I’m Tonya, and I have been working as a freelance actor, teacher, and fight choreographer since moving to Pittsburgh in 2003. Like so many of us in the arts, this also means that there is a necessary “day job”– since I really enjoy frivolous things like food and shelter–so between my office work and theater work I keep a pretty full schedule.
I got my taste for outdoor theater in college while working on a couple of outdoor productions as a student, and I’ve loved Shakespeare since my seventh grade teacher took me to see a local production–so when I learned about PSIP, I immediately got involved–and have worked in some capacity on every production since. It’s been a great opportunity to become familiar with some of the wonderful green spaces in Pittsburgh–although I’m still not a fan of the mosquitoes which show up at dusk during rehearsals. And I’m pretty sure that the sledding hill in Frick Park gets steeper every year, if my weary calves are any indication. Would I trade it for an air-conditioned theater? Not a chance! You can see plenty of that around here (all of the great theater is one of the things I love about Pittsburgh), and PSIP is a unique, challenging experience for actors, and a surprisingly intimate and personal experience of the play for the audience–all in a beautiful natural environment. I can put up with a few mosquitoes for that!
This year I have the rare opportunity to play Caliban, a native of Prospero’s island and his unwilling servant. Our production is unusual in having a female Caliban–as a character actress, I’m quite looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime chance to portray this fascinating and complex character. Exploring the impact which the change of gender has on Caliban’s relationships with other characters in the play opens up some intriguing new layers and interactions, while still maintaining the core conflicts and desires which motivate the character. I’m lucky in that I’ve worked with many of the other actors in this cast previously, and am delighted to work with them again. It’s wonderful to walk into a first rehearsal and already have a level of trust and friendship with your castmates. I also get the treat of meeting some actors whom I have not worked with before–and sharing experiences as you build a performance together is always a great treat!
Hi, my name is Tessa and I’m so excited to be performing Shakespeare this fall! I’ve been a theatre geek since I was pretty young, so getting to perform a classic is something I’m really looking forward to! I remember reading a few Shakespeare plays in high school (i.e. Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar) and being a lot more into it than most of my classmates. Then, in college, being that I was a theatre (and psychology) major, I read a lot more Shakespeare and took a “Shakespeare for Everyone” class too.
I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with Shakespeare — I have to admit, I’m more of a fan of plays in modern English, but I’m proud to say I can at least understand what is being said! — but I do have a few favorites, especially Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’d even put The Tempest up there in the top five, which is another reason I’m excited to be playing Miranda. When I was cast for the part, I was very pleased. I haven’t had much formal classical training, nor have I seen Shakespeare performed live very many times, but I’m more than ready to accept the challenge.
Miranda is an interesting character as well. She falls in love so quickly and for no more than love at first sight, really. (Even if it’s not really her choice, considering Ariel fetched Ferdinand for her.) Although she is relatively passive, she does speak up for herself, such as when she proposes to Ferdinand and says that if he will not have her as his wife, she will die as his maid. I think it will be interesting to play a heroine that at first seems rather passive and straightforward, but we find later is a little more complicated than that.
Complicated characters are, in fact, my favorite to play. I love really dark or deep shows with a lot of character development. One of my favorite shows that I was in is A Streetcar Named Desire. I played Stella, but I’d love to explore the character of Blanche someday. I’m also a big fan of musicals (I know, pretty much the opposite direction in content, but how can you resist them?). Someday I’d love to get the chance to be in a Broadway musical, even just as a chorus member. However, my plan for the near future is to move to LA to explore the possibility of film/television/commercial acting for a few years. Eventually, though, I would like to move to NYC and do more stage acting before I decide to settle down.
I’m a journeyman. I have lived and worked in Chicago (3 years), Cincinnati (1 year),
New York City (3 years) and toured the east coast and mid-west before coming to
Pittsburgh last fall. I’ve a working relationship with the New England Shakespeare
Festival since interning there in 2002, and have come to embrace the First Folio Cue-
Script Technique as the basis for all my work with Shakespeare. My girlfriend, Elizabeth
Ruelas, and I have formed the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project, teaching workshops in
that technique, and directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Two Gentlemen of
Verona for the Unseam’d Shakespeare Company.
This is my second production of the The Tempest. My main responsibility in the last
one was to work the revolve on the stage. I had to step in and play Sebastian when the
actor playing the role had to miss a performance, and when the wife of the actor playing
Alonso went into labor I had to learn his role in 3 hours.
In this production, I play Antonio, about as unsympathetic a character as can be found in
Shakespeare. To win a Dukedom, he puts his brother and his baby niece in a leaky boat
and sets them out to sea. Once marooned on a desert island, when he’s sure no one is
looking, he leaps at the chance to kill his king in order to put a weaker man on the throne
to avoid paying tribute. I look forward to the fun of playing an unabashed, unapologetic
baddie. It is not an opportunity I’ve had in the past.