In this installment of Behind the Scenes with Shakespearemachine, Minelli Manoukian sits down with Jensen Davis and Tara Olivero, who play the Tribunes to the People Sicinius and Brutus, respectively. They talk about how fun it is to incite a riot. Enjoy!
So what are your characters and who are they in relation to the show?
Jensen Davis: Well I’m Sicinius, I’m a tribune, which is kind of like a senator elected by the people to represent them. So I was one of the common man, that the people chose to speak for them and the public.
Tara Olivero: I’m playing Junius Brutus, also one of the tribunes—We’re the non-rich representatives in the government representing the majority of the people.
What were the first impressions you had of your character?
J: Um, total opposite of me, in that I’m not a politician at all. So it was exciting to play someone who is not like me at all and someone who is more quick-witted and better with words. I think it was also exciting to play the antithesis of the lead, I mean, they’re not the villain, cause they do want what’s best for Rome, they just are really headstrong in that they think that their way is the right way, unlike Coriolanus’s views. So it’s fun, I was really excited to get the part.
Are there any characters in the show that you connect to personally?
T: I really like, on a personal level, Menenius, cause he’s just trying to calm people down. And he has such a way with words and he knows how to work the crowd in such a different way than we (Sicinius and Brutus) do. Cause we’re very much like ‘Violence!’ immediately where he’s more like ‘I can use humor to persuade the people or other rhetorical techniques so that they won’t realize I’m using on them’.
Since both of you were in the last show that the company did, “The Comedy of Errors”, have there been any major differences or changes that you’ve noted from that last show into this one that have excited you?
T: The audience being on just two difference sides this time instead of all four is different—I have to think about things differently when we’re blocking. And the fact that it’s a tragedy so it’s not supposed to be funny is interesting, cause everybody in the show is so funny.
J: That’s true, and I mean there was a fair amount of people who were in comedy in “comedy”, and there are a couple people that I know have been in comedic Shakespeare plays like “Midsummer” in it now. So it’s very interesting watching all these people who I find to be very comedic, very funny, and very well timed play tragic characters. I also just feel more confident and comfortable coming into it cause I’ve already done a Shakespeare show but I’ve already worked with masks so that’s not a foreign element that’s intimidating to me in any sort of way. The mask just becomes an extension of who you are and it’s not something that I feel like I have to worry about changing me or my performance, its just an added element and it just changes your body and your physicality.
What was your first encounter for doing Shakespeare for theatre, and has that influenced you at all for what you’re doing for this show at all?
T: The first time I did Shakespeare theatre was at a program over in London and we did an abridged version of “The Taming of the Shrew”. Because we were only there for three weeks they just got assigned parts on the first day, and we didn’t have to audition or anything. So I got Petruchio completely at random and I thought, “this is good” because I was with a bunch of theatre majors and that was terrifying. Now I feel a lot more confident about it because the first time I was playing Shakespeare I was playing a male character, and that’s why I think I’m more confident at that because I’ve done it before.
What do you think of rehearsals so far?
J: It’s been good work. There’s been no fear going into it, which is exciting y’know? It is a very heavy, intense show with very violent people doing violent things. There’s just been no fear from our directors in staging, they’ve had total confidence in us which I think has definitely influenced it. They’ve been fearless and everyone jumping into it has been diving in headfirst.
T: I’m excited to get back into masks because we’ve taken such a long break from that—‘cause we did all the mask stuff with all the new people and we’ve done blocking for such a long time now—and I just can’t wait to see what they look like, and how our characters are going to move once we have them on.
What’s been your favorite moment of rehearsals, or throughout the whole process so far?
J: I mean the fight call stuff has been a lot of fun, even the little bit that I’ve done so far. And seeing Minelli and Chase fight has been exciting because it’s so different from Comedy in that I was getting beat up in that show for comedic sake so it was very over the top and the damn chicken and everything. That was very comedic and that was it’s purpose. This is very violent in a different purpose—it’s to start a riot, to make a point, it’s a political point, or a message. I just find physical work really exciting so to do that and to see that is my favorite stuff to work on.
T: Just spending quality time with everyone makes me so happy—And all of the riot scenes. I think just the bits with the chorus when we get to do either motions together or extreme choreography are nice just because we get to be connected with everyone else. It heightens the intensity of everything.