What are your names, how long have you been with the company, and what roles are you playing this season?
Michael: My name is Michael Amendola [or Dola]. This is my first year with the company. I play Puck and Starveling in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I play Antigonus, the 3rd Lord and a shepherd in The Winter’s Tale, and I play Grimaldi and Banditti in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.
Dan: My name is Dan Stevens. This is my first year with the company. I play Theseus and Mustardseed in Midsummer, Florizel and Cleomenes and one of the messengers in The Winter's Tale, and in 'Tis Pity I play Florio and an officer.
How did you end up here at the
DS: Denice Mahler. She and I have known each other since she was a graduate student and I was an undergrad at
MA: I grew up in
DS: And are good at!
MA: It really was a fluke, and I kind of got really lucky. It was my first out of state audition and I sacrificed a lot to get here, but I got here.
|Eugene Douglas and Michael Amendola in|
A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Photo credit: Tommy Thompson.
DS: Just because I think the superlative is subjective.
But I'm asking for your subjective opinion.
DS: You know frankly, I'm not familiar enough with Shakespeare's body of work. I haven't read all his plays; I can't say definitively if he's the best. I mean obviously he is arguably the greatest playwright, because of how long he's been around and all the work that he's done and how many people he's touched, but no, I can't say that.
MA: Yeah, I don't know if I can say that. Personally, artistically, I can say he is the greatest playwright for me. He may be the most successful playwright ever.
Such PC answers.
DS: We're pussyfooting around it. Short form, he's not my favorite playwright. I love his work, obviously, but he's not my favorite.
Well then, what was your favorite role to play, by any playwright, ever?
MA: Senior year I played Artie Shaughnessey, from House of Blue Leaves by John Guare. It's sort of like a more contemporary version of a Tennessee Williams play because there's sort of surreal side to it - the monologues taken out to the audience, the sixth wall being broken. It's a story of a middle aged man who's trying to become famous in Hollywood by writing these commercial ditties on the piano that were probably popular 40 years before. He's deluded by this sense of grandeur. You see that in really young people, but seeing it in this man who's middle-aged, who has a whole family… and his family is falling apart in him pursuing this dream, and then him coming to a realization in the end. It just gets more and more absurd throughout, but starts with a guy who follows his dream and doesn't get it – at the sacrifice of his family.
What's your dream role, your I-aspire-to-this part, your after-I-play-this-I-could-die-happy part?
DS: I don't know. You always try to think about what's the thing I aspire to, what do I want to teach myself to be better at so that I can eventually do this very well? I like the villain; I'd love to play the villain again. I feel like I played the villain more in college and now that I'm actually introduced into the workforce where your actual chronological age makes a difference (as opposed to in school where they'll just cast you as anything because you're all that's available)… I don't know. Everyone says Hamlet, so of course Hamlet is way up there. I would love to be one or the other in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. That might be my favorite play. Tom Stoppard for that play alone might be my favorite playwright. And that's actually coming from the fact that I've only ever seen the movie and I've only ever read the play. I just love the writing. I love the writing and I love the characters and I love the relationships. As much as he does script out the staging of it, he's very simple and he wants you – the actors – to find things to play with. And it's just so much fun to read.
MA: I'd say Iago is definitely one of mine. It's kind of a cool role because a lot of Shakespeare characters you can play at the age of 22 and you can also play at the age of 80. A lot of the really weird characters are flexible like that. So I'd say Iago is definitely one of mine.
What's your favorite part of performing using Shakespeare’s original staging conditions, and what about it do you find most challenging?
|Michael Amendola in The Winter's Tale.|
Photo credit: Michael Bailey
DS: I think the same, really. When you go to school you're not only going to school to be an actor – your classmates are lighting designers and set designers, so you've got all these people trying to start their own stuff, who are trying to challenge themselves and are being challenged by their teachers. So you're being put in these really interesting,really provocative environments. We had a three-quarter thrust in a black box, so it was a very intimate space, so the intimacy of the space to the audience doesn't bother me. But because I was always in the intimate space, I wanted to interact with the audience. I wanted them to be a part of my world because they're right there. And now that I get to do that it's great, but in allowing me to do so, there’s the pressure of finding the time to bring them in. When you go to school they're always talking about specificity to the nth degree. Every moment, everything, you either have practiced or you've got it clarified. Now, I sometimes find it hard to stay clear and specific. The communal element is what I love, but it's staying an actor that becomes a real challenge when there is this random element. It’s trying to find the balance between methodical actor and in-the-moment showman. That's a real challenge for me because I work much better in absolutes.
MA: Maybe somebody that's not a Shakespeare buff might say, "Why would I want to go see this production of Macbeth at this community theater when I could just watch Ian McKellan or somebody do Macbeth on a movie and supposedly that might be the greatest performance of it ever done?" But the major difference is that Ian McKellan can't reach out and touch you. We definitely take advantage of that.
DS: I love this place for the relationship it has with its audience. We were doing A Christmas Carol with Rene [Thornton, Jr.], and sometimes he would just walkout on stage and people would start clapping just 'cause he's Rene.
What's your zombie contingency plan for
DS: That's a good question. Dola, do you have an answer?
MA: Please take this one.
DS: Okay, so a zombie contingency plan is just a fantastical version of any emergency contingency plan. A problem I think a lot of people have is that they try to stockpile. They think "Oh, the zombies are coming; I need to barricade myself somewhere.” Sure, sure you do. But barricade yourself to a point and then you need to get moving. So, in my car I've got the emergency kit you're supposed to have – you keep some basic provisions in your trunk,you make sure you have a hatchet or two (in my case, two), a baseball bat (a joke on the emergency security system everyone talks about having in their car)and always make sure to wear clothes you know you could start your life on the road in. I-81 is just right out there. That's a straight shot. Even if you're walking I-81 – my family lives in
That's the sort of sentimentality that will get you killed in the zombie apocalypse.
DS: No, no, no listen. It's the kind of sentimentality that will get me there… just to find out they're already dead.
MA: If that comes, I'm not kidding myself. I mean there's a reason I'm not in the army. 'Cause I'll be the first one to die. I will dance the Thriller to try and convince them I'm already a zombie.
Okay, back to Shakespeare. Either on film or onstage, what was the most superlative production of a Shakespeare play that you've seen?
|Dan Stevens in A Midsummer Night's Dream.|
Photo credit: Tommy Thompson.
It's sort of modernizing the community aspect we have at the ASC while taking it much further.
MA: Much further. But also a lot more expensive. One thing I really respect about the ASC is how they can create that with much less cost.
DS: Recently the production that I saw here of Hamlet [with John Harrell in the titular role, part of the 2011 Summer and Fall Seasons] was probably one of my favorite productions of that. It was just so much fun to watch Hamlet the production and Hamlet the character, both with such a delightful sense of humor and sense of intellect. I feel like everyone in that play… they are just consummate performers, a really incredible ensemble of people putting together the play. I enjoyed that it was a production that was aware that was Hamlet.There were a couple of jokes in there that only really worked because it was Hamlet. It worked because it is a play that has been done and done and done and done and will continue to be done and done and done and done. So a production that can joke on that… I'm the type that likes to see a thing torn apart and deconstructed and made fun of. I like self-referential theater. So that show was a lot of fun. It also changed my perspective on what Hamlet can be, both the production and the character.
Take me through a typical day on the tour.
DS: You think there's a typical day?
Okay, well, a performance day.
DS: Well, the easiest days to sort of think of as typical are the ones when we're in any sort of a residency. There are variations within the venues, but if we're in a residence for more than a couple days, you develop sort of a rhythm there.
MA: Towards the beginning of the tour, a lot of us made more of an effort to go out and see the town and everything. After about a month of that, a lot of times just sitting in the hotel with Netflix for a day is what you need. In any week, most days break down to either a travel day,a loading day, or a performance day. Like, "today we're spending 8 hours in a van and then we'll all be sick of each other and want to go to sleep." On a loading day, load-in takes half an hour to 45 minutes, load-out takes about an hour. Dan is one of our loading captains, along with Jake Mahler.
DS: Jake's in charge, I just pick things up.
MA: Yeah. Load-in the van, load-out the van, like Tetris. If we didn't have them, I don't know if it would take another hour.
DS: Somebody else would just serve the same function.
MA: I suppose. I mean, it's pretty much the same kind of deal. Sometimes you go to places like
DS: Or you go to
MA: You have to choose where you can afford to go do things. There are days when you know you just need to rest.
What's been your favorite stop on the tour so far this year?
DS: Oh, that was
MA: Oh! Yes, yes, yes, yes.
DS: We credited ourselves as being the opening gig for REO Speedwagon, because they played the night after we did.
How long do you think you could survive chained to a bunk-bed with a Velociraptor? No weapons.
DS: Are we chained to the Velociraptor?
|Dan Stevens and Denice Mahler in The Winter's Tale.|
Photo credit: Michael Bailey.
DS: And it's, like, right next to me?
It's in the room.
DS: Dude, I'm dead.
DS: Well, okay, it also depends on how well constructed the bed is. If I can tear off the headboard and use it as some sort of bludgeoning/deflecting instrument, then maybe… But I don't credit myself with being a survival expert.
Which of you do you think would win in a bare-knuckled fight?
MA: Probably Dan. I'm not a very strong person.
DS: But I'm also a bit of a sissy.
MA: And I have a lot of rage.
Let's say there's something worth fighting for. Like a sandwich. The last sandwich ever.
DS: Dola and I both come from groups of friends where we are the black-hole eaters of the group. So when we're all eating, somebody will say, "I'm done, who wants it?" and what he or she means is, “Who's going to get to it first, Dan or Dola?”
MA: Yeah, we shoot each other this look like, "Where you at in your day?" Dan often wins that. But I'd say it's like 60/40. I'm more of a selfish person than he is.
DS: I'm just hungry, man. I'm really hungry.