Entries tagged with “Joseph Valente”.

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.

This summer, PCSC is starting 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: Kilian Thomas G. (Dumaine / Sir Nathaniel) and Joseph Valente (Navarre / Forestor) are in the hot seat for Love’s Labour’s Lost.


How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?

Kilian – Reading, reading, reading, and reading. I read the script, then re-read, then reflect on what I’ve read. The text usually provides a foundation for character. I go through the text and divide my lines into thought measures and try to find the why behind the lines. I want to know why my character wants to say what he says, and what he is trying to achieve by choosing the words that he does. The thought measures are then broken up into sub parts. These sub sections are each given a specific way of delivery that, I think, best coincides with the motivation for the line.

It is also important to know who the character was before the events in the show. I make up back stories for my character and infer about the relationship my character has or has had with other characters, and who he has become as a result.”

Joseph – “I usually first try to research the character’s surroundings and status. This helps me get an accurate vision of what that character’s background is and where they are coming from. I then break down the text into objectives, finding why Shakespeare included the role, and what the character is doing in the scene. Sometimes I paraphrase the lines into my own words in order to full understand them.I then try to find objectives and motives for what my character does. Finally I’ll come up with mannerisms, and physicalizations that help me paint a clear picture of who that character is. I try to always experiment with everything, and always be open to new ideas and/or inspiration. In actor terms: I play.”

What, thus far, in rehearsal has been helpful?

Kilian – “Having people able to give an outside eye to the choices that I’m making, and suggestions of where to do more, or less depending on the case. Feedback is important, since we are hoping that our story is well-received by the audiences, and it is impossible to get that perspective while on stage.”

Joseph – “Rehearsals have been helpful in experimentation. I love how we start each scene by improvising blocking. This helps me attempt to stay in the moment and be open to any inspirations. The early work on defining prose and verse was helpful review, as motivations and objectives can often be found in how the lines are structured.”

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

Kilian – “I love to play tennis. Every Wednesday, across from my house, the Cherry Park Tennis Club meets up for refreshments and tennis while trying to raise money to refurbish the Cherry Park Pool for children. I’ve also found myself increasingly more interested in tailoring. I’ll work on some of my own clothes, as experiments if you will.”

Joseph – “I love movies, and go to the theater about once or twice a month. I also enjoy sporting events such as pro football, basketball, and baseball. Favorite teams include the New York Giants, and Detroit Tigers.”

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

Kilian – “I am an apprentice tailor. It’s rewarding, although I’m just starting out. I am working on a degree in French so, someday, I would like to use my language skills for work. Until then, ripping up seams is good enough for me.”

Joseph – “I’m in the process of becoming a certified teacher for the state of Michigan, and I work part-time at Sears in the electronics department. My dream is to make acting my full time job.”

What do you plan to do after this show?

Kilian – “I will be involved in Pigeon Creek’s next show, Antony and Cleopatra. I plan on continuing with theatre as long as I live. I can’t imagine a day when I will find it boring or unsatisfying. I will also be involved in a movie being produced by a Grand Valley alum. I have found where my interest lie, and plan on following them to my bitter end.”

Joseph – “I’m currently trying to coordinate a move to Los Angeles to pursue a film and television career, so with any luck I will be out there after the summer.”

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.