By Tyler Graeper, Haberdashery Wright
Every actor has something that they know they are good at and something at which they know they are bad. For example: I know that I can yell, and usually yell pretty convincingly. I can turn anger and other evil feelings on at the drop of a hat. My struggle? I know that I can yell, and sometimes do it convincingly. The thing I consider my greatest strength also happens to be what I consider my greatest weakness, and here’s the thing with Posthumus: he is like an emotional grenade. He explodes at the drop of a hat with very little reason, ration, or thought behind it. Being convinced that his wife is unfaithful takes exactly one scene, and from that scene he launches into a tirade against all women.
Here’s the trap: it is easy to yell, but hard to yell with intention. This is not just a rage; he is not only angry and sad and in pain. He’s also in love. When someone breaks your heart you don’t stop loving them in that moment—maybe you never stop loving them. Every moment of every sentence of every scene has a layer of emotion and intention, and then there’s another layer, and then another. You keep delving into that rabbit hole until you have reached the ultimate intention or emotion. For Posthumus, that’s love. That is where I struggle: finding that beautiful, joyful, indescribable emotion in the midst of all this pain and anguish. I fight to find that every time I perform this monologue. Without it, this monologue has no teeth—there’s no reason for the audience to care about a guy who is simply angry and yelling about a woman who (spoilers) didn’t actually cheat on him. Here at Sweet Tea Shakes there’s a saying that gets passed on a lot, and which I’ve heard increasingly in this production, that “love is the strongest choice,” and I can find no better way to describe my struggle, and Posthumus’s, in Cymbeline.
by Laura J. Parker, Guiderius in Cymbeline
My first acting gig was in high school, in the heady days of the early 1990’s when city government officials thought it was perfectly reasonable to allow high school students complete access to the local cable access TV station and all of it’s equipment. A small group of Breakfast-Club-esque social misfits, we created a sketch comedy show that revolved around a ‘Knight Rider’ parody series. I played the nasal, heavily-Boston-accented girlfriend of the series’ hero—and later got locked in a studio and was “forced” to watch our own show in a MST3K-style parody. The show was ridiculous and full of in-jokes and silly flubs, and we loved every minute of it. We had the chance to create and to play, and it was glorious.
Fast forward to 2009: I was terrified of a public speaking assignment for graduate school, so I enrolled in an improv class to knock the rust off of my public speaking skills. That class jump-started my love of performing, and I soon found myself performing improv on a regular basis. A few years later I auditioned for a play and started doing scripted work.
What delights me about theatre is that, at its core, it’s all about telling stories. We share so many thoughts and feelings and experiences as human beings, and a good play will help the audience look at those experiences with new eyes. Working with a dedicated group of storytellers to share these experiences with the public is a beautiful, joyous, humbling experience—we all bring our own worldviews into the rehearsal process and end up creating something that’s bigger and bolder than we thought it could be. And that’s pretty amazing.
Playing Guiderius in Cymbeline has truly been a rewarding experience. Although I’ve done Shakespeare in the past, this has been my first Sweet Tea show, and it was so beautifully positive. The STS family is warm, open, accepting, and encouraging—and above and beyond that, their approach to Shakespeare is truly FUN. Even though these texts are 400 years old, the fundamental emotional stories still resonate, and STS works hard to bring out the emotional core for the audience. In between all the hard work, STS isn’t afraid to PLAY—to find the joy and the wit and the humor that is within the words. It’s been a joy exploring this little-produced play and finding the fun! STS gifts its actors with the freedom to create, to explore, and to dream, and I’m so grateful to have been able to share in that experience with this remarkable group of people. Much love!