Our Soothsayers were next on our list to interview - but they decided to do things a little bit differently!
Grace Doolittle is this year’s theater intern for the Ghostlight Production family, and still newly acquainted with the world of theater as a whole. Today we get to hear about her background, what it’s like to work with Ghostlight, and her thoughts on her characters in the play.
Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from? How did you get involved in theater?
That’s kind of a complicated question because I’ve lived in a number of places, especially the past several years. I was born and raised on the central coast of California, but my family moved to Boise Idaho when I was teenager. Since then I’ve also spent time in Manhattan and Wisconsin and now Pennsylvania. I’m a bit of a wanderer, but I still call Santa Cruz California home.
I actually didn’t truly get involved in theatre until my freshman year of university, and it certainly wasn’t my intent. I started out as a vocal music major, but I happened to walk past the campus theatre during their auditions for the semester production and on a whim stopped in and tried out. I got a part, fell in love with the world of theatre, switched my major, and haven’t looked back.
How did you get involved in Ghostlight? What has the experience been like?
My last university closed at the end of my junior year, so I transferred up to Summit University to finish out and got connected with the Strayers through the university’s theatre programme. It’s been a great experience from day one. It’s also been more than a little crazy- trying to juggle both this and finals was overwhelming at times- but a great learning opportunity, and a joy to be a part of. I’ve never done outdoor theatre or Shakespeare, although I’ve always enjoyed both, and my appreciation has only deepened as I’ve become acquainted with all it takes to pull off an open-air show in middle-English prose for a wide audience of very mixed backgrounds. The Strayers love what they do and that makes it even better.
When you’re not doing theatre, how do you like to spend your time?
I tend to keep pretty busy and the bulk of my free time goes to either books or music (usually with a cup of tea on hand). Linguistics has become a hobby of mine, and I tend to spend the summers working on language-learning. I’ve also recently developed a list of films to see that I’m currently trying to work through.
Who are you playing? Describe your characters?
I am playing Portia- the wife of Brutus- and Lepidus, a general and one of the members of the new triumvirate. Portia is a politician’s wife, but she is also a very involved person. She cares about community affairs and foreign relations, and is a pretty headstrong, independent thinker, but also deeply compassionate. She and Brutus have a very close and trusting relationship, and that’s why his secretive and closed behavior is so odd and troublesome to her. It’s clear in the play that Brutus is not used to withholding information from her, even though he tends to be a very private person.
Lepidus is probably the exact opposite. She’s risen quickly in the ranks due to her battle tactics and expertise, and is all hot-headed angst and thirst for power and blood. She likes being a soldier, but she’s trying desperately to prove herself to Antony and Octavius because she senses that she’s the odd-man out.
How does your characters feel about Caesar?
I think Portia is okay with Caesar- she knows that Caesar granted Brutus a pardon and has since made Brutus one of her closest friends and Portia appreciates that. She certainly doesn’t think Caesar deserves to be assassinated.
Lepidus doesn’t choose sides for people so much as align herself with power. She fought under Caesar in the last civil war and was promoted for her work, so she too appreciates Caesar. But if Caesar’s death is going to mean Lepidus’ success or promotion, then she’d happily join the conspirators and use a blade herself.
What will people be thinking about on the way home after the show?
I think they’ll probably find themselves reflecting on the fickleness of both politics and humanity, and likely making parallels between the politics of Rome, of Shakespeare’s retelling, and of our present day. I really hope they spend time discussing the character’s motives and personal sense of honour. The amount of development each character gets is phenomenal, and each one has a distinct and personal motive for everything they do.
One of the things Ghostlight can boast is a group of devoted participants. From actors to production crew members, many come back year-to-year to work with us again on each production. Today’s interviewee, Nathan Bradley, is one particularly special example and also our actor with the longest commute. Currently living with his family in Alaska, Nathan makes every effort to continue his involvement in Ghostlight’s Shakespeare in the Park every summer, and is our first actor to have auditioned via Skype. Playing Flavius Murellus in the upcoming Julius Caesar, Nathan takes a moment to describe what it’s like being involved from so far away.
How many productions have you done with Ghostlight?
This is my fifth production of Shakespeare in the Park and my sixth production with Ghostlight Productions. I have played Maria/Antonio/Valerio in Twelfth Night, Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Poet/Dupin in Midnight Dreary, Dogberry/Vergas/Watch in Much Ado About Nothing, and Prince/Paris in Romeo and Juliet.
You’ve spent the past several years living some distance from Scranton: talk about where you live and what you do!
After Romeo and Juliet, I married my wife, Elizabeth, and moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia. After juggling several jobs for a few years, I was hired as a high school language arts teacher in Napaskiak, AK. Napskiak is a small village in bush Alaska comprised almost entirely of Yup'ik Eskimos. There are no roads leading in or out (or around) the village; the only way in or out is by plane or boat unless the river is frozen, then you can drive to some of the neighboring towns on the frozen river.
What’s it like learning a part this far from the production site and remainder of the cast? Describe your process and any roadblocks or perks.
Under different conditions, this would be a lot more difficult. Since I only really interact with the audience, it is not very difficult to learn the part. Nonetheless, I still feel removed from the production as I have not yet integrated myself into the ensemble. It feels more like preparing for an audition than an actual performance.
What keeps you coming back to Ghostlight?
The people keep me coming back. Some people come and go, but at the core you have the Strayers and the Kemmerers and several other awesome people that I love to work with. Even when I couldn't perform, I would drive up to see the productions of Shakespeare in the Park. Also, I LOVE Shakespeare. The language is addicting and the stories are wonderful. I can't resist the opportunity to work on a Shakespeare play with some of my favorite people.
Are you involved in theater where you live?
I am currently finishing writing a drama curriculum for my school district so we can offer theatre arts as an elective. The current students just finished a production of "The Hungry Giant of the Tundra" which is an adaptation of a picture book that is an adaptation of a Yup'ik tale. It is a fable about a giant who eats children who stay out playing after dark. I have had requests from a couple community members to direct a community play, but that is a goal for the future.
What character are you playing? Describe who he is.
I am playing Flavius Murellus. He is actually a combination of two characters from the original script (Flavius and Murellus). He is an arrogant blogger who thinks he has more political clout than he really does. Nonetheless, he isn't afraid to actively participate in protests and he openly dislikes Caesar and anyone who supports her.
Brutus or Antony: who’s side do you choose?
As Flavius, I'm with Brutus. I wasn't originally a fan because of his closeness with Caesar, but someone had to put a stop to her and I am glad he had the gall to do something about it.
As Nathan, I'm still with Brutus because he is the more honorable. True, he committed murder, but he truly believed his cause was just. Antony is a shady, opportunistic politician whose rhetoric is too good to be sincere.