"They are but beggars that can count their worth
For my true love has grown to such excess
I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth."
This last weekend I had the honor of playing Juliet. I stepped in for 2 nights with Shakespeare by the Sea for their Juliet, who is wonderful, and had a wedding to go to those nights. (they have 1 more week, check them out if you can, it's a great group!) I found out about the role from a friend from theater school, who referred me, only to discover I knew 2 people involved in this production, from various other theater jobs I've done. Very serendipitous!
I have avoided working on Juliet, for years, possibly all of the time I have worked on Shakespeare which would be about 16 years, maybe more. When I did work on it in class, I would choose lighter stuff, staying away from the "Potion Meltdown" monologue and the overdone "Gallop apace..." speech. She intimidated the crap out of me! Yet I knew that the role is dead center of my wheel house as an actress. When this opportunity arose, I grabbed it, going headlong into fears, but also knowing that I feel I have the tools now to address this role in a way that would keep me from having any end result ideas of the character, and possibly knowing I have the safety net of stepping in for someone else who is already playing it. If I do what she does I won't be off track. It also helped that the director, and actress playing Juliet had the same idea of the character, as I do. She's not a worried, sighing, waifish victim. She's clever, and pragmatic with a delightful sense of humor and irony. He doesn't fall in love with just a pretty face or an icon, they are whole, people, adorable and fun people.
I also had the good fortune to work on one of the monologues with Alfred Molina, who occasionally does a Shakespeare intensive with the New American Theatre, where I am a member. This certainly gave me incredible insight to the character, and how to approach the text in general. Beside that, I have a helpful and insightful boyfriend who helped me run lines, in fact I think he just liked reading Lord Capulet, Friar Lawrence and Romeo... and the Nurse. But he also liked keeping me from having "I don't know my lines and never will" meltdowns like I had on our trip to Chicago when I would work on it, any time we were traveling by plane or train. Thanks to all of this, the support and help of the director and the cast, I felt I had it, and would be fine.
Now I have never really been horribly nervous, or had a bout of stage fright, knock on wood- but Friday I woke up with total nausea and racing heart, which only served to make me more nervous. I was much better by show time, and other than juxtaposing some things and leaving out a couple chunks of lines, I did great. By Saturday I was calm, what could go wrong had, and I fixed all my mistakes from the night before, I did bite it pretty good going up some steps in the Friar/Paris scene, which made it hard not to laugh, and hard to concentrate for the whole scene, but anyone would've fallen, and some others did I guess...
All of this is not to fish for more compliments, you all have been generous with those, but to express the surprising journey I went on. I went from dreading every playing her, yet wanting to, and I had a great time, and now I want to play her again and again, the way men want to play Hamlet and Macbeth. And I think that is exciting. If I had a bucket list, "Play Juliet at least once while I can" would've been on it. I am so grateful for the opportunity, to work with such delightful actors, and for all the amazing support from family and friends who came out those 2 nights to see me! It was all a very moving experience.
"My Bounty is as boundless as the sea
My Love as deep. The more I give to thee
The more I have, for both are infinite."