One thing I never understood about theater is why everyone wants to play the beautiful romantic lead. For some reason or another, I never had any interest in playing those characters. I always found them to be incredibly boring. Ever since elementary school, I’ve always taken an interest in the character roles — especially the comedic relief.
When I was 12, I played my first major role as Puck in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Puck was a dream role because he is a comedic relief character who always caused trouble. I guess this is when I developed a huge appreciation for theatre and William Shakespeare’s plays. I’ve seen and a bunch of Shakespeare plays since then, but “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” remained the only Shakespeare play I ever acted in until this year.
Every two to three years as well as every summer, The Schuster Theatre puts on a Shakespeare play. I haven’t been in Erie for the past few summers, so I was thrilled to learn that Gannon decided to put on “Twelfth Night” this year, one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. I missed playing roles like Puck, so I decided to audition. Luckily for me, I ended up getting the part of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, who is basically a complete idiot. I was absolutely thrilled to play a comedic character again. When rehearsals began, I soon rediscovered that portraying a Shakespearean character has many challenges.
Throughout my experience in acting, I’ve learned that when playing a comedic role, timing is always key. How and when you as the actor choose to say a line could make or break the moment. In our first rehearsal, I had absolutely no clue how I would say the lines or how to time them. In fact, I was even trying to figure out how to portray my character physically.
I was also wearing my reading glasses for the first few rehearsals. I should probably mention that when I wear my glasses, I have a tendency to feel slightly dizzy after a while, so I felt as though I really did not know what I was doing the entire time. Then some of the other actors said they liked what they saw from my character. I was absolutely confused. Are they trying to be nice? Am I really so bad that people are complimenting me to raise my moral? Then it hit me; my character is a drunk moron throughout most of the show, and my dizziness probably accidentally portrayed Sir Andrew’s natural cluelessness.
I finally realized how I was going to play Sir Andrew. I was going to play him as a clueless idiot who thinks he knows what he is doing, but clearly doesn’t. I mean, one of the other characters tells him to accost (flirt with) a lady, and Sir Andrew thinks the woman’s name is “Accost.” I guess acting is all about finding something in yourself to represent a character.
Whenever I studied my lines, I would say them out loud in character so that I could master the art of turning into a “fool.” After a while, I became curious about what I looked like to the audience. I decided to record myself saying the lines using Snapchat and look back at the video to see what I look like. After playing the video back, I became more aware of my facial expressions.
After running my lines over and over again, I felt as though I was starting to grasp the character of Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Because my character is such a ditz, the other characters convince him to start a fight with someone at one point in the show. This meant that I not only had to learn how to fake a fight, but also how to fight like a complete moron. There was only one major issue; I am a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon-Do. I know how to fight. This was going to be a problem.
Eventually, Alaina, the fight coordinator, and I worked on the fight individually. Some of the moves were modified, but everything started to make sense. I just had to act silly, not tense up, make eye contact with the other actors I was fighting and everything slowly came together. I am now proud to say that I can not only fight like a complete idiot, but fighting like an idiot is actually a lot of fun.
Even though Shakespeare is incredibly challenging, I am once again experiencing the joy of putting on one of his classic productions.