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rosencrantz is dead

November 18, 2010

It was just over four years ago that I worked up the gumption to audition for a part in Trinity College’s 2007 production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. To my surprise and delight, director Alex Champlin cast me as Rosencrantz, the more childlike and sincere member of the pairing. Although for my audition I had prepared one of Guildenstern’s monologues, it seemed more natural to take the other part. Having done practically no acting at all up to that point, it was a tall order for me to dive into such notoriously wordy text as Stoppard has both characters speak throughout the play. Rosencrantz’s nervous, manic energy was incredibly hard for me to maintain throughout the length of the show, especially as he and Guildenstern are almost never offstage.

Gradually, however, it became less daunting and more fascinating to dive into the process of acting. Before then, I had always loved theatre but generally pictured myself working from the backstage/technical side of the art-form. It is with great fondness that I recall the excitement of rehearsals in November and December 2006, working opposite Matt McGeachy as Guildenstern and many of my friends from Trinity College who made up most of the rest of the cast and crew. I continued with further preparations over the Winter break, studying lines during the breaks I had from “Peter Pan’s Fairy-Tale Castle” (another show I was working on simultaneously, at Casa Loma, as a stage hand and audio consultant). Then, in January, we opened to a great audience response. There was a feeling of camaraderie and integrity among the whole production; we even had the good fortune to wear stunning Elizabethan costumes on loan from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

We were going for a black comedy vibe, and part of my inspiration for the characterization I chose came from some memorably bizarre comic moments, mixed with poignancy and humanity, which had struck me hardest when watching some of my favourite screen performers. The mannerisms of Brent Spiner, Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd, and even Paul Reubens found their way, consciously or not, into my Rosencrantz. It’s a highly literate text but also a very funny one; one moment I’m particularly fond of was Rosencrantz’s monologue in the second act about mortality, which I got to recite seated on the far downstage edge of the stage every night. It’s just after the characters find themselves alone with each other after a bewildering interaction with the other denizens of Hamlet, and begin idly musing on their own fate to pass the time. Fortuitously, there’s an existing audio recording of me doing this very monologue (along with some of Matt’s interjections) and I’ve attached it here:

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