Entries tagged with “Jeff Otto”.


This week, actor Jeffrey Otto discusses playing Ferdinand in The Tempest.

Hello Shakespeare fans!  I am here to discuss what it has been like portraying Ferdinand in The Tempest.  So far in my Shakespearian acting career, I have portrayed multiple roles in a travelling Shakespeare show called Bard to Go: All’s Fair, Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, and Marcellus, the 2nd Player (or Player Queen), and Fortinbras in Hamlet.  So this is my fifth Shakespeare show, yet my first time portraying a Shakespearean lover.  That is where a lot of my work has been concentrated.

In the play, we first meet Ferdinand while he’s wandering around, unknowingly following Ariel, devastated by what he thinks to be the loss of his father Alonso – the King of Naples.  His devastation quickly changes to passion and love when he discovers Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, on the island.  One of the harder things I have had to deal with is showing my love and passion for Miranda, and yet still showing hints of sadness for my drowned father.  So, not only do I have to portray loving feelings, but I have to remember to show some other feelings as well.  Ferdinand shows love, sadness, anger, annoyance and excitement throughout the show.  The most prominent being his love towards Miranda – but those other emotions come out from time to time as well.  It’s been a challenge figuring out how to display those other feelings without losing the other emotions I’m supposed to be conveying.  For example, going from love to sad, to love immediately in the span of one line is a bit difficult!

This play marks my third experience with The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company.  My first experience being Hamlet, playing Marcellus, Fortinbras, and the 2nd Player (or the Player Queen), my second experience being a staged reading of The Alchemist for the Early Modern Others series, playing Ananias.  Of the two, only The Alchemist was ensemble directed – and that was quite different than this due to the much shortened rehearsal process and the fact that we had scripts in our hands.  That being said, this was my first full-blown experience doing an ensemble directed Shakespeare show.  I won’t dwell on this too much, as it has been mentioned several times in previous blogs, but that was a new challenge for me as well.

For this show I accepted a new technical responsibility that I haven’t done on a previous Pigeon Creek show, and that was the responsibility of Props Master.  No, this was not a props heavy show, but a few of the props we had were a bit complicated and took some work.  For example, Prospero’s Staff.  Do we make it breakable?  What goes at the top of the staff?  How natural should it look?  These and many more are questions that myself and my props crew, Elle Lucksted, needed to ask ourselves and the cast before construction of the staff could begin.  What we came up with?  Well, you’ll just have to come and see the show and find out for yourself!

As I mentioned before, this is my third experience working with Pigeon Creek.  That being said, I want to note on how different it has been working with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company.  Besides the obvious (the staging and the original practices), you have many more responsibilities in a Pigeon Creek show.  When not on-stage, it is your responsibility to be making sound effects backstage, paging curtains, and helping people get into costume.  I myself am responsible for drum noises, rain-drum noises, rattle noises, and psaltery noises backstage.  What we do backstage is just as, if not more, important than what is going on on-stage.  A show can be made or broken by what goes on behind the scenes.  So…it gives us a bit of pressure to make sure we get our stuff done at the right time!

As always, this has been an amazing experience.  I love working with Shakespeare’s works.  I have had a blast playing the role of Ferdinand and I will continue to do so until our run ends.  This is a fun and talented company to work with, and I am glad I have had a few chances to do so.

Playing Fortinbras, Marcellus, and the 2nd Player

Hello!  This week’s blog comes to you from Jeff Otto.  I’m going to talk about my experience so far acting as many people.  In Hamlet, I play Fortinbras, Marcellus, the 2nd Player (or Player Queen), a pirate, and a pallbearer.  That means that I have to portray five different characters within Hamlet which is a very fun and exciting challenge.  This is my first experience working with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, and I have had a great first experience so far!  I love the camaraderie among the cast.  I never get the feeling that anyone is putting in less work than anyone else.  By that I mean that it’s a collaboration, we are working together as a cast to create this amazing performance and it’s very exciting watching it begin to get to its feet.

In portraying my five different characters, Katherine discussed with me differentiation.  I decided that in order to differentiate my characters, I would think about the different social classes that they would be in.  While thinking on that, it really helps with physical movement.  I have thought as Fortinbras being of the highest class.  He is the ruler of Norway, and therefore has a lot of power there.  That makes him more commanding, militaristic, and proper.  This commands walking more upright and with a purpose.  Marcellus is a guard.  Slightly militaristic in the way he needs to hold the watch, but of a lower class.  Marcellus knows that he can be a little more laid back in his talking when he’s with Bernardo and Heratio – but in a later scene when he’s talking to Hamlet, he’s very humble, doesn’t speak much, and always makes sure he addresses Hamlet as “my Lord.”  This makes Marcellus more upright, on his guard yet a bit uneasy at times, and attentive.  The 2nd Player is of the acting class.  A lower class.  What I especially need to keep in mind is that the 2nd Player, since he plays the Queen in the Mousetrap (the play-within-the play), would be very young.  Younger men played women in Shakespeare’s day, so I need to portray that when portraying the 2nd Player.  The pirate I thought of as a slightly older man who has spent many days off at sea.  I haven’t fully decided, but he may have a slight limp from someone injury he received while off on some pirating adventure.  The pallbearer is probably of a slightly higher class.  He’s attending the funeral of Ophelia, so he would have to be in some sort of standing with the Polonius household.  He’s solemn and upset due to the recent death of Ophelia, and I have made the decision that he believes Ophelia’s death to be an accident, not a suicide.

Another fun thing I’d like to discuss was my recent participation in The West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics’ Festival of the Arts.  For the festival, the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company performed a few different scenes from various Shakespeare shows.  Two scenes from Hamlet were chosen, and of those two – Act I, scene i was one of them.  It was fun actually getting to perform one of the scenes from the show already, especially at such an early stage in the rehearsal process.  It was very exciting.  Afterwards we answered a bunch of questions for the students and it was great to see that students that young already have an interest in the works of Shakespeare.  I know that I didn’t even read my first Shakespeare play until I was in High School, and I didn’t understand it.  But these kids knew Hamlet.  They knew the characters and were answering questions Katherine asked them about the plot.  That to me is really cool.  It’s great to see an interest in theatre at such a young age.

Anyways, that’s all for me!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog.  Otto out!