Amanda Grah (is making her debut with Pigeon Creek as Margaret/Conrad in Much Ado About Nonting. Amanda has previously performed locally with Heritage Theatre Group , Circle Theater Grand Rapids, The University Wits, and in New York City with On The Rocks Theater Company , Boxed Wine Productions, and Mile Square Theater. She also starred in the Stonestreet Studios short film The Wish. Amanda was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical in the 2015 Broadway World Detroit Awards for her role in TIP$. Amanda has a BFA in Theater from New York University.
Hi, Amanda here, and this is my first time working with the amazing folks of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare. This is my third dip into Shakespeare’s work and my second opportunity to work on Much Ado. It’s endlessly interesting to me to see how two productions of the same play can, in some ways, be so similar, and in others so completely innovative and unexpected! Having previously played Seacole, a prominent member of The Watch who has not been included in this cut of the production, I have gotten to approach this production in so many new and different ways, one of which having to do with my challenging and (to me, at least!) very interesting doubled casting as two (but kind of three) different characters.
Doubling as a compounded Margaret/Ursula and Conrade has been a very eye opening character experience. Margaret, as a member of Leonato’s home as a waiting gentlewoman of Hero, has close ties to everyone in the household. She also has some different kinds of close ties to Borachio, Don John’s henchman and seemingly, his idea man as well. Conrade too has ties to Borachio, being another of Don John’s men, and both Margaret and Conrade are passively (and in my opinion, against their will) involved in the evil plot to undo Hero’s marriage to Claudio, one of the central conflicts in the play.
It’s fascinating to me to be doubling as both of these characters who are either manipulated into involvement, as is the case with Margaret, or who are not involved at all with planning or carrying out the traitorous plot against Don Pedro’s “right hand” man, but only hear of Borachio and Don John’s villainy after the fact and still held as a prisoner, as with our friend Conrade. To hear from Borachio as Conrade of his lewd acts with Margaret gives a bit of a fun twist to Conrade’s character for me as the actor. And later to know that, but for Borachio’s defense of Margaret, she too may have been shamed and stripped of her place in the household for acts she took part in while being fully ignorant of the ugly secret plotting of Don John, is as the actor both a neat window into both worlds of these people who never share a scene or perhaps even meet, but who are both so heavily effected by Borachio and his villainy to please Don John. To have the knowledge of one character without revealing it as another is sometimes a challenge, particularly during back to back character changes from scene to scene.
Luckily, trusting and playing the script makes it easier to keep things in order and keep characters aware of only what Shakespeare shows them to be, because otherwise playing Margaret later in the play might have been a decidedly darker experience! Thank goodness the Bard makes it easier in many ways to make our character choices as actors, because if you look closely it’s all in the words. Learning to trust the words has been a very helpful lesson in this process, and I’m so grateful I have had the opportunity to learn it while working on such oft overlooked but surprisingly meaty characters, and with such a talented and passionate group as the lovely people who make up Pigeon Creek Shakespeare!