Entries tagged with “Cymbeline”.

Owen McIntee as Guiderius

Three months ago, I was strolling through the beautiful Aquinas College campus when I came across an audition notice posted on the wall of the theatre annex. It was for some play called Cymbeline, through some company called Pigeon Creek. I had never heard of this particular Shakespeare piece, but having never had the experience of acting in a show by the world’s greatest playwright, I immediately began shuffling through my head for an appropriate audition monologue and marked the date in my calendar. Did I mention there was a short sentence at the bottom of the notice that read, ‘actors will receive a paid stipend’? Oh yeah, I was definitely interested.

Unfortunately life had other plans. Around the same time I was told I needed surgery under my left shoulder. The procedure was very minor, quick and painless and the recovery went as smoothly as I could have possibly hoped. But due to poor timing more than anything else, I was rendered unavailable for an audition and my hopes of getting my first Shakespearean role were quickly dashed. I was bummed of course, but soon forgot all about it and shifted my focus to the upcoming week of finals.

Fast forward about five or six weeks. Heading into the dog days of summer, I was surprised by a phone call from Katherine Mayberry, executive director of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company. She told me a cast member had to drop out of Cymbeline, and asked if I would be interested in coming to a sort of impromptu audition for the part. “HELL, YEAH!!!!”, I said, in the most professional tone of voice I could muster. The next day I came in for the most completely blind audition I’ve ever had, stumbled my way through a few sides, and somehow managed to win the part.

Talk about baptism by fire. I soon learned that the show opened in approximately 20 days. My first day of rehearsal I walked in, was handed a quarterstaff, and tried to learn my first fight in about a half an hour. Let’s just say I’m glad no one was videotaping- we may have had the next version of Star Wars kid on our hands. Over the next couple of weeks I was to scramble to learn my lines, blocking, music, fights and choreography (that’s right, there was even dancing involved). Being a nervous, constantly worrying person by nature, I feared I might have a complete meltdown before we even made it to Saugatuck.

Looking back, I have to smile. From the very first moment I walked into the rehearsal space, Bob Jones and the entire cast made me feel right at home. Everyone went out of their way to help me get into the swing of things however they could, and I never once felt like “the new guy” or the “replacement.” I was treated with the utmost respect and professionalism throughout the process, which only encouraged me to work my butt off to catch up. Although Bob usually had copious amounts of notes for me, he never seemed worried at all that I wouldn’t be ready in time, and was so patient, helpful and calm that I was able to relax and focus. More than anything, I am grateful to all of the guys for keeping my mind at ease and allowing me to work at a comfortable pace. All in all, I think it went smoothly.

My character, Guiderius, is a rugged mountaineer, sort of like a “Lost Boy”, not a typical character for me. Fitting, since this wasn’t a typical show. As we prepare to close our production at C3 Exchange in Spring Lake, I can’t help but be proud of what everyone’s hard work has culminated in, and will never forget one of the most unique, challenging and just plain fun acting experiences of my life.

Bill Iddings as Cymbeline

“It’s good to be the king.”

Until now, I hadn’t been in a sword fight in 20 years. Back then, playing Macduff in Muskegon Community College’s 1991 production of playwright William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, I damn near lost a finger. After dueling with, killing and beheading the murderous title character who seriously had it coming, I sheathed my two-handed broadsword and carried a facsimile of Mackers’ severed noodle back on stage.

What a mess. My hand was smeared so bloody that I hoped onlookers might think the goo was as fake as the decapitation. My blood had splattered on my costume and the boards. Patrons in the first couple rows faced heading home to do laundry, presumably with better luck than Lady Macbeth (“Out, damn spot.”). People had called me a drip before, but this was ridiculous.

“Whoa,” I thought, “that stuff’s supposed to be on the inside.”

Still, we all lived, and further injury is something I’’ve avoided in Cymbeline, a Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company all-male summer 2011 production nearing the end of its five-city Michigan tour. Playing one of the least-present title characters outside of “Waiting for Godot,” I’m the king of Britain. As a monarch, Cymbeline rules by divine right. He’s used to giving orders and being obeyed, no matter what. When anyone defies or questions such a person, that person tends to explode, which Cymbeline on occasion does.

Cymbeline also comes and goes. When he’s gone, he stays gone, disappearing for what sometimes seems the length of a Bible. Just why Shakespeare called this play “Cymbeline” is anybody’s guess, but why quibble with a dead guy who has shown a degree of staying power.

Among Cymbeline’s other hassles — his daughter (Ben Cole) marrying against his wishes and possibly committing suicide, his second wife (Joel L. Schindlbeck) conspiring with her sniveling son (Ross Currie) to usurp the throne, waging war with Italy — the king gets in a brief skirmish with Romans.

In stage fights choreographed by cast members Ben Cole and Michael Empson, Cymbeline’s swordplay is kept to a minimum. A couple bumps, bellows and clangs and he’s outta there, broadsword put aside till the next performance. Thus far I’ve escaped unscathed, pretty much with my dignity intact. As I told director Bob Jones and the rest of the Cymbeline cast during one rehearsal, “It’s good to be the king.”

Anyway, how does an actor good about playing a king?

Most of us have no personal experience in a job so based in nepotism. I’ve never actually been a regent, though I once recited the Pledge of Allegiance to my sixth-grade classmates. Wearing a crown and the responsibility that goes with it finds me trodding foreign territory.

I am, however, beginning to play a lot of older characters, people who have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

Will you still need me, will you still feed, when I’m 64? Seems so.

For Pigeon Creek, I’ve previously played a geezer who gets blinded in King Lear; in The Tempest, Prospero, an aging sorcerer whose closing speech is probably his last; and onn hiatus from undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns, I haunted Hamlet as a ghost, already dead. Who’s next, Yorick?

With any play preparation, reading the script is a good start; I’m certain I heard that somewhere. Learning your own lines is sort of important, though only if you want to keep working. Memorizing what pertains to your character is huge. Especially helpful is discovering what other characters say about yours.

At one point in Cymbeline, the king’s daughter, Imogen, talks about her father who “like the tyrannous breathing of the North, shakes all our buds from growing.” That’s a line reading if ever I heard one, something to be considered for whose moments when Cymbeline is major ticked off. Kings are not accustomed to be questioned. When they are, all hell can break loose. Cymbeline, though, also has a softer side. He loves his daughter, no matter what she’s done. Some of Shakeseare’s kings do not realize that until it’s too late; witness King Lear and his Cordelia.

I also try to find things I have in common with the characters I play. Cymbeline is not only a father of one child, a daughter. So am I. Cymbeline has been around a while. So have I. Cymbeline feels betrayed by his daughter and later worried that his volatile reaction might have resulted in the worst. I try to imagine how I’d feel in similar circumstances, and apply that to my characterization.

I happen to have a few physical pains that come with age. I’ve had one hip replaced, and pain is now telling me the other is on its way out. I’ve tried to make these aches part of Cymbeline. Face it, omeone who’s ruled a country in warlike times is bound to have an assorted bruises and batterings; those are part of the deal. If we hang around long enough, most actors don’t sashay out of this thing called life with the grace of Fred Astaire. We limp for the exit.

Before we bow out, though, we find our places and live there.

My days of playing romantic leads and swashbucklers are long gone. I’ve buckled my last swash, swashed my last buckle or something like that. But I always keep in mind one of the best pieces of advices I’ve ever been given: Wherever you are, be there.

Dan Christmann as Cornelius

I am, at this particular moment in time, in a bit of a rut. I cannot for the life of me figure out a single topic or experience to write about. Not that my time working on Cymbeline has been uneventful. Far from it. I think the real problem is that there are too many for me to choose from, and none of those topics will adequately describe my experience to the reader. Ah, the eternal curse of the postmodern writer. You, my reader, have probably read many blog entries on character creation, actor processes and, even analyses of Shakespeare’s text. But what few of us have actually touched on is how the actual process feels, how it moves and transforms us into the people we will become. As I am a dramatic, and even poetic, being by nature, I think it would be the best option for me to focus on this aspect of our process. Perhaps, by using this text as a single part to an even greater whole, you will come one step closer to piecing together the puzzle that is our time with Pigeon Creek.

One of the strongest feelings I get when I’m working with the guys is a sense of camaraderie. Now, the very nature of any theatrical process is that it brings people together, unless you have some preconceived grudge against any of the other ensemble members. However, at this point in the process, I think its safe to say that this camaraderie we have built is of a different nature. The hierarchy based on how large one’s role is virtually absent from this production. People here seem to realize that the size of a part does not necessarily reflect on an actor’s skill, nor his importance in the production as a whole. This allows those who would normally squabble in petty ego-games to get down to their work and actually create characters that work right off the bat. Furthermore, everyone in our cast seems to genuinely like each other, and I think I can go so far as to say that we’re all friends. Now, I’m sure this is common in many tight knit companies, but for many of us, Cymbeline is our first show with Pigeon Creek. To gain the friendship of so many in so short a time is a wonderful experience, and I think one partially unique to this cast.

Performing a Shakespearean soliloquy is probably one of the most challenging, and exhilarating, experiences of my life. Even after doing six of them for nine performances when I played Hamlet a few months ago, they still have not lost their appeal for me. However, at Pigeon Creek, the soliloquies that I do take on a different, more unique flavor. If you didn’t know, one of the original practices we do at Pigeon Creek is “audience contact”, which basically means that you, the audience, are part of the show. You don’t have any lines, but we still feed off of your reactions and what you do. This also means that I, as an actor, can walk up to someone in the audience and deliver my words directly to you. For me, this gives those words much more weight, as if I know that because I am directly speaking to an audience member, I am telling them exactly how I am feeling at that point. The feeling of looking into someones eyes as you deliver those lines, seeing them react and give you the energy of their understanding is something akin to magic. It’s as if you have connected yourself to them with a cord of life through which you share your understanding of the world, but only for a brief second. I know it sounds a bit far fetched, but that’s how it feels.

I could really go on for pages about my experiences and how they’ve felt. However, there is really only one more that I find exemplifies my time at Pigeon Creek, so I will finish up with that instead of boring you with the little details. This type of show was a new one to me, not only because I get paid (an added bonus for something I’d probably do for free) but also because we are traveling to so many venues. Obviously, I haven’t finished this experience; we have 3 more venues after Dog Story. However, I can tell you how interesting it is for me to play in more than one community. Each place that we travel to, whether it be to Saugatuck’s Red Barn Theater or Midland’s Creative 360, has a different kind of stage, and a different kind of audience. You might not think it, but this is actually quite exciting for me. It means that we actors get to show off how adaptable we are, something that many of us who only perform in one place to one audience seldom get. If we don’t have that adaptability, then we get to develop it over time. I tend to believe that each production you work on gives you a little bit to take away with you, but this is an added bonus that I doubt any of us new company members could have foreseen. Plus, it’s a great time, and I enjoy meeting people all around Michigan who are willing to come out and see some great Shakespeare.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get to meet you!

Joseph Valente as Arviragus

Shakespeare’s Cymbeline tells the story of the family of King Cymbeline as his daughter, adopted son, and two unknown sons search for their purpose and place in life in the midst of major international pressure, as well as villainous trickery and deception. Though royal, the family displays many relatable qualities present in many families. I play Arviragus, one of the lost princes, unaware of his royal birth, but searching desperately for his identity and purpose in life. Wearing a kilt (NOT a skirt!), and living in the wilderness with his older brother and adopted father, Arviragus longs for a life of significance and valor where he achieves his true potential and ensures that his actions will survive after he himself has succumbed to his own mortality.

Often, Shakespeare was commissioned to write his plays for the noble and royal, hence he deals with the issues of bloodline and birth in many of his plays. Unbeknownst to Cadwall, he and his brother are the lost sons of King Cymbeline, stolen by Belarius (Morgan) as revenge against his master for unjustly banishing him as a traitor. Shakespeare cleverly pleases his employers by implying that the princely blood within Guiderius and Arviragus emerges even in their rustic surroundings, somehow elevating them toward honor, courage, and valor. However his portrayal of Prince Cloten as an oafish, deplorable character of noble birth, hints at a satire of this belief that noble birth somehow grants one excess honor and greatness over others. Lines such as “…mean and mighty rotting together have one dust…” further emphasize the view that birth matters little, it is one’s actions, both small and large, that determine true nobility, honor, and greatness. Shakespeare provides the implication that Belarius has taught the princes these ideas, as evidenced by their disdain of money, and lack of respect for Cloten, despite his princely birth.

With this perspective in mind, I realized that Arviragus was truly similar to every other young man or woman searching for a path in life and a way to distinguish oneself. The brothers are unsatisfied with their rustic existence because it offers little hope for a better future where their struggles and accomplishments will survive their own mortality. They have not been beaten down by the world, as has their adopted father. There is a strong, youthful idealism about Arviragus, as he searches for something greater in life, something beyond his own knowing. He conceives himself in all manner of tales of glory and valor in war. In this way he is similar to many mythic characters who reside in ordinary surroundings while longing for adventure and experience beyond the ordinary. Encountering his sister in disguise as a man is joyous to him, as he believes that this individual provides an opportunity to enter a new world outside of the one he knows. Hence his grief at her apparent death is all the more painful, as he has pinned all his hopes and aspirations on this strange individual that has provided variety to his routine-oriented life. The battle with the Romans provides another such opportunity to break out of his world, and he remains determined to seize it this time and use it to begin a new life of valor and significance. He will not remain “a poor unknown” any longer. This quest for fulfillment defines his character, and is relatable as every individual seeks out their full potential as they go through life.

Belarius scoffs at the restlessness of his sons, as the idealism he once harbored was crushed when he was unjustly banished from Cymbeline’s side after many an honorable deed. However this cynicism has been unable to touch his adopted sons, as their yearning for something more remains strong. Yet Belarius has taught them that nobility and birth truly mean little, it is how one lives life that defines an individual. By foiling the brothers with Cloten, a man who places all his stock in his birthright, Shakespeare implies that this social education will ensure benevolent rule from the brothers when they take their place at Cymbeline’s side.

Shakespeare often deals with issues of identity, especially when concerning royalty and nobility. Arviragus and Guiderius are struggling to find their purpose, and yearn for opportunity to distinguish themselves. The revelation of their princely birth only comes after they have taken a valiant part in the British victory over the Romans. This is fitting, as their nobility comes not through birth but deed, an idea Shakespeare hints at throughout the play. They possess the same desire for purpose as all human beings. It is implied that this human solidarity they have been taught by Belarius will benefit the kingdom when it comes under their reign after Cymbeline’s death. This has truly been a great journey for me in discovering this complex character, and I look forward to opening night this Friday. I have been truly impressed with the performances of all my fellow cast members, and am humbled to have been able to work with such talented, dedicated people in this production.

Cordello Jones as Caius Lucius

Cymbeline. Is it a masterpiece or a stepping stone of tricks and devices not fully stylized by the Sir William Shakespeare? There’s always that cliche at stake. Is it pure genius or complete madness? “…has he reached a point to where he can no longer see the end?” If my opinion has any validity, I say, simply, Shakespeare knew what he was doing.

This is what makes it difficult to perform today. Shakespeare is more than the language, I’m afraid. The Theatre must understand soul and spirit language to give any meaning to the characters. Today actors are told that the “Who, What, When, Where, and How” interprets the character, and from this can you create actions. All of this is a petty human conflict. It is everywhere and everlasting. We need something that changes man indefinitely. The mere modern character analysis will not measure up.

Example: a Roman soldier. It is logical that he cares about matters of the State. This is a good conclusion, but not necessarily appropriate. Being a soldier was a duty, not a motivation. Briefly, the Roman soldier is looking for divinity and justice, his duty is a means to that end. He’s looking for the God, Jupiter. This journey, cannot be discovered in his relations with the other characters. It is the inner voice each character has.

One absolute truth about all Shakespeare’s characters is they all speak their true selves. Each character wants satisfaction from the gods. Imogen wants true love to live “by the gods.” Posthumus thanks the gods, saying “by their grace I will keep her.” It is remarkable how they speak their inner voices so freely. These are explicit examples of the characters motivated by the spiritual and soul-in-tuned voice. Their true inner voice that heightens the stakes for each character and the scenes.

What Shakespeare has reminded me, and hopefully those who watch his work, is that it is more than what people and human nature do to each other that drives a story forward. Instead, it is what people do to each other for the sanctity of their soul and spirit. We all want to be saved by something. The difference between today and Shakespeare time (or the time he captured) is we believe in Hospitals, “Hey Doc!” and they lived knowing…“Thou art the comforts the gods will diet me with.”

Ben Cole as Imogen

Here’s a concept: A man playing a woman who dresses up as a man: playing Imogen in an all-male production of Cymbeline.

Okay, so last time I checked I was a man. (Pause) Yep, still a man. So, how did I come to start working on playing one of Shakespeare’s most challenging female heroines? Well, it all goes back to playing dress-up as a kid. With two older sisters and parents who were into encouraging imagination I had lots of opportunity to play dress-up in dresses and learn to feel comfortable making a fool out of myself.

Unfortunately, Imogen is no fool. She, like most Shakespeare characters, is a multi-dimensional person deeply committed to the pursuit of her desires, and flabbergasted at her opposition while unwilling to passively accept any changes in her situation. She takes action to try and change her misfortunes. Things don’t just happen to her; the complex web of real people making real choices influences her tragedies and redemptions.

Imogen goes from marrying the lower-class, underdog, love-of-her-life, only to have the marriage scorned by her father. Her evil step-mother, in true Princess fairy tale style, secretly plots to kill Imogen or take control of the throne by ignoring the fact that Imogen is already married and pairing her up with Imogen’s dunce step-brother Cloten. As if dealing with a grouchy dad, a psychopathic step-mom, and a doofus step-brother trying to seduce you weren’t bad enough, Imogen’s husband is banished and bets that no one can break her loyalty to him. So, of course, some guy in a bar takes up this bet and travels to Britain to try and seduce Imogen, too. Even though Imogen “passes” the test, like any jealous guy, her husband gets the facts wrong and decides Imogen needs to die for her unfaithfulness. Imogen’s only friend, her husband’s servant, is now cast to carry out the revenge murder.

In the words of Tammy Wynette, “sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.”

So, of course, I get to dress up as a man to try and better my situation. Then I get to be a man, (yep, still a man) playing a woman who dresses up as a man. To make matters more hysterical, coincidentally, everyone is even MORE attracted to Imogen when she’s a man!

That’s the plot, at least from my character’s perspective. Kind of overly complex for Shakespeare’s attempt at a fairy tale. It’s no wonder that scholars are confused what to categorize this play as. In it’s first publication, the first folio of 1623, the play is titled The Tragedie of Cymbeline. Most of the characters are happy at the end, so I’m not sure its all that much of a tragedy. But it certainly isn’t a comedy with attempted rape, attempted murder, a beheading, war, and drug induced “likeness of death”. I guess we’ll call it a romance! Hmm. That’s a little unsatisfactory for me. But then again, I am playing the woman… I suppose I can accept the term more when defined like this: “Romances are impossible fictions woven around real people.”

As my favorite of current Shakespeare publications, the Arden, suggests: “The play presents a conflict between the tendency to escape from everyday life and the tendency to remain in it, and moves towards a repose achieved in spite of violence, the brutal action which constitutes the substratum of experience, ending with a suggestion of rebirth, in a static tableaux from which previous suggestions of savage farce have been carefully obliterated.” Wow! What a sentence. Yes, I feel the desire to escape life now and again. Life can be a real mess. And yes, I desperately want to remain in life, despite that half tragic, half farce it often appears to be.

So perhaps the Renaissance Humanist perspective of life can give me a better clue to how I might play the role of Imogen, or perhaps give myself, and the audience a clue as to how this dark fairy tale might apply to all our lives today. As one internet history of Renaissance Humanism suggests: “The ideal life was no longer a monastic escape from society, but a full participation in rich and varied human relationships.”

This is what life is. We can no longer escape society. We are in a global society full of new challenges everyday. It is only through experiencing new perspectives, discovering others ideas, and creating new bonds that we might find compassion with one another. I understand Imogen’s desperation for acceptance at the beginning of the play. Perhaps we all go through her journey, in some way or another, before finding the true hope for a better future surrounded by friends and family.

Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company offers heart-felt shows that may truly reach you in a way you’ve never experienced before. Become a follower, a fan, and change your future. Take the opportunity to see this unique production. Do as Hamlet says: “Ha! Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be but I am pigeon-liver’d!”

That sounds like a great quote for a t-shirt. Hey out there, please comment on this blog. Let me know that you’re listening, or that you’re interested in seeing the show, or that you have further insight into Shakespeare’s dramatic works.

Ross Currie as Cloten

This is my first production for Pigeon Creek and I am excited to jump back into the wonderful world of Shakespeare. When I auditioned for this company, I was surprised that the female leads would be played by men. It was something that I had never even considered. I have never seen a production in that format and I was intrigued to see how that would unfold in rehearsal. It is surprising how quickly it becomes natural. It really puts you in the mindset of Shakespeare’s audience.

Playing the role of the villain is something I have become used to. I played Demetrius in A Midsummer Nights Dream, Antonio in The Tempest and now the wonderful Cloten. I have found that with some of Shakespeare’s villains it is very easy to hide behind an accent or physicality; to get into what I like to call “moustache twirling mode.” I have found this to be true because the language does most of the work for you. It almost becomes easy to fall into that “trap.”

It is even harder with Cloten as he is so pompous and a stereotype of a villian. That is why my approach has been to have him really be in love with Imogen but cannot “be with her” because of the way he is. This does not mean of course that the audience will empathise with him, I hope, but I feel it’s important to play it that way. Villians don’t usually think they are in the wrong.

Working with Bob Jones, our director, has been great. He has a strong vision, but let’s you play. I am used to having a director lead the production, however it would be interesting to do a production for Pigeon Creek that was actor led as this is how they usually work. I am looking forward to doing outdoor performances and well as getting my teeth into some stage fighting. There is a lot of new experiences for me with this show. I am looking forward to next week when we will be off book and can finally start putting this great show together. It will be nice to start getting a flow to the production and continuing to play around with ideas and moments.

Joel L. Schindlbeck as Cymbeline’s Queen

Oh, trust me; one year ago, when the PCSC board was talking about an all-male production of Cymbeline to match our successful all-female production of Julius Caesar, as well as our coming up all-female production of Henry IV, Part One, I leapt at the opportunity. To try the ancient profession of cross-gendered casting. I’m a dorky kid in a renaissance candy store. Little did I know how much…

When I was offered the role of Shylock this past winter, I was taken aback completely. I had intended to offer myself for the role of Antonio, and that was how I had spent most of my audition rehearsal. In the past, I had only ever played minor villains, so I was not prepared to even be considered for the role of Shylock. I took it in stride. I know…that sounds terrible, to “take a wonderful role in stride.” But it’s never been my goal to play the greatest roles. Call it humility, call it typical actor self-deprecation, or just call it plain ol’ fear! However, when it came down to it, Shylock was a beautifully written part; a good step (in my opinion) between Polonius and Richard II; a part I’ve played and the part I want to play before I die. All part of the grander scheme of natural selection that I believe any passionate actor will come across as they find jobs and continue to grow in their art.

However, what I did not expect was to find a penchant for villainy.

And oh, how the Queen is wicked. I remember someone telling me years ago that the Queen in Cymbeline was extremely akin to Snow White’s Queen. God’s. Honest. Truth. This woman’s poison does not simply remain in a closed cabinet in her private study. Oh no! She drips with it, the words pour out of her mouth as sweet and fluid as arsenic nectar. Almost no one sees her face, her true face, except the audience; which is letting me discover an extra benefit about playing the villain.

A couple years ago, Katherine Mayberry, our executive director, started to teach me about the concept of Audience Contact and Surrogacy. To act many years with a great distance between yourself and your audience; and then to turn that table on it’s side and eliminate the distance entirely between the two…what a blessing! The chance to take your art to the next level and not only entertain, but engage! Almost all Shakespeare’s major and minor characters do it at some point. The “aside”, the “soliloquoy”, the rousing public monologue or war rally; in Original Practices, this is one of the greatest and genius tools that Shakespeare has given us. It could be argued, however, that no characters in Shakespeare do audience contact and surrogacy with such panache as the villains. The characters beg to have a private comrade to confide their true wishes and plans to. More often than not, you can’t do such with other characters in the play. They’re the VICTIMS!

No, the audience, they’re the greatest option, and I relish to opportunity to explore performing audience contact with great stakes and such meaty substance as grand treason, murder and political subterfuge! And, not only do I get to participate in one the finest means of entertaining a Shakespearean audience, but there’s the other beautiful meta-theatrical character device that I fell in love with during my time as Malvolio: The ignorant belief that the audience is on your side. Oh…the be the blind villain or foil, that deliver the juiciest of their secrets to the engaged and paying audience; to let the rest of the cast trip and tumble you through hoops of self-conceit and tortuous character arcs as your plans come to fruition and then rot on the vine.

That…that is the true pleasure of playing a villain, in my opinion, and I am relishing it UP with Cymbeline’s Queen. I cannot WAIT for our audiences to see this amazing cast and amazing direction and amazing show.

Michael Empson as Posthumus

If you are reading this then you are probably already a little familiar with the practices of The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company. If you are reading for the first time, welcome and let me fill you in very briefly. The PCSC is an “Original Practices” Shakespeare company. This means we work under similar conditions as those in the Bard’s own lifetime. These include universal lighting, audience contact and sometimes ensemble directing. Allow me to expound on my experience with that last one for a moment.

The last show I acted in with a director was in 2007, and even then the director did not have a strong vision and as such did not really steer the ship. This summer’s ALL MALE production of Cymbeline marks the first time I have worked with a director in almost 4 years. As a result of this, and some missteps that I made preparing my last role, I feel a little pressure to really “up my game” for this show.

I don’t mind telling you that I tend to have a really slap-dash approach to the acting process. I usually begin, as all the actors with Pigeon Creek do, by working through the text. From there it has been a series of trial and error without a method or outline to it. For Posthumus, I plan to take a more ordered approach. I will be starting by spending more time and effort on the text work. With Shakespeare, you really can glean all you need to know about a character from the words on the page. In the case of Posthumus, Billy even gives us a fairly thorough explanation of his backstory. The work has already been done for me. Now I just have to gather that information and figure out how it informs the character that I will be building.

After I have a solid start on the text work, I plan to move on to the physical movement and style of the character. There are many actors, particularly in the US, that believe you really have to get inside the character’s head to pull off a “true and honest” performance. I say that’s a load of bollocks. Between the words that Shakespeare has given us and the physical embodiment of those words and feelings you have, in my opinion, all the tools you need. If you don’t believe me, try going around for an entire day speaking nothing but rhyme or all negative language or all singing. Then tell me you don’t “feel” different. Or try walking around all day with a limp or a hunch back or a pompous swagger and tell me you don’t “feel” different. It is the same for me as an actor. When I speak those lines and when I move a certain way it makes me “feel” a certain way.

I am excited to dive head first into this production and make some fabulous discoveries. I am also thrilled that we have the fabulous Bob Jones in to help us navigate the waters. I encourage you to come check us out at one of our great West Michigan venues. Don’t forget to check back each week as another actor writes to you about his experiences.

Scott Lange on Cymbeline

Hello Pigeon Creek Shakespeare fans!

After a short hiatus I am back to expand your minds and alter your perceptions of reality.

Rehearsals for Pigeon Creek’s next production, Cymbeline, won’t begin until Monday. So the contents of this blog will be less of a report of my acting process, and more of an insight of Pigeon Creek’s decision making process.

If you’ve been following us for a few years (which hopefully you have been,) you know that in the summer of 2009 we produced a production of Julius Caesar with a cast of only women. The production was successful on many levels, but the actors especially felt encouraged and enlivened by the experience.

We decided not only to produce a single-gendered show again this summer, but raise the stakes and perform two.

When Shakespeare was alive and performing, it was actually illegal for women to perform on stage. Most of the women’s roles performed by young boys; with some of the older or comedic women’s roles being played by full grown men. To me, this means that there are jokes and intricacies that might be missed otherwise. Also, as a result of only being able to use a single gender for his casting, Shakespeare’s plays only have a handful of roles for women actors. These are two good reasons for performing an all female production of a play.

We wanted to repeat the idea of 2009, having an all female cast perform a very masculine play. Henry IV: Part I is a play that is well loved by our board. The play’s major themes revolve around honor, respect, parent-child relationships, and coming of age; all things that most female characters in Shakespeare don’t get to experience.

Pigeon Creek has already performed three of the five plays that involved female characters cross-dressing as men. Cymbeline is the next on the list that we want to perform. Like I said earlier, we wanted to up the ante this summer, so in addition to producing an all female play, we will be producing Cymbeline as an all male production. By performing this play the way it was written, with an all male cast, we will learn some things about the play that we would not have discovered otherwise. In addition to cross-dressing, the largest female role, Imogen, is also the largest role in the play. It will be extremely interesting to see what can be found out about the role by a man, playing a woman, pretending to be a man.

You’ll be seeing my greasy fingerprints all over the summer. First I’ll be performing as Iachimo in Cymbeline. I get to fight with Posthumous, be creepy with Imogen, and be an all around lecherous guy. I will also be directing Henry IV: Part I; thus, generally giving grief to all of Pigeon Creek’s talented ladies. I’m looking forward to a fun summer, and I’ll be seeing you then; twice!