Process Questions with Claire Mahave

Claire Mahave (Duchess of Gloucester, Duke of York) has been working with Pigeon Creek since 2011. Claire has appeared in PCSC’s 2015 season as Aemilia in Comedy of Errors at The Rose. Previous roles with Pigeon Creek include Blunt and Quickly in Henry IV part 1, Charmian in Antony and Cleopatra. and Nerissa in Merchant. Claire has also performed recently with Cedar Springs Community Players, Theater616, Stark Turn Players, and Christopher van Der Ark's Zodiac sequence.

What made you want to become an actor? What makes you want to contiue being an actor?

I was painfully shy as a child. It’s not something I’ve grown out of, exactly, but I’ve learned to maneuver around it or ignore it. I try to emphasize my genuine interest in other people and de-emphasize my own role in interactions. It’s kind of like tricking myself into not being shy, and sometimes I do manage to forget my own awkwardness, so I guess it works. At any rate, I had my first real audition in 8th grade, and I thought I was going to die of embarrassment. People were going to be looking at me, for God’s sake. Why was I even there? What was I thinking???

And then, something miraculous happened. This was not the sort of audition in which people are asked to perform a monologue, which likely would have pushed me into full mortification and an early death. Instead, it was what is called a “cold reading.” We were handed a script, and then we were called up to read scenes. Not only was I quite good at reading with expression, I found that for those moments, I forgot about the people looking at me. I forgot to be awkward and shy and self-conscious. I had fun in a group of people. It was a revelation and an experience I wanted to repeat forever.

The older I get, the more theater miracle stories I hear. Mine is common and unsurprising. Theater (and the arts in general) changes people. It can improve our lives. It can even save us. I wanted to become an actor because I love acting like nothing else. I continue to do it because it makes me happy, gets me out in the world, and allows me to gift others with stories and characters that might touch or change them in turn. I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter, teacher, citizen—and actor.

When creating a Shakespeare character, do you start from the "outside" (voice and physicality) or the "inside" (relationships and motivations)? Why?

I’m an observer and slow to form character. I dislike short rehearsal periods precisely because I work from the inside out—because I start with the raw material of words and then have to stumble my way to an eventual shape that feels right to me and hopefully reads well for the audience. I am annoying to the directors and actors who want sameness from me; fortunately, I am not alone in finding benefit in exploring character through the entire run of the show. Physicality is more of a side effect than a deliberate process for me, unless the character is differently abled or of another species, for example.

What is your favorite "Original Practice" (audience contact, cross-gendered casting, live music and sound, etc.) and what exactly do you love about it?

This one is easy. Without cross-gendered casting, my options would be severely limited in Shakespeare’s plays. I love stretching myself to play people very unlike myself, and not many companies allow me the opportunity to do so. Typically, I look at audition notices and see between zero and two roles I might be able to play in the production. Competition is fierce with so few parts and so many actors, so it’s lovely to be able to look at the script as a whole for possibilities rather than limit myself to the few roles out there written for women in my age range.

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