In rounding out an article about the 2011 Trinity Shakespeare Festival for the regional Arts & Culture DFW Magazine, I sent e-mails to a range of festival company members asking them to share their perceptions and feelings about the festival. So impressed by the impassioned responses I received, I post them below in their entirety for anyone interested in the festival to read….
Trisha Miller (3rd year participant)
How did you get involved?
I worked with both Tom Walsh and Harry Parker (TSF’s Managing Director) before TSF came to be. Tom directed me in Metamorphoses at Theatre Three and Crimes of the Heart at Circle Theatre, and Harry directed me in Last Mass at St. Casimir’s at Circle. They knew I had a classical rep background and, gratefully, Tom asked me to be a part of the inaugural company in 2009.
Has it been a rewarding experience for you as a performer?
Absolutely. Every season the company feels like a family. Every season I’m awestruck by the designs and talent. Every season I’m shocked and humbled by how attached I get to these stories. Every season I sink into a bit of a depression when the plays close.
What brings you back to it?
Doing good Shakespeare with the best directors, designers, and actors is like nothing else. It’s a rapid means of transportation. It’s euphoric.
What are the best parts of working with Tom and Stephen as directors?
They trust and respect actors. They are specific and won’t let you get away with not being so on stage. We find the play together and don’t force a concept or a museum piece onto the stage.
What does the festival offer that is unique for the community?
A/C. Intimate spaces. Shakespeare in Fort Worth again after a long absence!
Do you plan/hope to keep performing in it yearly?
Oh, gosh, yes. I hope/beg/pray. It’s been a job I’ve looked forward to and hated to leave for the past three years.
For veterans, what is a memorable moment?
All throughout the run I’ll find myself watching scenes from the wings. David Coffee’s Feste, Emily Gray’s Nurse, David Fluitt’s Malvolio, Jim Crawford’s Benedict…these are world-class performances I never tired of watching.Also, the offstage shenanigans. Like junior high summer camp, TSF “Prank Wars” have seen crickets in boots, crawfish in makeup bags, and (the piece de resistance last season) a live lobster in my purse. Yeah, you should never take yourself too seriously–especially when you’re doing the classics.
DAVID COFFEE (3rd year participant):
I was asked by Harry Parker if I might be interested in performing in a new Shakespeare Festival they were putting together at TCU? I told him that I would be honored, but wasn’t sure he really wanted me. You see, I hadn’t played in Shakespeare since college (the last time was 1982)! He seemed to think I might still be able to pull it off.
It has been very rewarding to me as an actor because this is part of what I trained to do, and had not had an opportunity to use those particular “muscles” in my career.
Also, the process of preparing a Shakespearean character means a lot of study and a lot of collaboration. (i.e. figuring out what a character is trying to say- and then figuring out the best way to relate that idea to a modern audience.)
I come back to it because a: They are nice enough to let me “play” with them; b: I enjoy “playing” with this company.; c: I always cherish the opportunity to perform a good script and d: It always gives me a sense of accomplishment when I am successful at creating a role that can resonate with the audience.
The best parts of working with T.J. and Stephen are a: they are knowledgeable about the pieces we are working on, and convey a sense of joy in their work; b: they are “actors’ directors” (meaning they understand the challenges that face the actors and work to alleviate any obstruction the actor may face to be successful in their part and c: they are true collaborators. They work to create a safe, creative environment for the company to build the plays.
I believe the festival offers the community something they don’t often have the opportunity to experience: Shakespeare – indoors – presented by an inviting mix of energetic students, mixed with fine Shakespearean scholars and actors and at least one old stock actor that is having a grand time trying to keep up! As long as I am able to learn my parts, and have the opportunity, I will be involved with this Festival.
Morgan McClure (1st year participant)
I auditioned for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival for the first time in 2010. I was called back, but wasn’t used. (The casting is competitive–this summer it’s twenty actors total, and only five of them women.) TJ was kind, though, and strongly encouraged me to audition again this year. I did, and accepted my place in this summer’s Company in January 2011. I have been so excited to get started, and am so honored to be a part of the Festival!!
So far, working with TJ, Steven, and the rest of the Company has been wonderful. Everyone involved–from the Stage Management, to Actors, to the Costume Design crew–is a true professional, and committed to bringing Shakespeare to life for our community in a dynamic and relatable way.
We are still early in this fast-and-furious process, but things are already cooking. The atmosphere in the rehearsal room is electric; all of us bringing in the work done at home and ready to play around until we find what works. The process has been very collaborative with both TJ and Steven, both of them as eager as the actors to first cut out the pieces of the puzzle, then to fit them all together.
For me, it’s been an exercise in fearlessness and trust, as I knew only one other actor in the company before rehearsal began. We hit the ground running hard on the first day, and there was no other choice but to trust everyone in the room completely. We have three weeks to put up two full Shakespeare productions. No time to play it safe, no time to be Chicken.
It’s been fun and challenging and many ways thus far, and I’ve been able to put much of my grad training to use. This started before rehearsal began, as I had to make sure all of my text “homework” was complete. This included not only learning the lines themselves, but working out the meter, rhyme, and scansion of the verse–things I never knew about before grad school! Shakespeare uses devices like rhythm, alliteration, and punctuation to give clues as to what a character is going through at a particular moment…It’s our job as actors to figure out what that is, to be able to come to the table with something that makes the words leap off the page.
What I’ve learned in school has benefited me immensely in rehearsal. The Witches in Macbeth are vocally and physically dynamic, so the challenge has been to fill the space in a way that is larger than life, grounded in truth, and not pushed or forced in any way. This is a huge and sometimes daunting task for an actor, but the reward is so sweet when we succeed!!
To sum up, I am truly excited about bringing our work to the community. I am passionate about what live theatre has to teach us about the human condition. In my opinion, Shakespeare’s plays are the best vehicle for this. I eagerly anticipate opening in the next few weeks, and can’t wait to see what our audiences have to say!
Gabe Whitehurst (1st year participant):
1. I got involved because I’m a student at TCU. I was fortunate enough to see the production of Hamlet last year and I knew I wanted to audition to be a part this year. Although it’s still young, Trinity has gained significant attention in the last two years.
2. The chance to work with adult equity actors has been extremely rewarding. I learn something new each time we have a rehearsal. Steven and Dr. Walsh are both geniuses and even though we’re only a week into rehearsal I can already see how beautiful the finished product will be.
3. It’s exciting to be a part of such good work. This is my first professional production and I’m excited to see the reaction to our take on both pieces–Macbeth especially…yes, Macbeth is a dark play but ours will be so wonderfully dark! I’ve already been creeped out in rehearsal by Steven’s vision…it’s going to be so beautiful.
4. Dr. Walsh is absolutely wonderful to work with. He is very relaxed and gracious with actors. He is never discouraging or overbearing and his devotion to crafting truth and beauty are unrivaled. Steven is precise and focused and strong. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and throw himself into rehearsals as if he were one of the actors. Before you know it he’s rolling around on stage and screaming and once we shut up and listen to him we get a great product. In short, I love trinity!
TRINITY COMPANY VIDEO: http://youtu.be/MvDxhYa5-Rw
As You Like It
directed by T.J. Walsh
6/7/2011 – 6/26/2011
Jerita Foley Buschman Theatre at Texas Christian University
directed by Stephen Fried
6/8/2011 – 6/26/2011
Marlene and Spencer Hays Theatre at Texas Christian University
Evening curtain: 7:30pm, matinee: 2:30pm
Trinity Shakespeare Festival Mission: Our hope is to produce the work of Shakespeare with clarity, creativity and conscience. To allow the stories of Shakespeare to play out on the stage with a joy in the story telling, a beauty in the execution and a respect for the tradition of Shakespeare’s enduring plays.
from 2010 Much Ado About Nothing:
(l-r) Alisan Heath, Trisha Miller, Alyssa Gardner
(l-r) Justin Rapp, David Fluitt, David Coffee, James Crawford