By Mary Lynn Bain, Dramaturgy Wright
Firstly, I would just like to say that I never expected to do this much Shakespeare and enjoy it so thoroughly. My junior year of college ended with Twelfth Night, which spilled into the 24 Shakespeare Marathon then Romeo and JuliLIT and finally Antony and Cleopatra. What a whirlwind it has been with the Bard and a group of people whom I now consider my family! The process of a mainstage production and a Lit show obviously differs; however, they are more similar than one would imagine, at least in my experience. Both [Antony and Cleopatra director] Jeremy and [Lit director] Marie ultimately stress the importance of authenticity. The way characters build from this foundation is what distinguishes a Lit show from a mainstage production . While Lit shows “knock the Bard of his pedestal,” Jeremy has striven to remind us that everything a character says is coming from a place of complete candor.
He has worked really hard on making sure the message of love is evident at all times. Even in the battle scenes! Tha’ts been something that I have really struggled with as an actress. Men are unapologetic in who they are at all times, especially in this show. Working on developing these characters reminded me of a workshop I did with the Women’s Theater Festival in Raleigh. We took scenes from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glenn Ross and did it with an all female cast. Despite the incredibly strong women we had in the room, the director had to stop us multiple times to point out how we apologize for literally everything we do. It’s just mind-blowing how even in 2017 women often tend to apologize for themselves onstage. Cleopatra is a strong character, for sure, but as a woman she has to resort to her arsenal of tactics, while Antony can just bust in and say anything. So just the dynamic of being a man and barreling through my speech without taking a “feminine detour” was something I grappled with.
In the process to get out of the mindset of being a woman and how nuanced everything we say and do is, I often forgot to breathe love into the work I was doing. It could be love for a country, love for a fellow soldier or leader, love for a cause or for a change. This underlying motivation finally made everything start to lock into place. Additionally, it allowed me to find ways to differentiate my characters on a deeper level than body language and changing the pitch of my voice.
Oh! Learning from more seasoned Shakespearean actors, such as Aaron Alderman (Enobarbus) and Sharyn Beal (Cleopatra) has been an absolute privelege. Sharyn, the most prepared person in the room at all times, taught me the immeasurable value of working outside of a rehearsal. This should be common sense, but the intelligence she brought to her portrayal of Cleopatra could be entirely credited to the work she brought in before rehearsals even began. Its one thing to have that in the back of your mind, but to see it modeled daily was absolutely invaluable to me! AND AARON? HOLY MOLY! I always want to be scene partners with someone more experienced than me so I’m not only motivated to do my best but to also rise to his level of performance after every rehearsal. I struggled the most with the Menas and Enobarbus scene, and with the comprehensive help of both Jeremy and Aaron, it has become my favorite scene I have! This show has hands down been one of the hardest I have ever had to do, because all of my Shakespeare work has been in comedy. Inevitably, the dramas are a completely different beast for the most unexpected reasons. I have had the most fun learning and working with this incredible company and I never want to leave!