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An interview with a Queen Margaret

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You did not look ahead to 2 or 3 when you did 1. Did you look ahead to 3 when you did 2?

No.

So you stayed true to the part you were doing at the time.

Yeah. In fact, when we started rehearsals for this play I was off book for maybe the first two scenes. Some of those lines I was reading for the first time in the read-through. Like, I glanced at them, you know, I looked through my whole sides, but I wasn’t off book for the entire play on day one.

I find it fascinating that you took each play totally as itself. And I’m wondering how that informed the Margaret that we’ve got. Did your Margaret grow up as Margaret grew up?

Probably, at least somewhat. But I would also say that—and who’s to say what Shakespeare wanted—but I believe that Shakespeare wanted you to experience Margaret in each part, and every character that you experience. I feel that he knew he could write King Lear in one play. He knew he could not write Henry VI in one play. And that’s why he split them up. So I’m always a little “… Errrr” when people try to put them together, because I’m like, “You’re trying to do what Shakespeare knew he couldn’t.” He put Henry IV in two parts because you need two parts. And he put Henry VI in three parts, and then Richard if you want to call it the tetralogy, because he knew that’s what you needed to tell those stories. You can tell an interesting story if you put them all together, but it’s not the same. I think he knew that. So I’m wondering if he wanted that to be experienced in that way. All the characters, the ones that are lucky enough to stay alive, are still evolving and switching sides and figuring out where their alliances are.

Even York changes. He’s a different character from 1, 2, and 3.

Absolutely. Warwick. I think that maybe Shakespeare wanted you to experience them that way. As much as I would love to do all of them together, like a couple of days, I’d like to be able to sort of know them all and do Part 1 this night and 2 the next afternoon; that would be an amazing journey. But I like the fact that there’s been the time in between. A year.

Part of the experiment of the Ren Season is that you can choose to look at the whole script if you want to. There’s nobody saying you can’t look at all of this or you can’t do whatever research you want to do. But if you want to be true to the experiment of what it is just to get your sides and just to get a couple or few words and your lines and put a character together in that way, then your opportunity to do that is really in the Ren Season. And I’ve done that with some of the plays. Then there are other plays where I’ve looked at my sides and I was like, “I can’t understand what’s going on unless I look at the rest of the text. I don’t know who this person is. I can’t even begin to start memorizing it because I don’t understand where they fit into the world.”

Is that true of Shakespeare plays?

Not ever.

Based on what you just talked about and your approach to Ren, what does that say to Shakespeare’s ability to write characters?

He’s brilliant. That sounds like such a Shakespeare geeky thing to say, but there is a reason that our performance of Look about You is the first time that’s been done in I don’t know how many years, and it’s certainly not one that is lining up at every major Shakespeare festival or anywhere else for that matter because it’s not a very good play. And I had a helluva time figuring out who my characters were in that play based on my sides, and even when I was with the other people in the room, we were just like, “What, now you’re who? And we? What is happening?”

I think that Shakespeare is brilliant at doing what he does. Maybe this is just because I’ve been doing Shakespeare for a while now and I was trained specifically in grad school to do classical theater, but I feel like almost everything you need is in your own lines, not even what other people say about you. I feel like what he’s doing with the meter, whether or not you’re speaking in prose most of the time or speaking in verse, where your verse goes off, where that gets irregular, I think he’s telling you about your character choices there. I think he’s constantly informing you with the way that he writes. If you’ve got a bunch of monosyllabic words one after another, that tells you something about the way the character is speaking. I just think he gives so much to you.

And in a way that is not so specific and hardened down, where this is the only way to play this. Shakespeare somehow magically has given you this amazing character that you can really get if you just study the lines and work within the story line he’s given you but also the freedom to do it successfully a bunch of different ways. That kind of balance is really hard to attain. I don’t know how he did it. But I know that now working on a lot of Shakespeare and a lot of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, it is so much easier to work on Shakespeare. It’s easier to memorize, it’s easier to understand, and that’s not even in Romeo and Juliet where everybody knows the story, that’s in Henry VI where people don’t know what’s going on and you’ve got a lot of warring factions and you’ve got people who you’re trying to follow: “Who are you allied to now? And who are you with?” That’s complicated stuff, but that’s still easier to me every single time than going to these other plays that are written around the same time by people who, frankly, just aren’t as good. Still entertaining. Still, plays that are worth putting on, but I don’t find them nearly as accessible as Shakespeare.

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[For a PDF of this interview, click here]