“The Master, the Swabber, the Boatswain and I”
Hello again out there all you Shakespeare mavens and Pigeon Creek enthusiasts – Scott Wright here and it’s my turn again…
I never cease to be amazed at what I discover working on PCSC productions. From the beginning rehearsals where we pore over the script and reference materials working out meanings of obscure words, debating pronunciations of particular words, and reveling in the subtleties of scansion (yes, I’m a Shakespeare nerd…), to the final stages of preparation as we work (sometimes sleep-deprived…) to get the finishing touches on the show. The perseverance and talent of the people around me in this company inspire me to seek and strive for my very best – to dig deeper than I’ve ever had to before.
One of my big challenges working on The Tempest was in the company’s well-known practice of doubling. I was given multiple roles in Macbeth – my very first show with PCSC – but since then I’ve pretty much never been “doubled.” Being a rookie on Macbeth, I didn’t truly appreciate what it takes to convincingly pull off dual or even triple roles. Using costumes is the most visually direct way for an audience to differentiate between characters but as an actor, what else can I do? It’s still my voice and my face and my body they’re looking at…!
The two characters I play in The Tempest are Alonzo, King of Naples and Stefano, “a drunken butler.” The distinctions between them in the script manifest in the undercurrents of their social status, but mostly in the way they talk.
Alonzo speaks in a fairly tragical/poetical mode throughout the play. He has lost the pomp and ceremony of his majesty – sure he’s still king, but being king of a few foolish people on a desert island might be thought of as something of a step down… The order of his world where a hoard of people saw to his every human necessity and where his son would carry on his legacy seems to have been completely shattered. His grief over the loss of his son and the Island’s magic draw his mind toward despair and madness.
Stefano on the other hand, suddenly finds himself free of the oppression of class and service, and with all the necessities of life at hand (i.e.- a small instrument and an intact and full butt of sack…) now fancies himself his own king. The script shows him speaking in what seems to be a coarser dialect than that of the “court” and his mood seems to be considerably more buoyant – he’s first seen singing to himself, and especially when he finds two “subjects” & drinking buddies in his old friend Trinculo and the monster Caliban. He never strays far though from the profane and violent truth of the world of the lower class…
So finding the ways I, as an actor, can make all these distinctions clear to the audience with my voice and movements has been an adventure that’s been both fun and challenging, and the ideas and suggestions of the other company members have been invaluable.
Well, I guess that’s about as tedious-brief I as can be about that…
Come see The Tempest and let us know how successful our doubling was (-or wasn’t…!). Hope to see you!