (this thing has to be STRONG – a big man’s going inside it…). Making circular panels is straightforward, but drilling 1.25″ diameter holes on a 14 degree angle around a 20″ circle is a little less so, but I have to say doing it was fun and satisfying.
In the end (after some epoxy, a bit of compromise, and some dark-colored wood stain) we have what would appear to be a 16th century version of the laundry hamper I bought at Wal-mart a few years ago. So when you see old Jack Falstaff being carried away in the name of foul clothes to Datchet-Mead, as you wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes you might just notice how well constructed that buck-basket is perhaps.