Entries tagged with “Katherine Mayberry”.


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.

Katherine Mayberry as Lady Capulet

The role of Lady Capulet is one that unfortunately can slip too easily from the audience’s notice in the midst of the central tragic love story in Romeo and Juliet. For many audience members, Lady Capulet’s most notable moment in Romeo and Juliet is when she disowns her daughter. In Act 3, scene 5, after Juliet refuses to marry Paris and Lord Capulet threatens to throw her out into the street, Lady Capulet exits after telling her daughter “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word./Do what thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” By itself, this line makes Lady Capulet seem like a cold and unfeeling mother, but in the earlier portions of the play, she is actually trying desperately to find some common ground with her teenage daughter, who has a closer relationship with the Nurse than she does with her own mother.

Lady Capulet’s first significant scene in the play is Act 1, scene 3, in which she first broaches the subject of marriage with Juliet. She at first tries to have a private conversation with her daughter, dismissing the Nurse so that she and Juliet may “talk in secret.” Immediately, she calls the Nurse back again, as if simply being alone with Juliet is an awkward and uncomfortable moment. Lady Capulet is so excited about Paris as a possible suitor — “Verona’s summer hath not such a flower” — that Juliet’s non-committal answers about this potential marriage make her mother seem like some one who is trying too hard. Lady Capulet even tries to find common ground with Juliet by saying, “By my count,/I was your mother much upon these years/That you are now a maid,” but Juliet doesn’t share her enthusiasm for marriage and motherhood.

Lady Capulet spends a large portion of the play mourning, and not just for Juliet. She is distraught over Tybalt’s death, and remarkably angry at the Montagues. She actually expresses more desire for vengeance than her husband does, demanding of the Prince “I beg for justice, which thou prince must give./Romeo slew Tybalt. Romeo must not live.” When Juliet “dies” for the first time, Lady Capulet’s reaction completely belies her earlier coldness to her daughter. Weeping over Juliet’s body, she says “My child, my only life,/Revive, look up, or I will die with thee.” At this moment, she must desperately regret having said the cruel things that she did in Act 3, scene 5, as all parents regret the things they have said in anger.

I hope that our production does a good job of showing the complexity that Shakespeare has written into the role of Lady Capulet, and into the parent-child relationship between Juliet and her mother. Although her involvement in the play’s central plot is tangential, Lady Capulet’s reactions to the play’s event give the audience a perspective on Juliet’s family life, and on how the families’ feud and tragic deaths of the lovers affect the other individuals who surround the title characters.

Katherine Mayberry as Hotspur

Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 is one of his most brilliantly structured plays. Like many of his comedies, this history follows parallel plots which move towards each other, finally coming together in act 5 and climaxing in the battlefield face-off between Hal and Hotspur. One plot is the story of Hal’s personal rebellion against his father, his friendship with Fallstaff, and his ultimate reformation. The other plot is what I like to call The Tragedy of Hotspur.

Of course, every actor wants to think the play is all about her own character, but I also say this because Hotspur functions in many ways like Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. He has multiple chances to avert his tragic ending, and makes choices which bring about his own destruction. He doesn’t turn over his prisoners to the king, he plots rebellion, he refuses to back down when his father doesn’t show up to the fight, he insists on beginning the fight against the advice of the other rebel leaders, and he rejects the king’s offer of clemency carried by Sir Walter Blunt (although Worcester does manipulate this response a little bit). He is determined to run headlong towards the clash with Hal.

The trap of playing Hotspur is that it would be easy to just play “angry” for 2 1/2 hours, and I have no desire to scream my head off for the entire play, nor do I want audiences to have to sit through that, so in rehearsals, I have focused on finding the variety in the character.

Shakespeare’s text actually shows a lot of depth and variety in Hotspur. He isn’t a villain, but a foil to Hal, who even calls him “my factor.” Whenever I read the play, I have to confess, I’m a little bit in love with Hotspur. I think it’s the sarcastic sense of humor. I greatly enjoy playing the comedy in act 3, scene 1, in which Hotspur encounters Owen Glendower, the Welsh warlord who claims that he “can call spirits from the vasty deep.” Hotspur’s response, “Why so can I, or so can any man,/But will they come when you do call for them?” is a perfect example of the wry and sardonic humor that he uses throughout the play.

Shakespeare also does the actor playing Hotspur a great favor by putting a scene of his domestic life on stage. The scene with Lady Percy doesn’t advance the play’s plot at all. It offers a glimpse into the characters’ personal relationship, and Amy McFadden and I have tried to create an image of a passionate marriage. The scene involves a confrontation in which Lady Percy demands to know what has been preoccupying her husband, and he refuses to tell her. This scene has been one of the hardest for me to play in terms of being a female actor playing a male character, because there are some ways in which Hotspur is being a real jerk. He ignores his wife’s pleas for information and calls in a servant to get out of the conversation. When Lady Percy persists in her questions, he explodes and tells her “I love thee not.” What he is trying to do, in a clumsy way, is to protect her. He has been plotting a rebellion against the king, which is treason. His plot would put Lady Percy’s brother, Edmund Mortimer, on the throne. If Lady Percy knows anything about the plot, she too is guilty of treason. She is safer if she doesn’t have any information. The scene presents Hotspur handling this situation badly, a nice flawed, human moment.

Another moment that I feel is crucial to the character’s depth is the moment when Hotspur receives the letter from his father Northumberland which says that Northumberland is not bringing his army to fight against the king because he is “sick.” I try to imagine the punch in the gut Hotspur must feel when reading this letter. Essentially, Northumberland is willing to abandon his son to a traitor’s death rather than bring his army to fight against the king. From Hotspur’s point of view, Northumberland is pretending to be sick so that he can see which way the initial battle goes before deciding which side he will be on. At this point in the play, Hotspur has committed his treasonous plots to paper and raised an army. There are only three possibilities for him: kill both the king and Hal in battle, die on the battlefield, or be executed for treason. I have tried to have these realizations within the scene. This scene is Hotspur’s one moment of hesitation and fear. He initially reacts to Northumberland’s absence as “A perilous gash, a very limb lopped off,” but then insists to Douglas and Worcester that their forces are enough to take on the king. He responds to his own fear and feelings of betrayal with bravado, using his habitual cockiness to convince not only the other rebel leaders, but also himself.

From this point on, Hotspur is moving inexorably towards his confrontation with Hal, rejecting any possible means of avoiding it, because he has something to prove. He is no longer sensible to reason, but driven by his anger at the king, and his disgust for the “sword and buckler Prince of Wales” who holds an exalted position in spite of his “libertine” life and lack of accomplishment. Our fight choreographer, Michael Empson, has created a combat sequence that makes an excellent contribution to the story as well, with Hotspur so blinded by rage that he tries to kill Hal with his bare hands. I hope audiences will enjoy seeing this production as much as we enjoy performing it.