Honor, family, love and hate all take the stage with the Department of Theatre’s final production of the season, “The Two Noble Kinsmen.” In a round table interview, members of the cast discussed their work on the production and what audiences can look forward to.
“The play, especially when you read it, is super ridiculous and you’re like, this is hilarious and these two characters are like ‘I love you cousin,’ and the next moment they’re like fighting each other.” Brandt Garber, a junior in the Actor Training Program (ATP), plays Arcite, a young soldier who finds himself at odds with his cousin Palamon for the love of a woman.
“So immediately I was like ‘oh, this is hilarious!’ and you want to play it ridiculous, almost. That’s something Randy [Reyes, director] has talked about, is that it won’t be funny if you think and try to make it funny,” Garber said. “If you actually take these ideas and take them in, and try to find the grounded, real response to give it and you stay true to the characters and the situations, the humor will come, whether or not it should. I think that was one of my biggest challenges was not letting my preconceived ideas of this play and how I thought this should be funny.”
Ashley Ramos, who plays the noblewoman Emilia, is forced to choose between Arcite and Palamo. She described the difficulty of finding her personal fight within the text.
“On an initial read, I was definitely like, this is very traditional, the women have no agency… And I think, that’s still something that I explore and I fight against,” Ramos said. “I feel lucky that I’m directed in a way and exploring in a way where I can continuously fight for this agency even though the text and the circumstances don’t allow me to gain that agency by the end. I think that everything I put out into the world of the play is that fiercely active and powerful and it’s just these swirling circumstances that don’t allow me to win.”
As Arcite and Palamon fight honorably for Emilia’s love, the Jailer’s Daughter, played by Kali Scott, finds herself swept up in love for Palamon. Scott, a senior in the ATP, talked on the difficulty of approaching a character so often written off for being insane.
“She’s just grieving so deeply and so suddenly — she’s fallen madly into this obsessive love, and then she’s rejected, and then she thinks he’s dead. And she goes through all this when she’s dehydrated and hasn’t slept or eaten. She hasn’t gone crazy, but her whole world has gone upside down. So the only way for her to cope is to go through these degrees of reality. She’s like ‘okay, actually he’s alive, and then I can cope with these other things that are going on, and then I can cope with him being dead later.’ So she has to cope with these things in a stepwise motion in order for her to get over it.”
One of the unique things about this particular production is the gender-swapped casting for the role of Pirithous. This role of the heroic war leader will be taken on by junior Kelsey Jensen.
“We’re approaching Pirithous as more androgynous, so it’s like you can’t really tell which gender Pirithous falls under,” Jensen said. “So I think in a sense that [the play] is feminist because Pirathous is very strong, and always talking about heroes and honor and fighting and goes to the wars and is right by the king’s side… I just see it as equal. I don’t really think that it leans more to one gender or another. I just think it all balances, in my eyes as my character it all balances out. It doesn’t matter to Pirithous.”
As intimidating as Shakespeare may be, this particular translation is far more approachable for audiences. Even with a combination of heightened language and poetry, “The Two Noble Kinsmen” uses the universal themes of love and family to create a relatable and unique story.
The production opens in the Babcock Theatre and runs April 7 through 15. Tickets are available at the Kingsbury Hall box office up until approximately one hour before each performance, when tickets must be purchased at the Babcock box office. Students can receive one free and one discounted ticket with their UCard through the ArtsPass. A transcript of the complete conversation can be found on our website.