I just finished a three-week run as Sebastian in Shakespeare’s The Tempest for The Footlight Club (TFC) in Jamaica Plain. It was my first role at TFC and overall a pleasant first-timer experience. TFC has a solid base of members that seem ready and willing to pitch in on all sorts of aspects of a production that are the responsibility of the actors at smaller community theaters. There was a work requirement, but, at least for this show, the set building and strike were relatively easy and aided by much work from members not appearing on stage in the production. The facilities at TFC are excellent – there are workshops, a good-size collection of costumes, large collection of props, plenty of lighting and sound equipment – working with a group that has its own facility really makes a difference for an actor in community theater – everything is easier.
The production itself was good, I’m told. I believe it made a bit of money for TFC – helping a bit, I hope, to pay for the repair of their building’s roof. There are bad sides to owning your own facility – especially one that was built in the 19th century.
At first I was a bit disappointed to be offered the role of Sebastian, but after exploring the part, I found much of interest in it. I eventually decided that Sebastian is to a fair extent the class clown surrounded by a bunch of royal straight men. This “discovery” made it easy to make Sebastian’s dialog work. He is one of the play’s “bad guys”, but not really evil at heart. He is weak, vain, and impatient – especially impatient of Gonzalo’s aged wisdom. Antonio leads him into evil easily enough, but when the tables turn against Antonio, he quickly finds joy in the happy ending wrought by Prospero.
From a more technical point of view, Sebastian is a good role because he appears in the play’s first and last scenes, and although most of his dialog is in the middle of the play, he does have lines sprinkled through some later scenes and even has one of the last lines in the play not spoken by Prospero. His character is revealed as being witty – if not overly intelligent. He shows anger, fear, irritation, joy, and amazement. All that, and the part is not really very long and so it was quickly memorized. This was another big advantage for me since I had a fairly active summer doing non-theatrical things during the rehearsal process. Not a bad way to spend the summer and a nice experience overall.
There was some stuff I did not like about the production, but I won’t carp about them. I’ll just say that there were some “missed opportunities” and leave it at that. I’ll take the greater good with the lesser evil, as Shakespeare probably said more or less in some play or other.
Next up: the role of Fiorello in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.