Pigeon Creek proudly lists doubling as one of the many original practices that we employ in our productions. Doubling, I think more than any of the other original practices, is still widely used in theatre of all kinds today. If you take a close look at shows like Hamilton, Into the Woods, and Jekyll & Hyde, you will find multiple roles intended to be played by one actor. Doubling is a fun challenge for an actor, as it gives you the opportunity to create multiple unique characters in a (sometimes very) short amount of time.
This production of As You Like It is not my first experience with doubling. I’ve often been doubled in Pigeon Creek productions, regularly playing messengers, lords, and pages when my primary role was offstage. One of my favorite past doubles was playing Crab, a literal dog, and the Duke in Two Gentleman of Verona. Contrasting the physicality of scampering around the stage on my hands and knees one moment, and appearing as a cool and collected noble the next was a lot of fun. While this isn’t the first time I’ve played multiple parts in a Pigeon Creek show, this is the largest number of characters that I’ve ever played in one production.
For this production of As You Like It, I begin the play in the first scene as Charles, the Duke’s wrestler. After battling Orlando in the ring in Act 1, Scene 2, I quickly change into my second role, one of Duke Senior’s banished lords. After making a speech poking fun at Jacques, a melancholy lord also enduring banishment in the forest with the Duke, I step into my third role, a lord in service to Duke Frederick. This might be my favorite transformation in the production, as I (and John who inhabits the other lords in these scenes) only have the span of a single line to change character. Often times, doubling is supported by a change of costume, the addition of a wig, or the loss of a beard, but occasionally there isn’t room for those types of changes, and it falls entirely to the actor to present a new character, who appears identical to the previous, but must be believed to be an entirely different person. I’ve enjoyed figuring out how exactly to switch from the loudmouthed lord of the forest to the scaredy-cat courtier in Frederick’s service.
For my fourth character, I finally step into the shoes of the melancholy Jacques, the same character I made fun of a few short scenes ago. After exploring Jacques and his philosophical observations for a handful of scenes, I return to the court of Duke Frederick, this time as an altogether different lord. Lord number 3 is the strong and silent type, serving as the dutiful enforcer and intimidating presence for Frederick. After a brief intermission, I return to the stage as Jacques for a few more scenes, before jumping into character number six, William. William has one incredibly fun to play scene with Touchstone and Audrey before he’s never heard from again. I enter as character number seven, a page from Duke Senior’s forest court, sing a quick song, exit in a huff, and step back into Jacques for the remainder of the play.
I’m not going to lie. It’s a lot. It’s definitely more characters than I’m used to playing at once, and it’s challenged me and forced me to stretch my limits on what I thought I could do. Making sure that each character is different and unique, that they each have a life and a story of their own, and that the audience will be able to follow the story from one character to the next, has been my focus throughout our rehearsal process. We still have a few more days before we put the show up in front of an audience, and I will readily admit that I’m not done working it all out yet. When I auditioned for this play, I was happy to take on whatever role they’d let me play. I didn’t realize I’d be playing quite so many of them.
This process has been challenging in several unique ways, but I’m grateful for the opportunity, and hope you’ll enjoy the performances, (all of them) in Pigeon Creek’s As You Like It.