In Part 1 of 3 sets of interviews with the zany cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s The Schemings of Scapin, meet Jackie Madejski, Lauren Turchin Fox, Michael Windsor, and Zachary Roberts.
“Bodies are humorous” is the theme that has been running at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company for the past two seasons. It was hilarious to get inside the minds of the actors who took part in the Comedy in the Courtyard series last summer so why should this summer be any different? Sitting down with 8 actors over the course of three interviews we have a great deal to learn about how Timothy Mooney makes Molière leap off the page into modern rhyming verse with a great deal of physical humor thrown in! We’ll start this series of “cast conversations” off with the young ingénues of which there are four!
Welcome to cast conversations! Please introduce yourselves to our readers, and introduce us to the character(s) you are playing in The Schemings of Scapin. Also, where have you performed on our local stages?
Jackie Madejski: Hi. I’m Jackie Madejski and I’m a musical theatre major at Catholic University. I was in Sweet Charity at Catholic this past fall, which our director Sally Boyett choreographed. I’m playing Hyacinthe in this show.
Lauren Turchin Fox: Hello, I’m Lauren Turchin Fox and this is my fourth show with Annapolis Shakespeare. I did Pride and Prejudice, Tartuffe, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and now I’m back for The Schemings of Scapin where I play Zerbinette.
Michael Windsor: My name is Michael Windsor and I’m playing Octave in the show. This is my first Annapolis Shakespeare show. I’m very excited to be here. I’ve previously done shows with Bay Theatre Company, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, Infinity Theatre Company, and I graduated from Salisbury last spring. I did some good shows while there as well.
Zachary Roberts: My name is Zach Roberts and I’m playing Leandre and Nerine in this play. My Nerine is actually quite breast-touching as far as characters go. I mean heart-touching. Something. This is my first show with Annapolis Shakespeare. The last things I did in DC were Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson with a company called Highwood Theatre and I did Violet with Theatre Lab and I’m currently studying at The Studio Theatre.
The concept that has reoccurred this summer, originated last summer with the comedy in the courtyard production of Tartuffe, is “Bodies are humorous.” What does that mean to you?
Jackie: I mean for this show it’s been ‘penises are funny.’
Michael: Why are penises funny?
Jackie: I don’t know. They’re just funny things I guess. I have no idea what to say.
Zach: Well this is going well so far.
Lauren: We use a lot of physical humor, obviously. There are a lot of puns and double entendre that are related to that bodily humor.
Zach: They’re from really old stock stereotypes of characters. Like old men who are unable to get it up. It’s funny for old men to have penis jokes. It’s an equal type of funny for young men to not be able to be in control of their emotions because they’re too busy with their penises. Comedy is about being a slave to your impulses rather than the higher calling.
Michael: Back to bodies…it’s about taking a small characteristic and magnifying that by a thousand.
Lauren: See? He’s already making jokes about size…
Michael: No comment.
Do you have a small characteristic that you are specifically focusing on for Octave?
Michael: Yes. Along with my legs and the pigeon-toed type thing and having my hands hanging low down here in their resting position, I keep all of his gestures very close but in a very big way. I hope you would use the word flamboyant to describe him.
You guys are working with a lot of physical comedy. What has the rehearsal process been like for working all of that into this adaptation, putting it in the intimate space which then requires you guys to break down the fourth wall and play with the audience?
Zach: I think the biggest thing in this rehearsal process for me has been dealing with has been the performance space itself, constantly moving and the audience—
Lauren: The imaginary audience.
Zach: Yes, the imaginary audience. There were only a couple of times during rehearsals where we had actual people in the space in the different zones. So they were always empty spaces which made it difficult to make sure that you were always opening up and moving while being strong about it at the same time. That was something that Sally really emphasized. You don’t want to wander but you want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to see everything.
Lauren: You want your interaction with the audience to be very direct and with purpose. You want to bring them in with every face you make, with every movement. It’s about you and them in that moment and then moving onto the next “you and them” moment. I’ve done this before— I’m the only person in this cast who is back from last year’s Comedy in the Courtyard series so I think I have a leg up, so to speak?
Michael: For me with the physical it was important to get the lines down first because it’s so physical that we can’t do everything we want to do with scripts in our hands. But once it was in our minds then we could move onto the bodies. It was a process.
Jackie: Wow. Just so overwhelming. Here this is my first professional company and I’m being told “now do this theatre like you’ve never done before in your life!” It was a lot but it was so much fun and I really, really enjoyed doing it. I think for me, it was not having the audience to practice with because a lot of our interactions are with the audience. It wasn’t until opening night that I realized “Oh! There are people here! I really need to talk to them.” And that made me really aware of how I was moving about the space and what I was doing.
Each of you brings a very distinct character to this show. Can you tell us where you’re drawing your inspiration for these characters?
Lauren: I think for my character, for Zerbinette, I was fortunate to have Laura to work with. We were able to kind of bounce ideas off of each other for this character. Zerbinette is obviously outgoing and she exudes this kind of sexuality but it’s more of “I’m sexy but I don’t really know it, but don’t you think I am?” I may have had a similar type of character last year. As far as her accent goes, and this may not be reading at all— she’s raised by these Hungarian gypsies— but she’s in Italy. So I’ve got this Italian, Hungarian, and Russian hybrid thing going on?
Jackie: I think we’ve just been calling it the gypsy accent.
Lauren: Yes, the gypsy accent. Good it’s coming across as something. I think it gives her a lot of interest and depth. It distinguishes her from the rest of the characters. Physically her movements are very big, broad, and exaggerated. I think I’m the only one in the show who gets to play with the upper half of my body, you know the old boobs and hair.
Zach: Not the only one.
Lauren: Oh right! You have boobs. Temporarily.
Zach: Actually it was really hard—
Lauren: Pun intended?
Zach: Wow! No pun intended. It was the first time I’d ever done something like that. I just remember when Sally said “think Jessica Rabbit.” I started walking around and everyone said “That’s not right…” But it was fun trying to figure that out. It was challenging for me because…
Jackie: Because you’re not a woman?
Zach: Because I’m not a woman!
Jackie: But you are an actor…
Zach: Ashlyn and I have that in common…wait— not the she’s not a woman thing, she’s a woman. She’s playing a man. Nevermind.
Zach, let’s talk about your man character. You develop this very narcissistic, arrogant, vapid approach to Leandre. Where does that come from? And everyone else who isn’t Lauren-feel free to chime in too.
Zach: Oh…ha! The answer I was about to give was, “How would I act if I was wearing this hat and had this sword?” If I was walking around and just had this sword, and maybe if I was eight years old, he’s sort of like a petulant child. Both of the young guys are like that, “I want this!” They’re like little babies with big swords.
Jackie: For me, Hyacinthe reminds me a lot of a baby doll. So the costume and the hair really help with that. Sally kept saying “I want even more bows and frills.” And I can just remember going “Oh dear God what is this?” So many bows! I’m kind of a tomboy, why am I wearing pink, what is this? I’m so confused. But it was a really good experience for me to get out of my normal self, giving me a chance to be very girly and feminine. I just played up the baby doll idea. Sally talked to me about how Hyacinthe lives in two extremes. There’s bliss and there’s despair. So she has this relationship with Octave and that’s very blissful, as I’m sure you saw. And then anytime anything threatens that relationship she goes into despair.
Other times she’s really just trying to understand what’s going on because she’s really kind of dumb. That’s what was working for me. I think for me Hyacinthe has a much higher pitch than I naturally do, because I think she’s younger than everyone else. So I put her way up in my head in this shrill squeaky whiny sort of sound.
Michael: My character, and I think we can all relate to this, was started with Sally. She gave us these certain characteristics like one or two things and then allowed us to grow on those. For me, it was he’s a momma’s boy and he’s not the brightest crayon in the box.
Zach: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah! I remember now. We had these statements. Mine was like, “Handsomest guy in the room.”
Michael: Exactly. And we kind of just blew those up into whatever we wanted, with her shaping them up and they became these ballooned caricatures of characters.
Zach: Everybody had like a tagline in their own kind of way.
Lauren: Mine was chaste gypsy slut.
Jackie: That’s wonderful! Mine was just, “bliss and despair. Bliss and despair.”
Zach: Hey, Ashlyn— who I know appears in another interview for this— has joined us, can we ask her what her tag was? Hey, Ashlyn— do remember when Sally was going around giving everyone their character tag, like mine was “handsomest guy in the room” do you remember what yours was?
Ashlyn Thompson: Be more pirate?
Jackie: Ha! I love your pirate!
Ashlyn: I have no idea, I don’t remember. Sorry.
Jackie: You know her pirate started off as a cowboy. Transformation!
Ashlyn: I’ll tell you about that when we sit down with Charlie for our part.
Did any of you guys start off as one sort of character, like Ashlyn’s pirate, and transform into something entirely different?
Jackie: I think that’s actually how we all were. You start with the concept of the character in your head which is one way, and then Sally guides you where she wants you to go with it and it turns into something else.
Lauren: We get to play off each other a lot and that really helps the character to develop and change.
Jackie: Especially us girls together.
Lauren: Oh my God! She is so excited and bubbly! When she’s blissful? She’s BLISSFUL. Zerbinette has more of a slow simmer going on. She gets excited but it’s always just sort of under the surface. And then this…this…little girl with pigtails starts whipping her around because she’s so excited and Zerbinette has to fling her off and be like, “OK! Enough!”
Jackie: You have to remember though that Hyacinthe’s mother has just died!
Lauren: We did talk about that, how she’s looking for that mothering figure, and I do think that Zerbinette does get a little maternal with her. You know, she’s counseling her, saying things like “a change in lover’s heart is no great concern.”
Jackie: Of course when you have a chest like Lauren does…hiked up forever in that corset…
Lauren: Come rest on momma’s breasts.
What about you fellas? You two play some scenes together.
Michael: We sure do.
Jackie: Haha! That’s right they do!
Lauren: Playing scenes, is that what we’re calling it these days?
Jackie: Partners in grime.
Michael: We had some conversations about what our relationship would be.
Zach: We talked about how our relationship reminded of us of friendships between people that were based along the lines of not having anything in common. Like someone who lives on the same street as you when you’re in second grade and you meet them and you say “ok, now we’re friends.” And then suddenly you’re like 18 years old—
Michael: And there we are, still friends. Our parents became friends or something.
Zach: You know, you get to graduation day and you’re like “I love this guy, we’re best buddies!” With no idea how we became friends or why. I think that the opposite character physicalities and personalities made our scenes very, very fun to do together because we were always playing up these opposites.
Michael: He’s very small. I’m very…big.
Zach: You did that on purpose.
Michael: Quite possibly.
You two also have your relationships with your ladies in this show, can you talk about the dynamic there as well? And ladies feel free to chime in here too.
Michael: You know we have that first-love, a child-like infatuation? Not even thinking about sex. At all.
Lauren: Because “sex” for them is holding hands and kissing.
Michael: I mean…we do get kind of sexual…
Zach: Wait— is that what sex is?
Michael: We googled it.
Zach: *pulls out his iPhone and talks into the iphone*Siri, define sex.
Jackie: It gets a little sexual but it’s like we’re first figuring it out.
Michael: You are like dry humping me up in my arms…
Jackie: That’s what Sally wanted!
Michael: That’s where the humor comes from. Because here are these two kids, they’re both innocent, dumb, and then the raunch is there.
Zach: Oh the raunch.
Michael: Good God.
Jackie: You know, I’m so excited for my dad to come and see this. He’s going to love it. I can see it now, aren’t you so proud of me, dad?
Lauren: I think I’m a little more…what’s the word I’m looking for…
Zach: Chaste gypsy slut?
Lauren: I was going to say learned, but that too.
Zach: You know, Zerbinette has googled some things…
Lauren: She’s experienced. Let’s call it that. But she’s not giving it all up until Leandre says let’s get married. She’s smart about it. I think they’re more sultry about it but also a little more restrained, more adult about it.
Zach: See they have the upper hand, they have whole scenes together. Lauren and I don’t.
Lauren: We never see each other. Not until the very end.
Zach: We don’t have an exchange. I say six lines about her.
Lauren: Yeah, he talks about me. And people make the boob-swelling gesture when they say my name.
Zach: *makes the boob swelling gesture* Yeah, Zerbinette. But those lines that I do end up saying to her— she has no lines in return.
Lauren: I have no lines directed at him at all. Except for what we’ve ended up improvising toward the very, very end.
Zach: We have this magnetic chemistry that’s built around our pheromones because we’re in an outdoor theatre. The olfactory triggers that we’re building—
Lauren: I smell Zach coming and I just—
Zach: So does the audience and it just creates this wonderful experience for everyone.
Other than working the physicality into this show, what are the challenges of taking a well-known classic that has been translated from prose into modern rhyming couplets, taking it outdoors into a very intimate venue where audience interaction is half your performance, and you didn’t have an audience to work with until opening night?
Michael: All of that. Those are the challenges.
Jackie: It’s a lot.
Michael: It was an interesting process. Sally kept pushing us to go farther and farther. For me, I’ve done children’s theatre before so I took it to that place and that made it easier to process exactly what we’re doing. I felt like I could access that level of interaction when it comes to talking with the audience. That helped me, I think.
Zach: I never felt that uncomfortable or anything. I don’t know if it has to do with my background? My undergrad was in opera so doing things that are really big and stock-character-esque are things I’ve done before. Only this time the audience is right there rather than really far away.
Lauren: Even with Tartuffe I think it just came naturally for me? I love that close space.
Michael: It’s really, really fun.
Lauren: I love being able to really see the audience’s reactions and feed off their energy. You don’t get to do that very often and I really enjoy it.
Jackie: It’s so very different and so very interesting compared to what I’m doing in school which is all “be very introverted, be inside your mind.” And this is the opposite of that because you need to get out of your head and be big and bold and go out there. So it’s really fun for me. Feeding off the audience is so much fun. I’ll go up to an audience member and I’ll be crying my face off and they pat me on the shoulder and say, “Aww, sweetie!” trying to comfort me. It’s so much fun.
How have the ridiculous costumes factored into this show for you?
Jackie: There are just so many bows…so many…but I mean it fits the character so I’m just looking in the mirror and eventually I just gave in. It’s a lot to process for me, I don’t do bows and frills and girly!
Lauren: I think you hear Zerbinette coming before you actually see her.
Jackie: Yeah you do!
Lauren: All the jangling and the jewelry. It adds to her personality. It’s her spice.
Zach: I think they help, these costumes. There were some rehearsals where I would roll up my jeans and make them into those cropped, oh what do you call them?
Zach: Knickerbocker pants. Whatever. Short pants! There is just something about having the calves out that really helps me feel like the character. It gives me a Shakespearean type stance. I felt more handsome in my character.
Lauren: Costumes for me are huge. I know that any time I put on a costume, I immediately become that character. It takes it to a whole new level. You can only do so much in your normal street clothes. But once you get into that outfit you are just transported. You go back to that time, you go back to that character you just go.
Michael: I’m wearing 18 pounds of lace and frills so they only place I’m going is the ground under the weight of it all. Actually, they’re not that heavy. But it definitely speaks to the character and it gives me lots of stuff to play with. I have these sleeve things and I’m just in my own little world, picking and playing with my lace.
Lauren: He has bows on his shoes. They’re a bow couple.
Michael: Bows and lace…really frilly.
How has the handling the rhyming couplets added to the challenges?
Jackie: That was a really big concern for Sally. She was really, really on top of us for tapping our ‘T’s and making sure we hit the important phrases—
Michael: Coin the couplet.
Jackie: Yes! Coin the couplet—
Lauren: That has a ‘year-ago’ familiarity to it…
Jackie: I think that really helps us get the story across being able to really focus on the couplets like that.
Lauren: I think I’m haunted by that phrase…I see it in my sleep…
Do you think working in these couplets, considering that the original was written in prose, makes it more accessible to the audience?
Jackie: I think it does give it that air of a different time, which if that’s what you’re going for, and I think we are, it definitely helps with that.
Michael: It adds to the whimsy factor. It makes it more fun which fits the show very well, I feel.
Zach: I like both ways. I like the original prose. And I like this adapted verse. But I think that this is a good one for this venue. I think that because this is a silly outdoor show where are people are drinking through the course of the performance, I think it helps make the entire thing better than if it was in prose.
Lauren: You can really play on those rhymes and it adds so much humor to the show. The character has to stop and think about what rhymes and how funny that can be.
Zach: Or like when the audience knows what’s coming, they’re anticipating the rhyme—
Lauren: Oh! Like that night when I had someone say my line for me? He just preempted what the next word was going t be and stole my thunder.
Michael: Unscripted fabulousness. You never know how an audience is going to react.
Lauren: I shot him a look. I add libbed myself back into place and I got mad at him afterward, it was really funny.
Zach: You came off the stage and you were fuming. But I mean, rightfully so, she gets all of like 20 lines.
Lauren: Dude, seriously? Can’t steal my lines, audience! I don’t have that many to begin with. But seriously, it was really funny and I feel like we’re getting to the audience if they’re jumping on the rhymes.
There is a fair bit of improv happening in this show, what has that process been like for you guys?
Lauren: I love improv. What? I do! And Sally said—
Jackie: Don’t improv, stick to the script?
Lauren: Um, she may or may not have said something that sounded like that…but I get away with it somehow. I don’t distract from the text. I just add in little things here and there with the audience, and the people are really enjoying it. I’m going to keep doing it until she tells me to stop. Which I said I was going to do last year. And she never did.
Jackie: I just kind of cry. I talk to the audience a bit, and most of my improv moments are quiet to individual audience members. She says something about being cold and I’ll ask someone “why is she cold? It’s so hot out right now, I don’t get it.”
Lauren: And when I reference the boob thing, you just kind of look down really sad.
Jackie: That’s not improv. That’s just real life.
Zach: We have so much direct address. But a lot of the improv really comes from the audience. There was this couple, and the girl was smiling at me and the guy wasn’t smiling about the girl smiling at me. That was funny for me and funny for Leandre. So I got to really enjoy the fact that it was clearly unsettling to this dude that his girl was flirting with Leandre. Audience things like that make this so much fun.
Lauren: You know he and I, because we don’t have lines together, just improv faces at one another when we are together at the end.
Zach: Acting faces.
Lauren: We’re trying to draw all the attention to ourselves, actually.
Zach: We don’t like when people are looking at other characters that aren’t us. I mean— I’m a team player. Totally.
Lauren: Whatever, he told me he wanted to be a scene stealer, so I don’t know why he’s telling you he wants to be a team player.
Zach: Girl. You got called out in the review for being a scene stealer.
Lauren: Oh…yeah that’s true…touché.
Michael: With the venue comes a level of improv. There are always going to be new people sitting in various places, new faces and you’re always going to have to form to that.
What is it that you hope the audiences will take away from an evening of Comedy in the Courtyard?
Jackie: An enjoyable night of theatre. I think that’s all we can ever really ask of our audiences in a comedy like this. We hope that they have a good time.
Lauren: I think Zach might be thinking “I hope they think I’m handsome.”
Zach: Hey! That is— well…actually, yes. I do think that. But seriously, this reminds me a lot of Bugs Bunny, and Lucy, and other classically styled comedy technique things. It’s fun to see how little has changed about humanity…there are deep seeded character impulses and flaws that people have and they are funny. It’s not about it being current in terms of the setting. These are people problems that have always happened.
Michael: I agree with that. That’s a really deep answer. That I now want to put my name on.
Zach: He does that. Takes the brilliant idea. Tries to make it his. It’s in print now, so you can clearly see I thought it first. I’m coining that couplet.
Michael: On the surface it’s just a night for people to come out and laugh and enjoy.
Lauren: Kick back, relax, enjoy yourself.
Michael: Exactly. Just have fun.
There are a good half a dozen options here in Annapolis for theatre— even outdoor theatre this summer— so why should people choose Annapolis Shakespeare’s Comedy in the Courtyard?
Zach: What Lauren said just now. Which was a big old raspberry/fart sound.
Jackie: We’re all pretty cute.
Zach: I think we are very cute!
Michael; Our faces. Come see our smiling, gorgeous faces.
Zach: In a very short amount of time we’ve developed a really good sense of being an ensemble theatre.
Michael: I agree.
Zach: I know that if I if fuck something up, people will pick up the slack for me.
Jackie: I cannot believe we got through this entire interview without anyone cursing once at all and now you go and drop the f-bomb.
Zach: You’re such a child, Hyacinthe.
Lauren: This is why we can’t have nice things.
Zach: Shush. I think we all really trust each other. We all really get along. We have fun. It’s fun to see us have fun.
Lauren: He’s right. We have a great chemistry and we all work really well together. We play off one another really well. Not that other companies don’t, but we have something unique.
Michael: There isn’t another venue like this in Annapolis where you can sit and eat and drink and watch a show.
Lauren: And get drunk like that loud guy who just passed through this room just now, and enjoy yourself as much as he is!
Jackie: Did we touch on the penis jokes at all?
Zach: I think you just did.
Michael: Did you want to elaborate on that, since you seem to be the expert, Miss I-Don’t-Have-A-Penis?
Jackie: Oh no, no. I just wanted to make sure they were touched. The penises. The penis jokes. We have penis jokes.
Michael: I’m staying away from that. Octave is totally oblivious so I’m staying away from it. He’s the sort who’s looking down his shorts and saying “what do I do with this?” So yeah, staying away from that one.
Zach: I have no penis joke comments. I am just waiting to get married to my chaste gypsy slut. Chaste gypsy love. Boobs and hair over there.
Lauren: Thank you.
Michael: As an end note, though, I do agree with Zach. As a cast we have chemistry. From the first rehearsal we’ve just had so much fun, and there has been so much laughing. If you want a good laugh this summer, this is the show to come see.
Zach: Coming to rehearsal—
Lauren: Didn’t Ashlyn say or maybe it was Charlie who said that it was like going to recess?
Zach: It felt like the first week of college in a really funny away. Wait. Retract it. I retract that! Shut it down! What I meant was— it was like meeting new friends and having a good time. And that has carried through the rehearsals onto the stage. Come see us have a good time, because then you’ll have a good time. End this please before I say something else stupid.
Lauren: Too late.
Michael: It’s a great show. Come see shenanigans just like this. In rhyming couplets. Who wouldn’t love that?
The Schemings of Scapin plays on Tuesday evenings through July 29, 2014 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing in The Courtyard at Reynolds Tavern— 7 Church Circle at the top of Historic Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.
Click here to read the review on DCMetroTheaterarts for The Schemings of Scapin.