This is the first of our series of posts by our actors that give an inside look at how they are preparing their roles for the show! Tune in each Wednesday to see a sneak peek from our cast!
Playing the Narrator in Craig Wright’s The Pavilion presents a fascinating challenge. When I first read the show, I just kinda assumed my character was a shape-shifting omnipresent spirit of some kind, like the smoke monster on Lost (at least for the first couple of seasons) and while that’s true for the most part, ultimately my character is actually just me, Matthew Schott. The actor. Throughout the performance, the Narrator makes sure the audience is aware that this is just a glorious theatrical illusion, but confirms this late in the play, with the line:
“Don’t you see? I don’t make the rules! I’m just an actor….playing an actor….playing an actor. I’m not in charge!”
This leads to some grueling work for me, Matthew Schott the actor, playing Matthew Schott the actor… playing Matthew Schott… the Narrator? I’ve always been a believer in putting a piece of yourself in every role you play, but with The Pavilion, that’s really the only option. Instead of thinking in terms of how my character might speak and react, I have remain honest in terms of how I would actually react in any given situation. On top of that, I get to talk to the audience all over the place, which is always a blast. It’s my job to bring the audience into the story. I am the bridge between the story of Peter and Kari and the people seeing it, I’m in charge of making sure the story gets told. It’s really quite exciting.
As if that wasn’t fun enough, The Narrator also plays everyone at the reunion (besides Peter and Kari). In total, I will be playing at least seventeen distinct individuals, besides myself, and that’s without counting the very end of the show, in which I have to constantly shift point-of-view faster than you can blink. While it was a little overwhelming at first, as I spend more and more time with each character, I find myself filling in little details about each one of them and really bringing them to life in my body. Although the story focuses on Peter and Kari, there are so many other little subplots going on in the background of their world, and it’s my job to breathe life into each one. I feel a bit like Dr. Sam Beckett, quantum leaping into countless different bodies. But, much like Dr. Beckett, I find myself very attached to each person I play, even if they just have one line. One of the major themes discussed in The Pavilion is how each person is at the center of their own universe, their own story, gliding by other people — who are at the center of their own universes and stories. Peter and Kari’s worlds are intertwined and there is an apt focus on their relationship. But, they are spinning past countless other stories that we only get to see tiny glimpses of — through me — of people who are all dealing with the same things. It’s a fascinating statement on the universality of humanity and our individual experiences. No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, everyone has to deal with getting older, drifting away from people, and coming to terms with time’s unstoppable march. To quote The Narrator late in the play, “We have to say yes to time, even though it means speeding forward into memory; forgetfulness; and oblivion.” This pavilion, this night that the couple is experiencing, is far bigger than them. The pavilion is an epicenter of mid-life crises, with Peter and Kari stuck smack dab in the middle of it!
This really is such a beautiful play, and although its going to be a big challenge really mastering all the countless people I have to play and juxtaposing those characters with the narrative role, I am greatly looking forward to taking it on. After all, how often do you get the chance to play everyone else in the universe, including yourself?