Amy Thone and Hans Altwies play the two epic lovers in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Antony and Cleopatra. Ironically, the two met while performing in a Shakespeare play and have gone on to share the stage playing opposite one another quite often. Find out how they each go about finding the roles and the challenges along the way.
From the clown Touchstone in As You Like It to Prince Hamlet, Darragh Kennan has become known as an actor with a facility for Shakespeare’s language and a versatility to handle whatever role is tossed at him. Much of that comes from the 10 years he spent at American Players Theatre in Wisconsin where he started honing his craft right after graduating from college. After moving to Seattle in 2000, he and his family settled in the Columbia City neighborhood. When he’s not onstage, he’s often teaching or running New Century Theatre Company where he’s the co-artistic director. Darragh plays Octavius Caesar in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Antony and Cleopatra, a character who marries his own sister off to Antony in order to futher his political ambitions of ruling the world. “It’s fun to play someone like that, because you have to figure out how they fit in. And what makes them do the things that they do.”
I’m reading a book called Just Kids, I think. It’s about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. I recently read Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff to get ready for Antony and Cleopatra. I thought it was an awesome book. And before that I read a book called Lit which is a memoir about Mary Karr’s life. That’s what I’m reading. And I’m reading tons of plays, I’m always reading plays, but that’s work.
I listen to a lot of Beatles with my son, who is a huge Beatles fan. Beyond that, I just put Pandora station on the computer, usually I put Greg Brown in, and stuff comes up that I like.
I just finished watching two things: one was Parenthood, which is this series on Netflix that I watch with my wife. We like it because we like the acting, and it’s about families and parents and kids…which is our life. My wife refused to watch this with me, but I just finished watching Sherlock, the second season.
Last play that made you cry
I have to cast my mind back a ways. A friend of mine, the guy who made me want to be an actor, and it’s actually a play that John Langs directed, it was an adaptation of Ian McKellen’s one man show In Acting Shakespeare. My friend adapted it and wrote it. It’s about his life in theatre. That made me cry. There was a moment in The Pitmen Painters at ACT where Joe McCarthy, this actor in town, delivers this monologue about being a coal miner. It was so well done. I was with my daughter, and he basically played the speech right to us in the audience, accidentally. Afterwards he laughed about that, but it was so moving. It was about this guy who was put to work as a kid, wasn’t able to play with his friends, and how he’d been in the coal mine for however many years. Never missed a shift. The way it was delivered by the actor, the writing, and the idea of being put to work in those kinds of conditions at a young age and being deprived of your childhood…and getting nothing from it. Yeah, that made me cry.
The last play that made you laugh
I went to Pullman Porter Blues at Seattle Rep with my daughter and absolutely had a blast. And I totally recommend it for people to go and see a totally different cultural, historical experience…to be entertained. I loved it, and so did my daughter, and that made me love it even more.
Well, I feel like I’ve had dream projects. Doing Hamlet here with John, was a dream project for me and the way it turned out was beyond the best dream I could have had. You know we’ve been talking about doing Waiting for Godot; me, Chuck Leggett and George Mount, and that would be amazing. Doing The Dumb Waiter with Chuck Leggett and John Langs was a dream project for me, and I did it. I played Tom in The Glass Menagerie with colleague Aaron Posner, and that was a dream. I feel so fortunate to have realized these things. I played Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night with John Langs. That was an amazing experience. But for things that I have actually not done yet, I would just always want to be in a room working with people I trust and love with a great piece of writing. I’d love to do The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill. I don’t think that will ever happen. I’d love to do Richard II. Basically it’s the cocktail of director and other actors and writing all lining up, and it rarely does. It rarely does. There’s always one thing that’s a little bit off. I’d love to do a film. I love film, and I never get asked to do films. It’s always theatre.
Most mornings we get up at 6 AM. My wife makes the kids’ lunch. I try and get dressed and get some coffee in me and get the kids out the door and get them to school. Then I usually have some time to work, and then go to rehearsal.
Always in the fridge
Yogurt. That’s not even true, it’s not always in the fridge. Is there anything that’s always in my fridge? I don’t think there’s anything that’s always in my fridge. Yogurt’s in the fridge most of the time. There’s usually ketchup in the fridge for the kids. There’s nothing that is always in my fridge. Except maybe the big jar that my wife uses as a starter for kombucha. The mother, that’s what that is called. That scary looking thing in the back…that’s always there.
(Laughs) I don’t have one. Sounds like a good idea.
Best role so far
Hamlet. There have been some close seconds like Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Tom in The Glass Menagerie. Artuo Ui in The Resistible Rise of Artuo Ui. The Maniac in Accidental Death of Anarchist. But Hamlet’s the best role.
Most frustrating role
I had to play a soldier in a production of Timon of Athens once. I had a big bazooka gun with a red point on it. We were climbing up and falling off things. It was sort of some young kid’s fantasy, but I’m not a gun person at all. We were in camouflage. It was the small role I was playing at the Shakespeare Theatre that year…and I hated it. I did almost everything I could to be present and a good scene partner and actor, but I really couldn’t stand it.
Solo bar is where we all hang out and get a drink. And they’re awesome there.
Favorite place in Seattle
I love Golden Gardens in Ballard. I love going there, and we’ve gone there more this year than ever before. It’s a drive for us and kind of a hike. We swam there twice this year with the kids, and that’s a cool beach. I love that.
I don’t really have anything great that I possess. I don’t know. Books? I got nothing really. If someone were to break into my house, they could take a computer and that would be about it.
If I’m home, we have dinner and then we go for a walk. Then we put the kids to bed and maybe hang out with my wife for an hour or so. Watch Parenthood! We just read books. Most of the time I’m gone in the evening.
On the bedside table
A collection of short stories that a friend of mine told me to read. Just Kids, the book I told you about. A plant. A lamp. And loose change.
Shakespeare Dinner party
Hmm… Constance from King John. I mean it’s not necessarily going to be a good dinner party, right? Just someone I’d like to talk to? I feel like she is the channel to how he experienced the death of his son. He, being Shakespeare. She just feels completely personal, at least in her grief, one of the closest impressions that we can get of what that guy might have been like. Let me think…well, why not: Hamlet. It’s really a depressing dinner party. (Take a moment) So actually, if I were having a dinner party, I wouldn’t invite Hamlet or Constance. But if I wanted to talk to people then Hamlet and Constance. And then Helena from All’s Well That Ends Well. That’s three, so there you go.
But… if it was a dinner party, like a fun dinner party, I think I would have Benedick, maybe Beatrice as well, and uh, Mercutio. They’d be fun. You’d be partying with them and entertained.
Keith Dahlgren has been a part of the Seattle theatre community since 1978. When he’s not on stage, he’s Managing Director at Seattle Public Theatre. It turns out the acting bug didn’t really fully bite until he was studying at Whitman College in Walla Walla when he walked into their theatre facility for the first time. “I just felt really comfortable. I thought, wow, this is a place I’d like to stay.” Keith plays Duke Senior in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It.
I just finished a couple of days ago, Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: The Biography, which is a great book, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Right now I’m reading a book by Stanley Elkin called The Living End. It was published about 20-25 years ago. I just started it. It’s a comic take on heaven and hell.
I listen to a lot of NPR. One of my favorite shows is Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. I always end up listening to that once a week. If I don’t listen to it on Saturdays when it’s locally broadcast, then I listen to the podcast.
I’m waiting to see The Avengers. I just watched BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. A great, great, great take on Sherlock Holmes. I’m on season two and looking forward to the third one.
Which Three Shakespeare Characters Would You Invite to a Dinner Party?
Definitely Lear. I have three daughters and in a lot of ways, structurally, it’s a lot like Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia. I wouldn’t mind chatting with him. I’d be interested in Hamlet, I’d like to know more about him. Maybe, oddly enough, Timon from Timon of Athens. Just because I like that play and Timon went through a lot of crap. I’d be interested in hearing what he thought of it all.
Actor Keith Dahlgren plays Duke Senior in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2012 production of As You Like It and talks about why he enjoys acting in a Shakespeare play.
In As You Like It, Shakespeare created one of the great female friendships in theatre: Rosalind and Celia. There’s no other relationship like it in the canon. And for the game of romance in the woods, Celia is kind of Rosalind’s wingman. In Seattle Shakespeare Company’s actress Rebecca Olson plays Celia and shares her thoughts about the character and the challenges of playing the role.
“Oh, I love Celia! I love Celia because she’s an optimist, but she’s also very pragmatic. Especially in this production, I really like what George has done. The world that she starts out in is not a happy place, but she has obviously made a choice to be optimistic and think that things are going to work out. She’s very loyal. She’s very funny. She’s just got all these lovers running around her, completely acting like morons. She’s almost the voice of the audience, pointing out to Rosalind (played by Hana Lass) saying, “You do realize you’re dressed like a boy?” (Laughs). Saying all the things you would say if your best friend was acting foolish. I love that her wit is really, really funny. And then at the end she gets smacked in the face with love, too, and it’s really unexpected and it comes out of nowhere.
“One of the challenges of playing the role is that she’s on stage a lot and not saying anything. George (the director) and I made a choice that we’re not just going to have Celia falling asleep in the background. If she’s on stage, there’s a reason she’s on stage, even if she’s not speaking. So finding what that is, activating that, and figuring out what I’m to be doing when I’m not speaking is tough. I spend a lot of time observing, and I think that helps in that journey, so when the one-liner’s come out. They’re real zingers. At least I hope that’s how it comes out.
“Celia’s got a pretty big arc. If you’ve never seen the play before, the first third at least, could be Celia’s play. It could be a story about a girl who gives up her kingdom to follow her best friend into the forest. And then all of a sudden Orlando shows up, and the things take a turn. The challenge is to keep Celia moving forward and not allow her to sit back in cynicism while her friend Rosalind falls in love. It’s hard to walk that line of telling her friend to come back down to earth and not make Celia sound like she’s jealous and mean. This is the only relationship like this in Shakespeare where there are two women who are equals and have equal stage time and are not villainesses and are not just ingénues. Orlando is the ingénue in this play. He’s the one being courted! Rosalind and Celia are the two best friends who are orchestrating this entire plot. It’s important to keep the affection between the two women because it’s such an important part of the story. I don’t want there ever to be a moment when the audience thinks that their friendship is over. You watch them go through the really natural ups and downs that happen when you have a best friend, regardless of what age you are. And then that person meets someone, and suddenly they’re not available to you as much. And then you have to renegotiate what the relationship is going to be. It’s a really fantastic relationship that they have. And it helps that I’m really good friends with Hana, she’s one of my closest friends.