In My Minds Eye with Steven J. Anderson
Introducing Steven J. Anderson! A Midsummer Night’s Deam is Steven’s first production with PCSC.
I’m playing the parts of Egeus and Peter Quince in this production. One of the first things I noticed about Egeus is that he’s very terse. He comes straight to the point and expresses himself directly, with very little rhetorical adornment. Here’s an example:
Full of vexation come I, with complaint Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
Now compare these lines from Twelfth Night:
Be Mercury. Set feathers to thy heels, And fly like thought from them to me again.
This is far more typical of Shakespeare’s writing style, heavily laden with metaphor, simile, and symbolic thought. This is also what makes Shakespeare challenging to play, and, sometimes, difficult to understand, lots of metaphor and indirect meaning; levels and levels of symbols crammed into very few lines. The actor must consciously and deliberately understand all of this as he performs. I can’t help thinking that by having Egeus express himself in a way that runs so contrary to his own style, Shakespeare is trying to let us know that Egeus is a bit dim, the sort of person whose first approach to solving his problems is always brute force.
Now, on to Peter Quince. What we see Quince and the rest of the mechanicals repeatedly doing is what my acting teacher would have called a miss. We see phonetic errors, missed communication, mistaken assumptions, etc. There is something very satisfying to audiences about a miss when it’s done right. Think of Peter Sellers playing Inspector Clouseau spinning his globe and then trying to lean on it, or almost everything Buster Keaton over did on film.
There’s one more thing I want to say about the mechanicals. One of the most interesting Shakespeare does is put a play within one of his plays. When he does this he tells us a lot about what he thinks about the stage, how acting should be done, what good acting is, what bad acting is. Plainly the mechanicals are not very good actors, but, I think, Shakespeare sort of loves them in spite of themselves. I think he wants us to see that there’s something deeply lovable about these folks just because they’re making on honest effort to present something worthwhile on stage, regardless of how well they succeed.