This is the Part 4 in a series of interviews with the director and cast members of Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meet Joel DeCandio.
How did you become involved with this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? What did you perform at your audition?
I heard about the audition very last minute, and I’ve always wanted to play Lysander. I came in on the last day and almost didn’t make it. After my first monologue we talked about Lysander, and I did an off-the-cuff recall of his monologue which was definitely not word perfect.
Why did you want to play this role, and what is the most fun about playing him?
I’ve always wanted to play Lysander. My first Shakespeare show I ever did was Midsummer my freshman year of high school (I was a very little, very young, very inexperienced Snug!), and I always identified with Lysander. He’s such a chill, loving, good guy, but his world just gets turned upside down! Not to mention he has the best name in the show… I’m very drawn to names. The best part of playing Lysander is I get to be in love with Amanda Forstrum’s Hermia every night. We had actually worked together prior to this understudying the twins, Sebastian and Viola, in Folger’s Twelfth Night so it was wonderful to be reunited – but this time as lovers! She’s such a dynamic actress and she really throws herself into the role – it’s a blessing to work with someone like that. I enjoy the dynamics of how our pair has turned out… Hermia seems like the more dramatic one and Lysander her chill, grounded boyfriend. But of course everything changes when we go into the forest…
What are some of the suggestions that Kristin has given you on playing your roles that has made your performance better?
This production has been an interesting process for us all. I think probably the biggest thing was Kristin’s leanings toward the lighter side of the material. I tend to lean more to the dramatic side of things, and I definitely came into this production looking at the Hermia/Lysander story from a more dramatic point – they’re going to put her to death! I think it’s sometimes nice to work with someone who pulls you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. It helps create a balance, and it’s a good exercise in acting.
How does the design of the show affect your performance?
The show’s design is very interesting. We are doing Midsummer in the winter season so that in itself is unique. Titania (played by the stunning Lauren Turchin Fox) explains in her monologue the “distemperature” that has settled over the lands. The feud of the fairy king and queen has caused the seasons to shift – a frost has settled over the summer forest. And then there are the umbrellas… but I think I’ll leave those as a surprise…
When did you get the ‘Theater Bug’? Where did you get your theatre training?
I graduated this past May (2013) from The Catholic University with a bachelor of music in musical theatre. I have been performing all my life. I started out very young as a pianist and acting in small productions in my hometown of Jacksonville. When I was in high school I began singing in cabarets and talking classical voice lessons. I studied opera in the States and Italy through Walnut Hill School of the Arts and then went to Catholic University to pursue musical theatre. Though I was based in the music school where I could really focus on my singing and piano, I have always been heavy on the acting and I pushed myself toward a more acting-based curriculum while in school. I think my favorite course that I ever studied was Shakespeare in Film – I’m fascinated by film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, and I think that’s paved the way for a lot of my theatre interests. It’s a blessing to be out in the real world performing, and I’ve been very lucky so far.
Have you appeared in other Shakespearean productions and who were your favorite roles?
As I said before, my first Shakespeare was Midsummer my freshman year of high school as Snug. In college I got to do Caliban in The Tempest (a completely awesome stretch for me!) and Guiderius in Cymbeline. As I was working on graduating my senior year, along came Twelfth Night! That was such an important experience for me – and how I met Amanda (Hermia)!
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members’ performances and each other’s performance?
This cast has such a wide range of actors! They come from all different backgrounds, and that’s definitely a big part of why I love theatre. It’s a great learning experience, working with what each other has to offer. I think it stretches me and teaches me new skills. Ben Lauer (Demetrius), for example! He’s such a strong comedic and physical actor, and I think he brings out a totally different side of Demetrius that audiences will really enjoy. He really seems to like improve and physical comedy, and I think that’s definitely made rehearsals so much fun in terms of playing with the characters and their actions.
I HAVE to say, I am in love with all three of our leading ladies. I’ve already spoken of Amanda Forstrum’s Hermia – I could go on all day. Ashlyn Thompson as Helena – Amazing. She is such a gifted actress and I love watching her on stage each night, because she really brings a truth and sincerity to Helena that I find myself identifying with. Lauren Turchin Fox as Titania – stunning is the perfect word. Her voice, acting, and command of the text are all so arousing and inspiring! And I think she is one of the most gorgeous women to ever grace the stage.Truly.
Also, quick shout out to Gray West’s Thisbe! Hysterical. He’s such an amazing comedic actor. I never know what he’s going to do each night, and he never lets me down!
Which character in the play is most like you?
Oh, I don’t know! I’d say I’m probably a combination of Lysander and Helena – possibly a bit more Helena than Lysander. I think love works a bit easier for him. Helena and Joel are definitely in similar boats romance-wise… I’m still figuring out how to make that aspect of my life work!
How can 2013 audiences relate to A Midsummer…?
What impresses you about the DC Metro area’s theatre community?
There’s so much to relate to in all of Shakespeare’s plays, no matter what year! I think it’s the same issues that people have been relating to all of time. Just all aspects of love and life!
As far as DC Metro area’s theatre community? They’re such a tight-knit family, and I think that is exactly what a theatre community needs to be.
What roles that you haven’t played yet are on your top 5 list?
Ah, man! I’m game for anything! I’d love something really gritty and dark and dirty. That’s my favorite. Maybe something contemporary next? I’m not sure… I really just go with whatever is interesting to me at the time – my tastes constantly change. If were talking Shakespeare, I guess maybe Orlando in As You Like It, since I seem to be on the romantic guy kick… Yeah, Orlando’s definitely a dream role while I can still play him – he’s just and awesome guy. I admire his passion.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
I really just hope they have a good time and find something to relate to in any or all of the characters! I think this is a piece that really mirrors our lives and we can all find something of ourselves in it.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays from December 6-22, 2013 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.
Interviews with the director and cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Joel Markowitz on DCMetroTheaterArts:
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 1: Director Kristin Clippard.
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 2: Nick DePinto (Puck).
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 3: Meet Amanda Forstrom (Hermia).
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 4: Joel DeCandio (Lysander).