Oh, heavy is the potent perfume of this Indianapolis autumn: sharp scents of betrayal! Musky balms of duplicity! Pugnacious whiffs of violence and brutality! All drifting on the same breeze with the bouquet of sweet success. Success for directors Casey Ross and Thomas Cardwell, that is in two long lost roles in Indy theater.
In both EclecticPond’s production of Titus Andronicus and the recent production of Timon of Athens from Bardfest, the main characters Titus and Timon lose essential everything though polarized extremes. Titus looses his family in tragedy and Timon his fortune to his friends. Both roles have been rarely (if at all) seen in Indianapolis and require a fresh take from their actors.
"Tom [director of Titus] and Catherine Cardwell approached me this past summer to ask if I would play Titus" says James 'Jamie' McNulty, who has been performing since 1987 in recent titles like The Cherry Orchard and The Bad Seed. "I whole-heartedly accepted. It's the culmination of all the stage work I have done prior, spanning 25 plus years, and I am very humbled to be recognized by the Cardwells. Tom is an interesting, witty, and knowledgeable director. His rehearsals are always pointed and engaged.”
Joanna Winston, who plays Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus had to confront gender roles (in true Shakespeare fashion). You may have seen her as "Amy" in Enter Love at Theater on the Square last September.
"Aaron the Moor is a self-proclaimed devil," says Winston. "And relishes in the misery he causes the families. Aaron is male. I'm not. Discovering all aspects of this character while retaining charisma and humanity has been challenging! Macabre as it might sound, I researched many historical villains."
Winston researched transgender clothing and transitioning blogs before stepping into the role.
”This is my first time being cast as a legitimate male role, and while being surrounded by male characters, I wanted to audience to focus on the story — not on where I've put my boobs or whatever," she laughs.
Winston also spent time confronting Shakespeare's immediate relevancy.
"One of the major themes involves character debate over what to do with a mixed race child,” says Winston. “As a mixed-race individual myself, I've lived this truth. My mother was, in 1985, told by members of her family when she gave birth, 'You don't have to keep it if you don't want to, dear' since she was a young white mother and not married to my black father. Any time you divide people, you stumble into situations of unmatched inhumanity and cruelty. Ironically, though Aaron is an unparalleled evil entity, the scenes where he pleads for his newborn's life are touching, for he speaks at length of brotherhood between men. I've had some of my bucket list roles with Eclectic Pond."
The modern ties continued in Timons of Athens.
"It had been a long time since I had done anything in the vein of Shakespeare," says Casey Ross, Timon's director. "My work is often very modern voice, but I was attracted to the Bard Fest project from our first meeting ... In what I had seen of the productions out there, there’s been few small-cast shows, few conceptual pieces, and people really hadn’t seen anything like our Timon. Characters are sleazier, grimier, chain-smoking and blatantly leeching ... it's a story of the wealth divide."