Claire Mahave as Charmian

Imagine being Charmian.

You’re steeped in rich culture, surrounded by opulence. Slaves and servants perform menial daily tasks, and you know your place and your mission in life. You are a servant yourself, but a special one. You are a handmaiden to a living goddess.

The center of your world, around which everything revolves, is Cleopatra. She is brilliant and charismatic, cunning and ambitious. She was born into power, lost it at times, but held on through her wits, her marital and sexual alliances, and, probably, fratricide. She is the first of her line of inbred royalty to learn the local language, and she is descended from Isis. She can keep you in luxury or beat you to death on a whim.

As Charmian, how do you feel about your life? You’ve known nothing, else, of course, unless you traveled to Rome with your mistress. But Egypt is cosmopolitan, and you certainly meet people who are different, who have entirely different worldviews, traditions, and beliefs. Do you ever question your life? Do you ever wonder who you would be under different circumstances? Would you change your life, and your death, if you could?

I am a second-waver. That is to say, I came of age during the time in which feminism was a wave that had not yet crested. (Did you know, for example, that the first marital rape law, which made it illegal for a husband to rape his wife, was not enacted until 1976?) By the time I was born, in 1970, it seemed to me to be generally accepted that women were equal and should get equal pay (though we still don’t, 40 years later.) I found out through the years that my assumption was not nationally held, let alone representational of the world at large.

I grew up devouring books and shifting my worldview accordingly with what new information I could absorb. I was an especial fan of historical fiction, and reading this genre gave me insight into just how much better life is for women in modern days, and I have always asked myself the questions I posed for Charmian. Who would I be, if I had been born in England in 1407? If I were a blonde, blue-eyed child in Hitler’s Germany, what choices would I have made? What character would I have formed in modern-day Ghana?

As an actress, it is not my job to judge characters or their choices. My focus needs to be on what makes people tick—what motivates them to act as they do and what shapes their thinking. Of particular interest to me is how women survived in unquestionably male-dominated times. Cleopatra was a queen in a time of kings and warfare, and she made her choices accordingly. Charmian survived in the same world, but with different paths to take.

It has been interesting to watch audiences react to the sensuality in our portrayal of Egypt; in this world, in this age, it is considered hedonistic and decadent. Because we are so close to our audience, we can hear every sharp intake of breath and see expressions of shock, disapproval, and titillation. But we modern Americans take options for granted and our freedom as a given. How different would life be for us a different time and place? How much of who we are is shaped by our surroundings?

Imagine Cleopatra had she been born in the United States in 1973 instead of 69 BC. What could she have done—this determined genius—in the modern world? How would her story be different?

This summer, PCSC has started a new means of gathering the inside scoop of our actors in their processes. In addition to the normal blog entries you read on here, there will also be a series of questions posed to our actors. Enjoy.

This week: Chaz Russel Bratton (Eros, Philo, Proculeius, Taurus, Messenger) and Owen McIntee (Octavius Caesar/Demetrius/Guard) are on the docket for Antony and Cleopatra.

*****

1. How do you prepare a Shakespearean character?

Chaz: Research the time period, people, etc. If the character is based on a real person, research that person. Then, work the arc of the character through the show. Find out what your character is doing while off stage.

Owen: Research, research, research. Take clues from the text and run with them. Seek out input from my directors and fellow actors- they usually know a lot more than I do.

2. What thus far in rehearsal has been helpful?

Chaz: Having a director like Katherine is extremely helpful. So is getting to work with actors of such a high caliber.

Owen: The various exercises and text work Katherine supplied for us during the first few weeks of rehearsal were invaluable. Also, the encouragement to keep playing and trying new things has helped my character grow through the entire process.

3. What do you do for fun outside of theatre?

Chaz: Watch movies. I’m a huge cinephile.

Owen: I’m into movies, reading, and video games. Other than that I just enjoy spending time with my family, my girlfriend and my buddies!

4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?

Chaz: During the show I sold knives and delivered pizzas. I’d love to be able to act as my day job.

Owen:Right now I work on campus at Aquinas as an office assistant. Ideally, the ultimate goal is to be able to support myself financially as an actor. Whatever I end up doing will be fine, so long as I continue to enjoy life.

5. What do you plan to do after this show?

Chaz: Keep acting! I’ll probably audition for Pigeon Creek again. Fingers crossed.

Owen: Finish school and graduate in the winter, move to Chicago and learn how to be an adult.

Scott Lange as Enobarbus and the Clown

As you (our regular readers) have most likely observed, our most recent production of Antony and Cleopatra employs quite a bit of doubling. In our eleven person cast, only two actors (the title characters) are undoubled in the show. I play three roles in this show: Enobarbus (Antony’s loyal friend), a servant that helps to carry a dying Antony to Cleopatra, and the clown who delivers a deadly snake to Cleopatra. I spend the majority of the play as Enobarbus, but it is my performance as the clown that has gotten the most comments.

The clown is only in one scene, doesn’t stick around for too long, and really does nothing to further the plot. There are a number of characters in Shakespeare’s plays that serve this same role. The jailer in Cymbeline, the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet, and the porter in Macbeth are a few of them. A few other Pigeon Creek actors and I have a running joke that they are actually all the same person at different points in his life.

In most cases, the character is there to provide a moment of levity before the play takes a swift plunge to death and tragedy. There are some productions that tend to perform these characters in a serious manner, as though comedy and laughter have no place in a Shakespearean tragedy. I believe, instead, that the moments of comedy help to intensify the drama in the play. The dichotomy of comedy and tragedy butted up the one against the other makes the play all the more moving for the audience. Sure, we as an audience enjoy nonsensical comedy or intense drama quite a bit. But often the most potent and popular types of entertainment contain both forms. It’s a theme that is consistent with real life. We go to funerals not only to mourn, but to share joyous moments from the life of our departed loved one. We laugh at slapstick, black comedies, and jokes that are “funny because they are true.” Anyway, I felt that despite the clown’s appearance was brief, it was an important one.

Truthfully, the character started out ridiculous. He had a stooped walk, and gravely voice, and was filled with sexual innuendo. I was playing him as old and crotchety, with only little respect for the queen. It got a lot of laughs from the cast, which I enjoyed, but didn’t exactly seem to fit. One day in rehearsal I decided to try something the complete opposite of what I had been doing. I stilled his movements, made him young, and afraid of the queen. This got a different reaction from the cast, but still wasn’t quite right. The right interpretation for me was, like my tragic-comedy ramblings earlier, somewhere in-between. It is supposed to be funny. But it should be because of the situation, not me being silly. He is nervous because he is delivering the queen’s chosen implement of death, a poisonous asp. He stumbles over his words, makes accidental jokes, and is generally awkward around a woman that he is helping commit suicide. I hope that people think he is funny, but that the humor in that moment deepens the audience’s compassion and care for Cleopatra. The brief moment of levity accents the tragedy of a relationship that can still move those that witness it.

Also, we’ve been referring to him as the “asp-clown.” Now that’s comedy!

Joseph Valente as the Soothsayer, Menas, Scarus, Thyreus and Dercetas

One of the most difficult and rewarding tasks of an actor is taking a character off the page and creating a real, living, breathing, human being onstage with all the necessary depth and complexity. I have been given the great challenge and opportunity to go through this process with five distinctly different characters in Pigeon Creek’s summer production of Antony and Cleopatra. This being my third major production with Pigeon Creek, I was familiar with the routine challenges that come with playing Shakespeare, but found the sheer number of characters to be initially daunting, as it was essential to make each one unique and interesting in its own way. Fortunately I had great help and guidance from the direction of Katherine Mayberry, as well fantastic scene partners that gave me so much to play off of with each scene.

An actor playing multiple roles is nothing new to Shakespeare. In the Bard’s own time, it was common to have one performer bring several distinct characters to life. About twelve actors can provide enough cast to perform any of Shakespeare’s plays, and some works require even less than that. Antony and Cleopatra, being one of his longer and more intricate plays is ripe for ample doubling. Though some characters are only in a few scenes, their activities influence the plot and direction of the play enormously.

When approaching a role, I begin by working out the character’s backstory, first starting with the script’s given information, and then filling in the gaps with my own imagination and interpretation. Though this practice was certainly helpful to this production, I wanted to avoid becoming lost in the massive detail of years of background experience on five very different people. Thus to keep focused I made the center of my efforts to the simple question of why each character is included in the play, and what purpose they serve.

The Soothsayer is a mysterious fortune teller that appears early in the play warning both the queen’s handmaidens and Marc Antony that their futures are tainted with unfortunate happenings. A similar character appears in Julius Caesar warning the title character to “Beware the Ides of March.” The Soothsayer’s role in the story is to warn the characters of the coming storm, as well as to give the sense of impending doom and inevitability. With this purpose in mind I was able to find a character burdened with the weight of truth, and the humiliation of being regulated to entertainment and pageantry, even while holding such crucial information.

Menas the pirate is a brute that allies with Pompey against the triumvirate. His role in the text points out the folly of Pompey in trusting Caesar, which both mirrors and foreshadows Antony’s own downfall at the hands of Rome’s first emperor. Providing a background for Menas proved fun, as it is never fully revealed why he places his fortune and resources to Pompey. I decided that Menas could have once been a soldier under Pompey’s famous father who was defeated by Julius Caesar. His alliance to Pompey could very well be seen by him as a way to regain his former honor and position. Creating a character necessarily cynical, world-weary, and brutal proved to be very enjoyable.

If Menas is cynical and realistic, Scarus, a soldier in Antony’s army, is the direct opposite. Scarus sticks with Antony to the very end, his purpose being to demonstrate the vast power Antony once held as a member of the triumvirate, as well as showing how Antony’s demise affects the lives of every one of his followers, particularly the most loyal. Loyalty is central to Scarus’ character as he rants against Antony’s Egyptian follies in his first appearance, yet still decides to follow his master to the end. Paul Riopelle (Antony) helped me in the development of this character as he pointed out that Antony may even see something of his former self in this scrappy, young idealistic soldier.

Thyreus is an overconfident ambassador in Caesar’s inner circle, who is sent to attempt to drive a wedge between Cleopatra and Antony. Ironically Shakespeare uses the character to accomplish the opposite effect, as his actions pull the two title characters even closer together. His overconfidence in his own cunning and skill, proves his downfall, as he is outwitted by Cleopatra, and receives a severe beating at the hands of Antony as a result of his actions. Something tells me that Thyreus has a long history of outmaneuvering his opponents, which is why Caesar sends him to Egypt in the first place. Unfortunately for him his skills did not prove strong enough for this particular situation.

Dercetas is a guard in Antony’s army that is one of the last to defect to Caesar after finding Antony mortally wounded in a suicide attempt. Shakespeare uses the character as a vehicle to inform Caesar of Antony’s final demise, as well as to further emphasize the tragedy of such a swift downfall. Interestingly enough, Dercetas thoroughly praises Antony during his defection to Caesar indicating how hard the switch is for him, and how deeply his master’s downfall has hurt him. It was fascinating creating a character pragmatic enough to know when to quit, but still loyal enough to proclaim his former master’s greatness to the enemy he is defecting to!

All in all my experience with Antony and Cleopatra has been an exceptional learning experience, as it has given me five distinctly different characters to make my own. Not many other shows provide one with that much opportunity for creation. I am greatly enjoying myself on this production and wish to sincerely thank Katherine for her exceptional direction as well as my fellow actors for their great work that inspired me to work even harder to achieve the greatest truth in performance. I can honestly say this show boasts one of the most talented, hard-working casts I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

Janna Rosenkranz as Varius/Octavia and Dolabella

One of the original practices that Pigeon Creek partakes in is doubling. In Antony and Cleopatra, I double six characters: a messenger, another messenger, Varius, Octavia, a soldier, and Dolabella. To make things a bit easier on myself I’ve made the first and second messenger and the soldier the same person, just during different time periods in his life. This works out for me because the play takes place over approximately ten years (the second Roman Triumvirate lasted from 43 BCE to 33 BCE). My named characters also change over time. I found this exercise particularly interesting as my characters are very rarely on stage and have only short speeches (as opposed to the last role I played with Pigeon Creeek – Boyet in Love’s Labours Lost, who doesn’t stop talking!).

What I decided to do is use Shakespeare’s treatment of the passage of time in the play as follows. Since we are looking at snapshots of events during that ten-year period, my characters have to age and change along the way and present that change in each scene they are in. For example, the first messenger in Act I, Scene i, is a young, middle-class Roman who came to Egypt with Antony. He does as he’s been taught. He had honor and duty to his betters and is slightly disgusted and disturbed by Antony’s behavior with Cleopatra. Egypt is like New York would be to a young man who grew up on a farm in Nebraska in the 1870s. (It helps that our Roman costumes are Victorian.) In the his second scene, he has become more confident, while remaining very loyal to Antony. As a solider, he has risen in the military ranks, and although he is in the midst of a very strange event, he shows maturity in the way he handles it.

We only see Varius twice and in one of his scenes he has no lines, but I also try to give him some more weight as a pirate in the second scene. Last in my male roster, Dolabella changes from his blind allegiance to Caesar to seeing how manipulative Caesar really is. At the end, he emotionally favors Cleopatra.

On the feminine side of my roster, Octavia is key to the action of the play and somebody who I could do real research on. In real life she lived with Antony for years and had two daughters with him. After he died she raised his children from his marriage with Fulvia and his relationship with Cleopatra along with her own children. My motivations for her are, as always, based on the text, but I’ve elaborated by giving her a more family-based loyalty. She is motivated by family honor. However, she has duties towards both her brother and husband and is truly torn between them. When Octavian tells her that Antony is with Cleopatra in Egypt instead of Athens, she is more upset because she, and therefore her family, has been humiliated, rather than because she has a great romantic love for Antony. Beforehand, she believes she can bring Antony and her brother together, as is her duty, but she is unsuccessful which is shameful to her.

I’m sure that a different actor would have a different way of managing these characters but as someone with a liner mind this works great for me and has given me a new insight into bringing Shakespeare to life!

This summer, PCSC has started a new means of gathering the inside scoop of our actors in their processes. In addition to the normal blog entries you read on here, there will also be a series of questions posed to our actors. Enjoy.

This week: Mary Bridget McCarthy (Iras/Maecenas) is on the docket for Antony and Cleopatra.

*****

1. How do you prepare a Shakespearean character?

After my ceremonial happy dance that I got a role, I usually dig right into the text. The awesome thing about Shakespeare is that he gives you so many clues with: the words you speak, the way you speak, the way you choose to speak to others, etc. I read the play a few times and then start to break down my character. I look into what the character says about him or herself, the dynamics that he or she plays with the other characters and so on. I then go about making each character as distinct as I can. This usually means a change in voice, posture, gait, assumed power, and anything else I can think of.

2. What thus far in rehearsal has been helpful?

I am going to start this off with some honesty: I am a newbie. Shakespeare is fairly uncharted territory to me. The idea of thrust staging, audience contact, doing live music, doubling, playing MALE characters, and having more than a line or two of Shakespeare had me more than a little anxious. And I was right! These things do take skill and require some technique. What I did not bank on, however, was the amazing group of people that would be around me. I would have been lost had it not been for our wonderful cast and the incredible director at our head. Working with this cast has been a huge blessing. They are wonderful acting partners and simply great people to create with. Whenever I have questions or have sought advice, they have been amazingly helpful. Our director, Katherine Mayberry, is incredible as well. She has been an invaluable resource. She has meet with several of the newer actors to help with text, voice and movement work, and some acting workshops. I feel that I have grown as an actor, even beyond Shakespeare, due to the people I am working with.

3. What do you do for fun outside of theatre?

I enjoy midnight swims in Lake Michigan, reading good books, having good conversations, being with good friends, drinking good tea, watching good movies, and staying up far past reasonable hours to have good times.

4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?

I am currently a student at Hope College and work at Staples. I don’t know how theatre will be my day job in the future, but I would love it to be. Whether that be in acting, teaching, stage management, non-profit theatre, I will be happy and grateful.

5. What do you plan to do after this show?

Time to go back to school! After doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream up at the Rose at Blue Lake with PCSC (Come see it, by the way. You will see lots of faces you know from Antony and Cleopatra!), I will be returning to Hope to start my sophomore year. I have my fingers crossed and hope to be cast in the fall semester productions. Beyond that, I would treasure an opportunity to work with this company again some time in the near future. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with everyone.

I hope you come see Antony and Cleopatra, and find as much joy in watching it as we have in bringing it to you!

Paul Riopelle as Marc Antony

As an actor whose first love has always been Shakespeare, I’ve been inordinately lucky to play some of his greatest protagonists—Romeo, Richard III, Cassius, Benedick, Jaques, even two thrilling cracks at Hamlet. However, Marc Antony has always had a particularly special place in my heart.

Antony in Julius Caesar was the first major Shakespearean role I ever played professionally, and that was over a dozen years ago for Shenandoah Shakespeare (now, the American Shakespeare Center) in Virginia. Ever since that production, it has been a dream of mine to finish the character’s journey by playing Antony in Shakespeare’s sequel, Antony and Cleopatra. Now, over a decade later, I am finally getting the chance.

Through the generosity of a private donor and the tireless work of the board, I have been blessed with the opportunity to take on the role with Pigeon Creek Shakespeare here in Grand Haven. It is the first Equity contract Pigeon Creek has approved in many years, and I feel terribly grateful that they have been willing to go to such lengths to have me on board. This has made my own internal desire to nail the role even more immediate. Now, not only is it a chance to fulfill a personal dream, but to fulfill the enormous trust placed in me by this worthy company.

But getting the job and doing the job are always two different things. The initial delirium of being offered a dream role soon gives way to the sobering responsibility of having to meet the task of performing it. This role, as every role does, comes with its own set of challenges. Antony’s challenges include realizing and embracing the fact that he is not quite the same straightforward hero in Antony and Cleopatra that he is in Julius Caesar. The Antony of the sequel is far more dark, complex, and flawed than the dynamic orator of Julius Caesar. In the prequel, he fights assassins—in the sequel, he fights his own passions and demons.

Of course, this is not altogether an unhappy challenge for the actor. Sure, it’s wonderful to be loved by the audience as Caesar’s heroic avenger in Julius Caesar. But it’s not terribly difficult. Shakespeare makes him the hero, not to mention giving him the grandest words in the play. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, “If you can’t win the audience with Antony’s lines in this play, you shouldn’t do Shakespeare.”

But I have found it equally, if not more gratifying to muck about these past few weeks in the cloudier mysteries of embodying the less-heroic, but far-more-human Antony of Antony and Cleopatra. He’s a pretty fascinating guy—a study in paradoxes and extremes.

The single most powerful man in Rome abandons everything to “play” in Egypt. Passionately in love with Cleopatra, he cannot stop fighting her, wounding her, blaming her. Preoccupied with his Roman honor, he makes choice after choice that leads to disgrace. A brilliant soldier, he takes friends for granted and underestimates enemies. Above all, he is no triumphant, golden-tongued orator, but a deeply flawed man who makes profound mistakes out of hubris, self-indulgence, and his all-consuming passion for Cleopatra.

It is a role that has not been easy to unearth in rehearsals. But the task has been infinitely easier—and altogether joyous—with the help of our truly insightful director, Katherine, and our extremely gifted cast—whose talents, dedication, and professionalism I would rank among the best of those I have ever worked with.

I am hoping that the final result will be a compelling characterization for our audience who, in the end, don’t have to adore Antony (or Cleopatra, for that matter), and probably shouldn’t. The faults and vanities that Shakespeare reveals in their story seem to indicate that even he does not intend them to be so much adored, as wondered at for their epic spirits. They are spirits that contain great weaknesses as well as great strengths—power, pettiness and pride, duty, devotion and dishonor, excess, glory and shame, and above all, passion. These lovers, this story, has it all.

So Friends, Romans, Countrymen, we sincerely hope you’ll join us and lend us your ears. But don’t come expecting the Antony of Julius Caesar…no more Mr. Nice Guy. This Antony is grittier—and he has to be, to woo and war with the likes of Cleopatra. You won’t experience any eloquent orations. But you are in for one hell of a ride.

[Paul Riopelle appears with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company courtesy of AEA, Actors' Equity Association, the professional association of actors and stage managers.]

This summer, PCSC has started a new means of gathering the inside scoop of our actors in their processes. In addition to the normal blog entries you read on here, there will also be a series of questions posed to our actors. Enjoy.

This week: Matthew David Fowler (Lepidus/Gallus) and Mychael J. Overton (Alexas/Euphronius/Agrippa) are on the docket for Antony and Cleopatra.

*****

1. How do you prepare a Shakespearean character?

Matt: Step One is to use my formula for any character I take on; Shakespearean or Non-Shakespearean. What does my character say about himself/herself? What do other people say about me? What is my character afraid of? What does my character desire? Then with a Shakespeare role I have the added bonus of textural clues to help me get into my character. Does my character speak in prose or verse? Does my character use thou or you?

Mychael: Since I have never performed a Shakespeare play before, the best thing for me was to research the history of the play. With Antony and Cleopatra, I not only researched the history of the play, but I also researched the historical figures and events Shakespeare used to write this play. After I figure out who everyone is in the play, my next step is identifying their personalities and finding natural ways to bring their unique traits to the stage in an accurate and entertaining way.

2. What thus far in rehearsal has been helpful?

Matt: The way Katherine directs is unparalleled to any director I have had thus far. The techniques we use really inspire me. For example, for scenes with complex blocking we figure out when the stage picture changes and freeze frame the scene. When we are talking about a character in the scene who is not present, Katherine puts him or her in the middle so that we can reference them. When a character needs to be a listener, he or she repeats words from the speaker that hit home.

Mychael: Our director, Katherine Mayberry, has been meeting with a some of the newer cast members to help us with the Shakespearean text. Her knowledge and techniques have been wonderful for bringing my characters to life.

3. What do you do for fun outside of theatre?

Matt: I take pride in finding the most unique hobbies and making them a part of my life. I learn different foreign accents on CDs, I make animations, I create papercrafts (three-dimensional origami), I practice my ukulele, or I collect artifacts that express my love of purple.

Mychael: I enjoy the outdoors for a little fresh air and exercise during the day. At night, you can usually find me curled up watching a movie.

4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?

Matt: Currently I am a full time student at Grand Valley State University. I dream of becoming a motivational speaker so I can inspire young people to chase their dreams. There are a lot of horrible feelings in this world, but nothing can compare to knowing you had the opportunity to do something you truly enjoy and you didn’t take it. I believe that everyone deserves to know this fact early on because most people discover this on their deathbeds when it is too late.

Mychael: I am a currently a full-time student at Hope College. I would rather be writing screenplays, directing a movie, or figuring out the logistics for my own film productions someday.

5. What do you plan to do after this show?

Matt: In the Fall I will be the Stage Manager of Grand Valley’s Bard to Go, I will start my second term as president of the student theatre organization: STAGE, and I will appear as Norman Bates in Stark Turn Players’ Psycho the Musical.

Mychael: I plan to return to Hope College and continue working on my B.A. in Communication and Theater.

Heather Hartnett (Cleopatra) on her character process.

My feelings of the characters I play often change from rehearsal to performance. I think of my character as a “jacket” or “coat” that I put on and take off. In the beginning, it is just a pencil sketch. It is very simple. It is a general shape I create with text analysis. Second, I add color to the sketch and choose the fabric for my “coat”. This step often takes a little longer because the type of fabric, color, weight, and feel makes a huge difference to my character’s emotions, moods, first impressions, etc. Third, I “stitch” my character-coat together by weaving thoughts, emotion, and voice intonation.

During this time, my “coat” doesn’t always fit. It may be tight in some places or I don’t like where I have placed a pocket or seam. I have to make adjustments. Sometimes, I borrow something from another coat I’ve worn. I learn from past experience.

Next, I add embellishments to my coat: a brooch or trim, maybe some special stitching. This is the character’s back story, core beliefs and main motivations. I try it on and by now, it feels pretty good and fits fairly comfortably. Then, I perform in this coat I have created in the last 5-6 weeks. Under the lights, with the other characters and the eye of audience scrutiny, it fairs well.

But during a scene, all of a sudden, my coat sleeve may feel tight or I find can’t breathe with the buttons buttoned, so back to my sewing room I go for more adjustments and additions (or subtractions.) This process continues through the entire performance period. The coat I started with on opening night is not quite the same on closing night.

In the end, I am always filled with a bittersweet feeling as I remove my coat on closing night. But, as I hang it in the closet with all of my other coats, I know that someday I just might need some of that pretty Cleopatra gold to complete my next coat.

I hope you all will come and see Antony and Cleopatra. It is a wonderful play. It has transcended the ages. I find it hard not to think of all the generations of actors and audiences that have explored the world of Antony and Cleopatra and all who have yet to start their journey. See you in Egypt!

This summer, PCSC has started a new means of gathering the inside scoop of our actors in their processes. In addition to the normal blog entries you read on here, there will also be a series of questions posed to our actors. Enjoy.

This week: Sarah Stark (Rosaline) and Janna Rosenkranz (Boyet) are on the docket for Love’s Labour’s Lost.

*****
How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?

Sarah: The beauty of Shakespeare is that the character is fully fleshed out already for you; it just simply is veiled at first sight by the text. What I feel I need to do is dig; to constantly engage the text until it reveals to me the full spectrum, from the overt circumstances to subtle nuances concerning character and emotion. The process is similar to the experience of trying to master a foreign language.

I begin by reading the play multiple times. Next I create a foundation by defining the given circumstances. At this point I also begin a backstory based on those facts and continue to add to it until performance time. I find it is one of the most effective tools for stimulating imagination and imbuing a sense of connection to the role. Then I examine the framework of the text, or how thoughts and arguments are carved out by punctuation, scansion, grammatical structure, etc. I enjoy using lexicons to explore all possible meanings inherent in operative words. As I progress I layer on technique, one of my favorites being Laban Effort Actions. All of this work is individual, and it is in the rehearsal process that I am able to amend or experiment based on the influence and work of my colleagues.

In the end it is my hope that I understand the character as fully as Shakespeare created them and that I may articulate their story in a specific and enjoyable manner.

Janna: Shakespeare’s characters are, for the most part, archetypes. The very first thing I do is decide which archetype I’m dealing with. Then I work on figuring out what that archetype says to me, as a 21st century individual. During my MFA training at Sarah Lawrence College we worked on being part of the collaboration of creating character. Actors work with characters, with the words (hence the playwright), the other actors, director, designers, and audience to create the event of the performance. As I’m doing all of this I research the character, look to previous performances, scholarly work on the play, and of course, the words, which are the most important resource actors have – directly from Shakespeare himself.

What, thus far, in rehearsal has been helpful?

Sarah: The insights and clever work of my colleagues. I strongly agree that two heads are better than one, and many heads even better. Such plentitude can be discovered in the honest feedback of an outside eye or by merely listening and reacting to a partner within a scene.

Janna: I always find feedback from other actors extremely helpful, especially when we are in an ensemble directed productions.

What do you like to do for fun outside of theatre?

Sarah: Spend time with family & friends, travel, ballroom dancing, running, reading & writing plays and poetry, acrylic painting and charcoal sketching.

Janna: Watch bad (and sometimes) good TV – I am a pop culture aficionado, expert and addict.

What is your day job? What do you want to BE your day job?

Sarah: Currently I have two. I am a waitress and a door lady. If I could support myself as a professional actress, with time on the side to write and workshop my plays or poetry, that would be ideal.

Janna: I am currently attending GVSU’s Graduate Teacher Certification program, and begin student teaching in the fall. I have been teaching English, Writing and Speaking at Baker College, Muskegon for the last two years.

What do you plan to do after this show?

Sarah: Prepare to audition for M.F.A. graduate school programs this winter and begin work this Fall on my next show, Psycho, the Musical by Joel L. Schindlbeck in which I will be acting and choreographing.

Janna: We’re already in rehearsal for Antony and Cleopatra in which I am playing Octavia, et al (lots of doubling!). I am taking classes and looking forward to my student teaching experience.

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