Entries tagged with “Stephano”.


Janna Rosenkranz as Salerio/Stephano

If this post was a NY Post tweet it would be this:

Old broad from the Bronx has new experience, stretches acting muscles! Still finds familiar, happy place! True Facts!

Here’s why:

I was trained classically, which basically means, I haven’t experienced cast direction many times. And by ‘many times’ I mean never. In my 20 odd year career as an actor, I’ve been part of this brave experiment exactly zero times.

It’s also the last thing I expected to experience after moving to West Michigan from my home land of NYC. It’s kind of cool. I’m enjoying it very much, both from an academic and artistic POV. I find it very freeing. Like most actors, I’m really painfully shy, and I’ve lived my life as a nice, well behaved lady (at least that’s what my parents think). I’ve had directors who I could talk with honestly and who sought out and accepted my opinions. I’ve also had ‘old school English directors’ who gave you line readings because they wanted to play the ingénue themselves. I’ve learned to work with both types and their in-betweens. I’ve been a bit hesitant about giving any input, but I’m slowly learning PCSC’s self direction language and now offer my two cents at least once during a rehearsal. It’s so nice being able to talk to a scene partner and play with ideas without involving an all seeing BOSS person.

What’s also wonderful about PCSC’s method and rhetoric is that it is respectful, clear, and generous. Truly an actor’s paradise. In the actor-eat-actor world of NYC theatre generosity from other actors can be difficult to come by, but I felt welcomed by PCSC from the moment I walked into the first audition.

Regarding Merchant in particular, I threw it out there in our first reading that I was Jewish and this play is therefore of great personal interest to me. I once wrote an academic tome (I write tomes, not papers or essays) on Anti-Semitism in the English Language Canon where I mainly compared Shylock to the other great Jew of English Lit, Fagin in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. My thesis was how both of these examples were ‘forgivable’ due to excepted cultural Anti-Semitism and because they are both fully fleshed out characters which elicited sympathy from their intended audiences. Shakespeare’s Jew goes all the way back to the medieval mystery plays and Fagin was based on a real person, Ikey Solomon, a well-known ‘fence’ in London. Dickens’ famously ‘watered down’ his portrayal of Fagin later in his life after becoming friends with a Jewish couple.

But this isn’t an academic blog, so now I’ll talk a little about playing a Christian who has nothing but contempt for Shylock. When Sarah Stark, Joel L. Schindlbeck and I do the famous ‘”hath not a Jew eyes…” scene it’s an interesting challenge to be playing such an insensitive character. Salerio is a bully, he and Solanio have to be make a choice to be threatening in that scene so the actor playing Shylock can give that speech honestly. I’m working on giving Joel more than ‘hate’ at that moment and finding a place in his speech where Salerio might have an enlightened thought or two. One thing I love about acting is listening and reacting, and that scene certainly gives me a workout. Joel and Sarah are both so wonderful to work with that we have started to find moments in that scene which makes it ‘right’ for the three of us, the audience and, of course, the play.

I love Shakespeare so much because his work is about collaboration, which to me is the spirit of theatre. The actors, the text, and the audience come together to create a happening, an event. PCSC lives this spirit to the letter; it’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to work with them. Can’t wait to experience the rest of the Merchant process and can’t wait for Henry IV part I!

“The Master, the Swabber, the Boatswain and I”

Hello again out there all you Shakespeare mavens and Pigeon Creek enthusiasts – Scott Wright here and it’s my turn again…

I never cease to be amazed at what I discover working on PCSC productions.  From the beginning rehearsals where we pore over the script and reference materials working out meanings of obscure words, debating pronunciations of particular words, and reveling in the subtleties of scansion (yes, I’m a Shakespeare nerd…), to the final stages of preparation as we work (sometimes sleep-deprived…) to get the finishing touches on the show.  The perseverance and talent of the people around me in this company inspire me to seek and strive for my very best – to dig deeper than I’ve ever had to before.

One of my big challenges working on The Tempest was in the company’s well-known practice of doubling.  I was given multiple roles in Macbeth – my very first show with PCSC – but since then I’ve pretty much never been “doubled.”  Being a rookie on Macbeth, I didn’t truly appreciate what it takes to convincingly pull off dual or even triple roles.  Using costumes is the most visually direct way for an audience to differentiate between characters but as an actor, what else can I do?  It’s still my voice and my face and my body they’re looking at…!

The two characters I play in The Tempest are Alonzo, King of Naples and Stefano, “a drunken butler.”  The distinctions between them in the script manifest in the undercurrents of their social status, but mostly in the way they talk.

Alonzo speaks in a fairly tragical/poetical mode throughout the play.  He has lost the pomp and ceremony of his majesty – sure he’s still king, but being king of a few foolish people on a desert island might be thought of as something of a step down…  The order of his world where a hoard of people saw to his every human necessity and where his son would carry on his legacy seems to have been completely shattered.  His grief over the loss of his son and the Island’s magic draw his mind toward despair and madness.

Stefano on the other hand, suddenly finds himself free of the oppression of class and service, and with all the necessities of life at hand (i.e.- a small instrument and an intact and full butt of sack…) now fancies himself his own king.  The script shows him speaking in what seems to be a coarser dialect than that of the “court” and his mood seems to be considerably more buoyant – he’s first seen singing to himself, and especially when he finds two “subjects” & drinking buddies in his old friend Trinculo and the monster Caliban.  He never strays far though from the profane and violent truth of the world of the lower class…

So finding the ways I, as an actor, can make all these distinctions clear to the audience with my voice and movements has been an adventure that’s been both fun and challenging, and the ideas and suggestions of the other company members have been invaluable.

Well, I guess that’s about as tedious-brief I as can be about that…

Come see The Tempest and let us know how successful our doubling was (-or wasn’t…!).  Hope to see you!