Andrew is a theater wunderkind. Since receiving his MFA from Western Illinois (as many Unrehearsers have), he has completed a U.S. tour of “Huckleberry Finn” with the Classical Theatre Project of Toronto, and more recently appeared as Costard in First Folio’s critically acclaimed Cymbeline (Oak Park Festival Theatre). This Spring, he’ll be working with Chicago’s own Right Brain Project.
Q: You played Leonato in our Chicago debut (Much Ado About Nothing), which means you spoke the first Unrehearsed words in the Windy City. How was that experience for you?
ANDREW: I don’t think at that time I could have had any real awareness of how I felt exactly. Starting an Unrehearsed show is a bit like going into Hyperspace. You get pumped up as an ensemble, get set, and take off. Then it’s just a tunnel of stars. Looking back on it now I’m happy to have been able to say those first words. I’m sure that once Unrehearsed develops a greater notoriety – which is only a matter of time – I’ll fabricate a fabulous apocryphal story for that moment.
Q: How does Unrehearsed relate to your work in more conventional shows? Does one style inform the other, or are they completely different?
ANDREW: There is some crossover. I don’t want to insinuate that the styles are at all similar, because they aren’t. Unrehearsed requires a relentless momentum. If you attempt to be subtle or clever or implement your own interpretation of a character in an Unrehearsed show, the odds are high that your work will become muddy and you run the risk of dragging the entire show down with you. Subtlety (most often) requires rehearsal. Does this mean you have to play a bland / heavy-handed archetype? Absolutely not. You can still bring yourself to a role and find wonderful and original moments but you have to trust yourself and trust the technique.
The tenants of Unrehearsed are all text-based. The clues are all in the verse. This is where I see crossover. My work with Unrehearsed over the past 5 years or so has been invaluable exercise for digging into the text. This technique reveals information that more often than not goes by unnoticed. For example, with Unrehearsed if I address someone as “thee” or any of its variations as opposed to “you” I have to create two very distinct physical proximities. Even in a conventional production this has the potential to tell me a great deal about the characters’ relationship in both a broader sense and within a specific moment. I will probably not make such a bold physical movement (as I would with Unrehearsed) but it does provide some significant information. Before Unrehearsed I would have passed that over. What possible significance can a second-person personal pronoun really have? It turns out – quite a lot.
Q: You’ve also played Iago, one of Shakespeare’s Juggernaut roles (30 pages or more of dialogue). How was that experience? Does size matter? What about notoriety?
ANDREW: It was absolutely unforgettable. That role was a trial by fire. I learned more about successfully performing Unrehearsed Shakespeare in those few hours than I had in all the workshops and performances previous. There were things I did well that gave me confidence I didn’t have before and things I didn’t do so well, and that’s the best way to learn. With a role of that size the need to keep the show moving becomes immediately clear. That being said, you can’t spend all your focus and energy on pacing alone. Playing Iago taught me how to balance that kind of practical concern with all of the other elements of the technique and still manage to be honestly open and present in the moment.
I’m not making any jokes about size mattering. I’m really not. Not one.
Notoriety, on the other hand, is important. It’s important because the temptation to play the role the way you always wanted to – in a conventional production – can become overwhelming. A good deal of my preparation was weeding out all of the 21st century actor choices I wanted so badly to make and just give myself up to the words and the technique.
Q: You’ve had more role-diversity than most Unrehearsed: old men, villains, romantic leads, goofy servants. Do you approach any of these roles differently? Do you have a preference?
ANDREW: I really enjoy that I’ve been given such a wide variety of opportunities. I suppose I do approach them differently, in a way. I can’t say I have a method to approaching them – as this technique doesn’t lend itself to any of the traditional preparation we learn in school – but, yes, each of those requires something somewhat different. Unrehearsed can be a real balancing act. You want to pretend that you don’t know the show (as intimately as most of us do) and take only the basic description the person leading your text session gives you. You embrace that information and marry it with your work with the text. That being said, the technique does not change. The whole thing is a matter of trust.
I love playing all of them but I do have a soft spot for villains. That may be partially a result of my experience with Iago but I have always enjoyed Shakespeare’s villains. He provides so few answers and so many options. A great deal is left to the actor’s and the audience’s imagination. Shakespeare draws us into his villains. He makes us love them. We delight in their plots because we are privy to them. The villain seduces and lets us in on dark and dirty secrets. There’s an electric relationship between characters like Iago, Richard III, Macbeth (et cetera) and the audience. It’s almost sexual. “Pst. Hey. I have a secret for you. Come along with me.” Who doesn’t love that?
Q: You’ve spent a lot of time in Chicago. What do you think of the theatre scene?
ANDREW: There is a support system in this city that, I feel, is unrivaled. Chicago also has such a long history of exceptional off-loop theatre. Small theatre companies are embraced and are just as much a part of the fabric of this city as the large houses. Chicago is my home. While I was born in the Western suburbs, I grew up in the city. The “it takes a village” platitude is really true in this case. I was raised by the Chicago Theatre community.
Support Andrew! Come see MacBeth!
November 12 and 19
3358 N Southport Ave.
Suggested Donation of $5
Behling as Iago (Othello)