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me with big glasses and a pointy hat playing one of the witches in Macbeth

I had two surgeries to correct my crooked right leg when I was 13. The summer I turned 14 in 1998, I had the second surgery. Also that summer, I saw Live at Lincoln Center for the first time. They performed Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  At that point, I had a lot of time on my hands because I was still recovering from the operation. I remember flipping through the channels, and stopping on PBS because it was a theatrical performance, and I was intrigued. I had never seen Twelfth Night before.

I had been reading Shakespeare since the age of 11. Something about his language, and the way the story unfolded struck a chord with me. I remember it all began with a “No Fear Shakespeare” type edition of Macbeth. I had done a scene from it as one of the witches when I was around 10 years old for an acting class (see above photo.) From that point on, I was hooked not only on acting, but with Shakespeare. I instinctively picked up on the iambic pentameter and the themes in his work.

It really wasn’t until I watched Twelfth Night, that I realized I wanted to do THAT. I wanted to be an actor with every fiber of my being. I wanted to act on that stage, with those people. I wanted to learn from them. I was glued to the television, and soaked up every word and action. To this day, I vividly remember it. I loved every aspect of it–the acting, the costumes, the set, and the music. Fun fact: Jeanine Tesori, the composer of this year’s Tony-winning musical, Fun Home, wrote original music for Lincoln Center’s production of Twelfth Night.

As an actor, it’s a good feeling to be able to pinpoint when I became aware of the fact that acting was a career. I had recognized both Helen Hunt and Paul Rudd from previous projects and realized that they not only did film and television, but theater as well. I realized that they had careers, that acting itself was a career. Now, nearly 18 years later, I have a career too. It’s slowly coming along, but it’s happening sure enough. Lincoln Center remains one of my dream theaters to this day. I hope to be able to get the chance to perform there one day.

More importantly, I hope to one day inspire another young kid watching from their living room or in a theater. Dreams are attainable.

MuchadoLast night, for the first time since I moved to NYC seven years ago, I went to Shakespeare in the Park. Established in 1954 by Public Theatre founder Joseph Papp, Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre draws thousands each season to take part in free outdoor theater. Over the years, award-winning actors have gotten their starts on the famed stage, including (but not limited to) Martin Sheen, James Earl Jones, Meryl Streep, and Morgan Freeman. This year is no exception with regards to famous faces. I saw Much Ado About Nothing last night starring New York theater favorites, Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater as Beatrice and Benedick respectively. Other Broadway vets backing them up included Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (who sings in this production, and took my breath away,) John Glover (pop culture crowds will recognize him from TV’s Smallville) and John Pankow. Game of Thrones fans will also recognize Pedro Pascal as yet another villain, Don John in this production.

First off, this is one of the best productions (as it should be) that I’ve seen of Much Ado About Nothing. From a purely aesthetic perspective, it was gorgeous to look at. From the sets to the costumes, to the lighting, it was a real treat for the eyes. A production like Much Ado probably benefits from being in an outdoor theater. The stage incorporated many aspects of nature including a vegetable garden and an orange tree. I think it increased believably for me as an audience member because we were actually outside. The costumes were the best I’ve seen to fit this production. Again, it made the setting and time period extremely believable and visually pleasing.

Now for the acting. Both Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater come from very well-known theatrical families. Rabe, the daughter of the late actress, Jill Clayburgh and playwright David Rabe. She gained notoriety in the Shakespeare in the Park/Broadway production of The Merchant of Venice opposite Al Pacino.  Hamish Linlater, on the other hand, is the son of theater professor Kristin Linklater, who is renowned for her vocal techniques. In fact, I studied her technique extensively at Circle in the Square Theatre School, and continue to reference her book Freeing the Natural Voice on a regular basis as an actor. It’s no wonder that the two can both handle the difficult text that Shakespeare is famous for, and they do it magnificently. There was a funny moment where Hamish broke the fourth wall, using an audience member’s reaction to a rabbit. It was great. Even to those not familiar with classical and Shakespearean plays will be able to follow the plot and nuances in the hands of the entire cast–but especially Rabe and Linklater. I can’t say enough about them. As for the supporting cast, no one missed a beat. I especially enjoyed seeing Brian Stokes Mitchell and John Glover onstage as I have been a fan of both their work for years.

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to see such a wonderful production. It also reinforced my desire to get back on stage as soon as I can, reminding myself why I came to the city in the first place–to act. It’s weird because I remember seeing a broadcast on PBS in 1998 of Live at Lincoln Center of Twelfth Night. At 13 years old, after acting as a hobby since the age of 7 or 8, I decided at that moment, that I wanted to do that. I wanted to study acting, and I wanted to get better. It also ignited a more profound passion for Shakespeare in me. I had  read  Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet at age 11 without really “getting it.” It wasn’t until Twelfth Night  that I went “Whoa, I get it.” I became an English major in college probably avoiding a traditional theater degree on purpose because, “there has to be a fall back plan.” I’m coming to realize, as I have studied acting more intensely and Shakespeare more intensively as an actor, that I love being an actor. I love it, and I am proud to be one. Last night reminded me that I am, and that I will always be an actor and I’m glad to be part of such rich community of creators and storytellers.  I am so happy I got to see such wonderful and talented performers. I can only hope there was a young kid in the audience who was as inspired by last night’s performance as I was Twelfth Night. Much Ado About Nothing is far from nothing, this production has everything and more. Let’s hope they bring it to Broadway!

 

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (1974)
Mira Sorvino as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (2000)

This article was inspired by the fact that the movie posters for each of these films has the same font type. That, and the fact that my boyfriend was wearing a shirt bearing the cover art of the famed book, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald today. The iconic American novel has been adapted for the screen six times, including the soon-to-be Baz Luhrmann interpretation, set to be released this May. The first adaptation was a silent film in 1926, followed by the 1949 version starring Shelley Winters, and the most famous version, the 1974 film starring Robert Redford, Sam Waterston, Karen Black and Mia Farrow, with a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola . The 1974 version won numerous awards, including: 2 Oscars, 3 BAFTAs, and a Golden Globe. Then, there is the 2000 television film version which aired on A&E, starring Mira Sorvino, Paul Rudd and Toby Stevens (Maggie Smith’s son) which, sadly, won no accolades. The reason was probably because, along with the script, the performances seemed like carbon copies of the ones that came before it.

Not only that, but the vocal characteristics for each are nearly identical. However, that may be due to the source material that F. Scott Fitzgerald provides. Source material, for us actors, is very important because it can tell us details about the characters that would otherwise be made up. Fitzgerald describes Daisy’s voice as, “breathless” and that her voice is “full of money.” This tells the actor how to perform the role to such an extent that some performances might seem similar, if not identical. Fitzgerald was extremely specific with how he wanted his characters to be perceived by readers. I am eager to see how Carey Mulligan interprets this famous role in Baz Luhrmann’s version.

I was unable to embed the video from the 2000 version, but you can click on the link and watch it here. For easier viewing, you might want to fast forward the video and start it at 3:27 or so, just get to the part with Daisy.

I was, however, able to include a  scene from the 1974 version:

In each clip, you can see that the vocal qualities of Daisy are nearly identical. Below is the trailer for the  updated film version starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Toby McGuire as Nick, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. You’ll also notice in her exclamation of  the line, “Gatsby? What Gatsby?” is equally as similar as the previous two.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s specificity with his character descriptions  led actors Mira Sorvino, Mia Farrow (and now, Carey Mulligan,) to interpret Daisy in similar ways. Not all acting is about creating. Sometimes, we just have to be the vessels for the director’s vision and the interpreters of an author’s description. In the end, they may turn out similar. That’s alright. It’s hard to interpret F. Scott Fitzgerald anyways, never mind adding a screenplay to the mix.