Monday, February 27, 2012

M- Malvolio!

Philip Cuomo as Malvolio in PAC's Twelfth Night.
Photo by Gary Norman
“M- Malvolio! M- that begins my name!"
Playing Malvolio is a privilege. It is the finest role I have ever played. An actor often looks for roles with a strong character arc and emotional journey. We love to play roles that transform over the course of a play. We love rich language to resonate in our bodies and flow freely from our lips. And of course we love to hear an audience laugh.
Every now and then we are given the opportunity to put all of that together.
Happily that opportunity exists now for me in the Portland Actors Conservatory production of TWELFTH NIGHT directed by Michael Fisher-Welsh. When Michael suggested I play the role as a guest artist in the ConservatorySeason of Plays, I blanched. I became very nervous. What would it be like to perform along side students I have been teaching and directing for two years? Would I be able to execute all the lessons and advice I so expertly and easily give? Could I “put up?”Or would I need to “shut up”?
Happily Michael gave me the room to think it all over, re-read the play and make a decision. Putting my head back into the play and reading specifically for the role of Malvolio, the decision was easy. It’s MALVOLIO. It’s a great comic role filled with pathos and heartbreak. A man pompously denies himself in the name of virtue and propriety the pleasures of the world, judging harshly others who seek and derive pleasure from life. But as a human he cannot escape longing and hope. When tempted by the possibility of achieving the unattainable, he convinces himself that it is possible and commits with confidence and ferocity to enjoying “the full prospects of his hopes.” Of course he discovers he has been tricked and is then unimaginably humbled.

PAC students Bjorn Anderson (Sir Andrew), Lissie Huff (Feste)
 and Adam Thompson (Sir Toby) in Twelfth Night.
Photo by Gary Norman.
 It is a delight to play.
It is a joy to play with the dedicated, hard working and talented actors that comprise the class of 2012. As Malvolio, I play scenes with few of them. There is Adam Thompson, who plays Sir Toby, Malvolio’s nemesis, and out-clowns the clown teacher; Rebecca Ridenour as Viola, who expertly and gracefully engages Malvolio; Lissie Huff whose Feste is a clever, playful antagonist; and Katie Butler as Olivia, the attentive Lady of Malviolo’s dream. The rest of the group are energetic, humorous and sensitive in their portrayals, honoring their roles in the finest traditions of the theatre.
If you have the opportunity, please do see their fine work as we engage in a delightful romp about love and desire. TWELFTH NIGHT plays through March 4th at Portland Actors Conservatory.