A reporter once asked Meryl Streep, then rehearsing a new adaptation of Mother "Courage by Tony Kushner for Shakespeare In The Park, what is the job of an actor? 'I am the voice of dead people,' she responded. Short and cryptic, but strangely accurate, that answer is sometimes literally true. It's always exciting to play a real person, and also nerve wrecking. How you walk, sit, respond in anger and in grief, everything you do someone literally did. I think words like good, wrong, and right have no place in a rehearsal, but it's hard not to think there must be a 'right way of doing it' for a historical character: So, you research and read your script, you look at pictures, you read journals and then read your script again.
"Eventually, you start seeing discrepancy's, little differences between the script and the historians. It could be the timeline, character description, anything really. It’s good to know numerous perspectives, but too many choices can cause doubt. The life of John (or Joseph as his birth certificate says) Carey Merrick is muddled and mysterious enough; what do I pull out as 'the right way' of the numerous conflicting accounts? I think, and I know [director] June Eubanks does as well, that you should research as much as you want, but in the end, you have to play Bernard Pomerance's script, and his John Merrick. Research is a tool, and there is no ultimate right.
"I don't wanna give too much away, but our concept lends itself to that theory. In this world, we are actors portraying real people, and I mean that quite literally. It’s a freedom that should be less strange to the actor and the theatre audience; suspending our belief, and imagining. We are just scratching the surface right now, but I can't wait for what’s ahead. Being a dead guy’s voice is pretty thrilling."
-Mike Tepeli, Nov 20.
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