Amadeus, the late Peter Shaffer’s Tony and Academy award winning masterpiece opens September 30, 2016 and kicks off the Providence Players 2016-2017 season. In Part 2 of interviews with the cast and Director of Amadeus, meet Mike Rudden.
Chip: Where have you appeared on our local stages and what roles have you played?
I last performed as “Nick” in the City of Fairfax Theatre Company’s production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. Previous to that, I was in four straight shows with Dominion Stage out of Arlington—The Little Dog Laughed (Alex), Bug (Peter), Bachelorette (Joe, 2015 WATCH nominee for Outstanding Male Performance), and The History Boys (Irwin).
The character of Mozart is very iconic and well-known, especially after the film was released in 1984. What challenges do you face playing Mozart and how have you managed to make the role your own?
Whenever I perform a well-known role, I do a period of research early in the process where I consume everything I can about the role and play. So, in addition to watching the 1984 film and dissecting the script, I read several Mozart biographies and even studied some of his music. I then set all of that aside, and build the character as it had never been performed before. For Mozart, I’m having some fun with contemporary models. Who’s the Mozart of our time? I’ve kind of settled on Kanye West—arrogant, childish, irresponsible, but undisputedly a master of his craft.
For the most part, your production will not be using traditional 18th Century costuming and design in an effort to convey the timelessness of the work. How do you feel about this choice?
I’m excited to see how it develops. I know in the stage directions of the play, Shaffer feels that the play should always be done in period, but that seemed a little short-sighted to me. The play is historical fiction as a means to develop a timeless theme of God’s relationship with man. “Amadeus” actually translates to “God’s love.” So, taking liberties with the design of the show, as many directors would do with Shakespeare or the Greek tragedies, seems like an appropriate artistic decision.
What does Amadeus bring to today’s audiences?
It’s a fascinating script. Mozart and Salieri are fantastically developed characters, and their relationship is fascinating. The dialogue is funny and biting. In many ways it reminds me of Goldman’s The Lion In Winter. The play has a lot of fun with history. In researching the show, I found that almost every event in the play has a historical basis, even if the thesis of “Did Salieri really kill Mozart?” is considered preposterous. I’d say 90% of the play is historically accurate, and Shaffer really did his homework. It’s fun; audiences are going to walk out surprised at how much they laugh.
Traditionally, Amadeus mimes the musical pieces of the show but your production will have some live singing and playing. What do you feel this brings to the show? Do you play piano?
I think it brings an important authenticity to the show. I know that if I were in an audience for a show so anchored in realism, and the piano playing was obviously mimed, it would force me to disconnect. It’s just like stage combat or dance choreography—it needs to be real, it needs to be done well, or don’t do the show. I took some piano lessons as a child, but then moved on to several other instruments. I’ve been re-teaching myself piano the past few years in my private time. The piano playing is probably what I’m most nervous about in the performance, since Mozart was one of the greatest players of his generation, and the pieces need to be memorized. Dave Whitehead (Salieri) actually has classical piano training, so trying to match him is going to be formidable.
Why do you think Amadeus is still so popular so many decades after it opened?
The rumor of Salieri killing Mozart has persisted for centuries. Even though it’s been dispelled, it’s a fun piece of historical fiction that people latch on to. The play has a rich history of being tackled by the world’s greatest actors, including Ian McKellen and Tim Curry in the original Broadway cast. The film, even though it was almost completely re-written for screen by Shaffer, is still beloved today. The performances of Abraham and Hulce, the last time two Leading Actors were nominated for an Oscar for the same film, are perfect. It’s a play with depth that will resonate with people a long time after they see it.
Amadeus plays from September 30-October 15, 2016 at the James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church VA 22031. For tickets, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (703) 425-6782, and leave a message, or purchase them online (there is no fee).
Here Are Performance Dates And Times:
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 PM on September 30th, October 1st, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, and 15th. Sunday Matinees are at 2:00 PM on October 2nd and 9th. Tickets are $20 for Adults and $17 for Seniors and Students.
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 1: Meet David Whitehead (Salieri) by Chip Gertzog.
Meet the Cast and Director of Providence Players’ ‘Amadeus’ Part 2: Mike Ruddent by Chip Gertzog.