Olivia has been one of my dream roles for a good 15 years. At this point in my life, I thought I only had a limited amount of time left to play her. When Twelfth Night came up as one of the plays this season, I put my all into the audition.
I was thrilled to the point of becoming a babbling fool when I was offered the part and my brain was going a million miles an hour thinking of ideas for my characterization. After I settled down and started to think a little more clearly, I thought about my biggest acting challenges and decided to work on those with Olivia. One of my biggest challenges is spontaneity. Olivia, during the course of play, turns from a women stuck in a rut to a truly spontaneous person, often changing her mind and, therefore her course of action in a matter of seconds.
Looking at her soliloquy at the end of I, v.; “What is your parentage…,” we see her change her mind five times in the space of 12 lines of verse. She starts there to make decisions at lightning speed and continues throughout the remainder of the play, so it’s my job as an actor to mark each change in my script and decide on a new action and intention with each change. Then, of course, I have to use those intentions and actions as she travels through the world of the play.
Another big acting challenge I have, that is quite a bit less technical than spontaneity, is letting myself be completely free and committed on stage. Often I find myself consciously listening for my cue or getting pulled out of the action of the play in some way. I need to immerse myself in Olivia’s great, joyful discovery of her love for Cesario. To work on this, the actor playing Viola, Annessa Johnson, and I have spent some time together talking about the relationship between the two women and hopefully with this knowledge of Olivia’s inner life, I can dig down deep and really feel her and commit to being in the moment of the scene and the story of the play.
Working on Olivia and being committed to give her the due that I feel she deserves is thrilling, challenging, and scary as all heck, but it’s also one of the most rewarding theater experiences I’ve ever had and I’d like to thank the board of PCSC for the opportunity to give my all to play her!