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.