In this edition of Behind the Scenes with Shakespearemachine, our intrepid interviewer Minelli Manoukian sits down with cast members Brock Ireland (Menenius Agrippa, a member of the elite Patricians) and Darby LeClear (Volumnia, Coriolanus' mother).
So both of you are new to Shakespearemachine so how did you hear about the company?
Darby LeClear: Through Nick and Halee—we went to school together. I am really excited about it because it’s new, fresh work in town and so I wanted to get involved if I could.
Brock Ireland: Halee called me... and said that [they] wanted to work with me so I was like okay let’s see what this is about.
D: Who wants to work with you?
B: I couldn’t tell ya, but Nick wanted to. I don’t know if he receeds that statement yet. But yeah, it’s exciting, I think its something different that Fort Wayne hasn’t offered yet.
How has working with the masks been?
D: I had done something like it before in college (IPFW) with Jeff [Cassaza], so it’s exciting to revisit it and figure out how it relates to Shakespeare. It’s very different, it’s not your traditional “Here is how you act”, it’s forcing you to step outside yourself and take on the qualities of the mask which is very interesting. You don't realize how much you rely on your face until—
B: You don’t have your face?
D: Yeah. Like how do I physically embody it—like down to my toes— how do I become this character?
B: It’s always fun doing mask work too because you don’t realize how much of your body you don’t use when you rely on face acting.
D: We had some really good nights of the mask work, it was interesting when we broke up into group, seeing people’s interpretation of the masks—even two people had completely different interpretations of the same mask. It’s just so creatively invigorating.
How are you like your character, or even not like your character? Are there any similarities between you?
B: I’m like my character in that he can be sassy if he needs to be but he’s also very like sit back and observe. I’m not like him in the fact that he’s very fatherly and I’m not like that at all. I’m normally the one being parented by others. I like that he’s got some good one-liners, some zingers, in there. He’s fun.
D: I guess I would say…Volumnia is a lot…she’s not cold. She cares about her, and she cares about her son and that’s kinda her thing. And I feel like, I hope that I’m much more empathetic as a person, but I can relate to her drive and her ambition. And her being a woman in a society that she’s in she can’t do the things that I think she wanted to do herself so she’s sort of “stage mom”-ing Coriolanus. And that’s a little overbearing but I think she has good intentions. I think she wants him to have the life that she couldn’t and to be someone worth talking about, and someone worthy of honor. I would say her ambition is what I’m trying to tap into, and what I relate to, because I’ve got a lot of things I want to do and I have no idea how to do it myself, so I try to mom my friends and be like “You’re gonna be great!” while I’m panicking on the inside.
How’s it been learning lines?
D: Oh lord.… It’s not even that it’s Shakespeare, I can’t use that excuse because we just did Midsummer, together, as opposites. But it feels different, probably because it’s a tragedy, and Midsummer was a comedy. So the language is a little less frivolous and a bit more functional and utilitarian. It’s very like “war!” and “angry!” and Midsummer is very poetic and flouncy. Even Midsummer in form is a lot more poetic in structure and this is a lot funkier even in the form.
B: I think that doing Shakespeare before you get used to scanning everything and it falls into that rhythm, and this whole script, none of it falls into that rhythm so it makes memorizing that much harder because it doesn’t feel right in my voice so it’s not clicking in my mind
D: I mean nobody talks like this these days, but as far as scansion goes, it’s something more realistic—it’s language. It’s not strict poetic language. So we’re wondering how do we work with this Shakespeare that doesn’t sound like Shakespeare? It gives a good mood to the show, because the show itself is so riotous and chaotic and the language not being so pretty and neat gives it a type of mood.
What do you think of the directors' approach to running the show?
B: I think it’s always fun working with different directorial styles. Because coming from a college setting, you’re always working with the same group of directors and coming to this, and working with someone that you’ve never worked with before, is refreshing. It’s fun to try new things and you’re always finding out new things about yourself and working with some familiar people in that process you end up discovering parts of yourself that you’ve never had the chance to discover before and I think that’s very rewarding. You’re like ‘oh wow, this is fun, who knew I had this in me?’.
D: It’s also exciting because I’ve worked with Nick and Halee in the past on the collegiate level, so it’s fun to see them directing and to see my friends doing such exciting things. It’s great so see someone my age, or a group of someone’s my age, doing new, exciting theatre and taking risks and being bold in their choices.
B: It’s exciting to see something new that really has you going ‘wow, who are these crazy kids’. You appreciate what Fort Wayne has created and grown up with, but now it’s starting to branch into this weird, mask-y thing. Because you go to those big cities and there’s always some kind of experimental theatre happening. I think it’s awesome that this type of theatre is available to us now.
What’s been your favorite moment of rehearsals, or throughout the whole process so far?
B: I enjoyed the whole mask prep. I always love watching people discover things and come out of their shells. Like there’s those quiet people where you’re like ‘oh I don't know what they’re gonna do’ and then they go out there and they’re a completely different person. That’s always rewarding to see, people coming out of themselves and becoming comfortable with their setting so that they can make super fun and awesome choices.
D: I think one of my favorite couple of nights was when we were doing mask work, but not with the neautral masks—we were using the actual expression masks. And we were doing them in small groups so we got to perform in groups of three or four, and then got to watch the other group perform—cause everyone would look at themselves in the mask and become the character and interact with the space—but once people got to interact with each other it got insane. And there were some that were sad, but there’s this one that I’m specifically remembering—I think it was Nol and Jordan—and they were so over the top into those characters and it was so beautiful to watch. They were so committed and you could tell—it didn’t look like Jordan and Nol.
B: It’s like I was saying about people coming out of their shell.
D: It’s amazing to see how colorful people can be, and what parts of themselves they can draw out to become those characters. I really enjoyed doing that kind of work. It’s exciting to do such creative work with a group that you trust and know are going to be there with you. Because Nick and Halee respect us and give us creative reign - it feeds the ensemble mentality, and I love that they work as an ensemble. They’re down in it with us from the start to the finish.