Today we catch up with Tess Nugent, who plays Antonio. Tess works as an facilitator at the Museum of Science and Industry and has been active behind the scenes in the HPCP. She last appeared with the HPCP as Miranda in The Tempest.
Q. So, what made you decide to try out for Twelfth Night?
TESS: I had been looking forward to auditioning for Twelfth Night since it was announced as part of the season. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and I always enjoy working with HPCP.
Q. What’s your favorite thing about Twelfth Night?
TESS: There’s a lot to love, but right now I am fascinated by the play’s many references to time, and the theme of life constantly progressing forward.
I love that the play ends with the “The Rain it Raineth Every Day,” because it captures that idea so well– that things never stop moving and happening.
Q. I love that song!
TESS: Me too! And Max sings it beautifully. That song also appears in the apocalyptic thunderstorm scene in King Lear– it’s fascinating that it’s used in two such different scenes!
Q. Kate Southern has said she thinks Sebastian and Antonio need their own spinoff. What do you think bonds Antonio so closely to Sebastian in such a short time?
TESS: That is a great question, and a challenging one!
Q. I know, the text doesn’t help you much there.
TESS: I think Antonio has been on his own for his whole life, and has been through a lot. We do see some very attractive and lovable qualities in Sebastian– he is courageous, selfless, and curious in his scenes with Antonio– so I can see why Antonio falls in love so quickly. I mean, specifically with Sebastian. I think the strongest choice is that this isn’t something that has ever happened to Antonio before.
Q. So this is his first real love–just as it is for Viola?
TESS: The text does not specify, but that is definitely the choice I am making. Antonio is highly sensible, so I don’t see him as someone who is constantly risking his life to save attractive young men. And if he has never opened up like this before, it makes his vulnerability in the play even more meaningful.
Q. I think you’re right; it becomes a very sad story, especially after Sebastian marries a woman he’s literally just met.
TESS: It’s a heartbreaking ending for Antonio, definitely. I think the sadness is tempered by his happiness at seeing Sebastian and Viola reunited, and the fact that he himself is so accustomed to being self-reliant and alone.
Q. This is your first time playing a male role for the HPCP. There are a lot of women cast in male roles in this production; how do you approach playing across the gender divide?
TESS: Thanks for asking! This is my first time ever playing a man in a play. I anticipated it being harder than it has been so far. I’ve thought about it a bit in terms of how I carry myself and some of my vocal reactions to things, but overall, I feel like I can understand and play the character without doing too much work to “become a man.” It drives home, for me, how Shakespeare’s characters– male and female– are reflections of all of us. That’s why I am glad Leslie and Shonte cast so many women in male roles for this show.
Q. What are some of the things that you would say you learned from doing The Tempest about playing outdoors?
TESS: It’s very hard to be loud enough, and I think it’s impossible to be too loud! It also creates a special dynamic between the cast and the audience to be outside of the setting of a theater. For example, there’s no backstage area, so the audience can see people who are offstage, and there is a huge amount of distraction compared to what you normally have. There’s this nice feeling of having a shared experience as a group (including thunderstorms, when they happen) that makes you feel closer to the audience.
Q. I really appreciate that aspect of it, because it makes it easier to bring children to the show. Zoe really loved The Tempest and she’s really looking forward to Twelfth Night. Is there anything else you want people to know about you before we wrap up? Second favorite Shakespeare play? Most interesting object at the Museum of Science and Industry? Favorite flavor of ice cream?
TESS: I hope that I go on to play many male roles, including Prince Hal and Macbeth. If you’re at MSI in the next few months, check out RoboThespian, the robot actor… He offers an empathetic ear if you bomb an audition.
Q. How does RoboThespian know if you’ve bombed it? Is there an algorithm for that?
TESS: You have to use your imagination and project a lot of feeling on to him.
Susan Harris with Tess Nugent