By Kate McCosh
I recently returned home to Fayetteville from Western Carolina University, where I just finished my first year in the BFA Acting program. Upon my arrival, I was super excited to see both my family and everyone at Sweet Tea Shakespeare. I started my journey with Sweet Tea Shakespeare as a sophomore in high school, when I was cast in the Honey Series production Sweet Words. A year later, I had the opportunity to work on STS’s Twelfth Night and As You Like It, which ran in repertory, very much like Pericles and The Tempest this summer. I then took a short break from STS while I auditioned for college.
My first year at school was full of amazing experiences, my favorite of which was being cast in Archibald McLeish’s JB. JB, written in verse, is the book of Job set in a circus tent. One of the reasons why this was a favorite experience was because it reminded me of a Sweet Tea production. Like STS productions, and unlike most college theatre productions, JB included some hawking of merchandise, people on unicycles, people juggling plates, and lots of fabric on stage. While you may not always see all of this at an STS show, we can all agree that Sweet Tea is different from most theatre. JB also gave me the experience of working with text, that while not Shakespeare or one of his contemporaries, is still written in verse and required textwork very similar to that done for a Shakespeare production. All of these things reminded me of STS, and therefore home, while I was at school. This summer, however, I am reminded of school and our production of JB as I work on Pericles. During the Gower speeches in Pericles, we perform dumbshows, which are play-within-a-play sequences that help to set the stage for the next scene or act. These dumbshows remind me very much of the scene transitions in JB, which consisted of tumblers and roustabouts juggling props and circus-performing them into place so that JB’s story could then unfold.
As my life journey continues to unfold, I have realized how blessed I am to be a part of two very different theatre families that also share great similarities. STS helped to prepare me for the theatre program at WCU, and both WCU and STS are preparing me for my career as an actor.