Unmasking The Malcontent: v. XIV

“Now, by my troth, beauties, I would ha’ ye once wise…” Maquerelle, The Malcontent, Act IV Scene 1

The Antaeus Company does not limit itself merely to staging works of classical drama ranging from Noel Coward to John Marston to Tennessee Williams to Jeffrey Hatcher (although, we do in fact do all those things. Very, very well). The other side of the Antaeus mission statement discusses its devotion to furthering education in the classics, and in my experience with the company, this has meant the education of the next generation of classical theater actors. But Antaeus is also active in classrooms all over the county, and last week, we were paid a visit by a class from North Hollywood High School.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I loved performing for the students — the main reason being that it was really fairly recently that I would have been in that kind of field trip, so I have a special big-kid sort of glee performing for one. More than that, high school students are fun to perform for because you do not expect them to be judging the acting, direction, and technical aspects of the show against every other production this season; so it’s easy to let go of your paranoia and simply tell the story. After the show, the cast changed out of costume and came down to the edge of the stage for a Q and A with the students. We talked to them about the rehearsal process, the weeks of table-work, how the double-casting worked, how acting in a Marston play differs from a day on a TV set. Then we asked if, for any of them, it was a first time seeing live theater; of the two who raised a hand, one gave us a beautiful summation of her thoughts.

She told us that she understood why more people didn’t want to go to the theatre; she told us that she had been afraid she wouldn’t understand what was going on and was fully prepared to simply pretend that she did (and this was before she knew it was a 400 year old play; “then I really knew ‘ok, I’m so not going to understand what’s going on.'”). But she went on to say that she not only understood everything she saw, but that she was fascinated to see how “people 400 years ago were doing the same stuff that people are doing now: the way men use women, the way that love so easily turns into lust, the way power corrupts…” are still things that she sees people dealing with, and that’s why theater is important; because if people saw that they were in the same mess today as they were 400 years ago, maybe they’d stop doing it.

It just doesn’t get any better than that. We gave her an ovation.

***

Abby Wilde (far r) with the "BECCOS" cast of The Malcontent. Photo: Karianne Flaathen

And now, here we are: the home stretch, the last inning, the sports metaphor that properly expresses how it feels to approach the last performance of The Malcontent. I face the end with sadness and satisfaction; I think we have thus far acquitted ourselves with dignity and style on the stage, and unceasing shenanigans and tomfoolery off it, both of which I will miss dearly. But it’s not an utter goodbye; so many of us are either Company members or Company member-adjacent that we’re nearly all re-uniting one way or another through Classicsfest 2011. For some of us, it’s Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Chance, a reading which will be directed by the one-and-only Liz Swain (although personally, I think she should stop picking such popular, everyday plays and go for something a little more obscure). Others of us are joining the ranks of Macbeth, directed by Jessica Kubzansky. (There are countless others; I only mention these two because I happen to be in both of them and dreadfully excited at that.) But while the cast may continue on in one iteration or another, it will not be The Malcontent. The corsets, bum-rolls, tights, petticoats, and towering wigs have been shipped home where they belong and the words of the play will sink back into the silence of the Antaeus Library.

 

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, shares her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent. This is the fourteenth installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org

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