In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of Avant Bard’s production of TAME., meet Brendan Edward Kennedy.
Joel: Where have local audiences seen you perform recently on stage?
Brendan: This past year, I’ve played d’Artagnan in Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Three Musketeers, Florizel in Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s The Winter’s Tale, and Kulygin in Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Three Sisters. Regular Avant Bard theatergoers might also recognize me as Gerardo from last season’s production of Friendship Betrayed.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of TAME.?
When I first read the script, TAME. struck me as a visceral, gripping text with such wonderfully flawed characters. I had a lot of fun getting my head around them and their lives. So, of course, I needed to be a part of getting the play up on its feet. As harrowing as it is in subject matter, I think it’s absolutely vital that this story gets told. I’m very grateful to take part in that telling.
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to him?
I play Patrick Vacus, a genial, charismatic, firebrand preacher and minister-to-be whose dark past is buried in a shallow grave. He is brought in by a family to help bring their daughter Cathryn (played by Jill Tighe) back from her bouts with depression and wild self-destruction, only to get caught up in the fury himself. It’s hard to pinpoint how I would relate to a character who, in real life, I would not like very much at all. But one overlap lies in our experiences with the Christian faith, different though they are. While Patrick’s faith is one of born-again evangelism, full of passion, faith healing, brimstone, and blood-of-the-Lamb, I was raised Catholic—the sort that, while not particularly devout, was of the “I could be better” breed. My family would celebrate the major holidays, for sure, but maybe would go to the later Masses on Sundays (if at all) and be a couple years overdue for Confession.
I’d say I’m more Catholish these days, but if there’s one thing I’ve gleaned from this upbringing, it’s that the temptation to sin is everywhere. Hell, Catholics believe we come out the womb as sinners. However: I was taught that for every chance to indulge in mankind’s baser urges, there’s an equal chance to rise above that temptation and lead a better life (in God’s eyes, at least). Not to get too ecumenical about it, but I think Patrick and I both know that. The thing with Patrick is that he believes his own abusive temptations might be the key to Cat’s redemption. Things unravel from there.
What’s the show about from the point of view of your character?
To Patrick, it’s a story about control: Of himself, of Cat, of his place among the family, of his place in the community, of his vices, of his soul.
Playwright Jonelle Walker wrote TAME. in response to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. For you as a performer, what do you especially like about her play and your role in it?
I like how complicated and nuanced Patrick’s motives are in healing Cat. Jonelle has crafted this gem of a character who is just as human as the boy next door—and, potentially, just as dangerous.
TAME. is set in the 1960s—a time before the sexual revolution, the Women’s Movement, Stonewall, and other dramatic social changes. What does the play have to say to audiences today?
Women will face insurmountable odds to prove their strength, their character, their resolve, and their grit, often to the point of utter oblivion. Things may have gotten better from the time of TAME. but with so many Patricks still in the world, that struggle remains. By turning to the past, Jonelle has shown a harsh light on the ills of the present so all may see them for how truly terrible they are.
What is your favorite line or lines that your character says, and what is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?
“I was not finished speaking,” spoken by Patrick to Cathryn during their first meeting. It’s a line that sets the tone for the rest of their relationship. The stage direction says he speaks “like a thunderclap.” There’s also “I am being myself—that’s the problem!” spoken by Cathryn to Patrick. I feel like that line sums up Cat’s entire ordeal during the play.
What are you doing next on the stage?
Up next, I’ll be playing Arbaces in A King and No King and Bergetto in ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore as part of Brave Spirits Theatre’s 20162017 “Incest Rep.” Y’know, since my theatrical career couldn’t make any weirder of an arc.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing TAME.?
I want them to go and find every Patrick Vacus they can. Then: Stamp them out.
TAME. plays through December 11, 2016, at Avant Bard performing at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two – 2700 South Lang Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 418-4808, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘TAME.’ Part 1: John Strange.