Monday, November 10, 2014

Interview: FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR's Joseph Marcell on Original Shakespeare, KING LEAR, and More

Joseph Marcell in King Lear
I recently got to chat with stage and screen actor Joseph Marcell. I think most normal people remember him as Geoffrey, the butler, in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Yeah, that guy!), but I'm ashamed to admit that I have only seen an episode and a half of that in my life... I know, I didn't have a childhood. Anyway, check out what he has to say about playing a pretty opposite role from his '90s sitcom days, the title role in King Lear on international tour with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (currently at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA).

Make sure to read the full article on here!

I've heard that some of the double-casting plays into Shakespeare's irony. Can you tell me about that?
The casting of multiple roles being played by one actor is how Shakespeare did it. That comes down to us from the Bard. And it allows actors to delineate various roles by simply changing hats or changing a coat, changing a jacket, or whatever. And it's not a Hollywood production, unfortunately, it's simply about the words, and the only thing we have from Shakespeare is the words. We don't have his productions. They were not filmed, and so the Globe has decided that because it's called "Shakespeare's Globe," and the globe being the world, that the only thing that Shakespeare's left us are the words, and therefore the words are the most important. 
In this production, you're playing the title character, and you're of course costumed in normal, not really royal, clothes. So what goes into playing the character of Lear? 
What we have done is we have presented a medieval interpretation of the play as would have been presented by Shakespeare's company of eight actors. We do not have the facility to have a jewel-encrusted crown and all that kind of stuff. The special effects, the sights of the production are not the important thing. What is important is the words that Shakespeare's written, which are much more interesting than what we can do with it or how we can dress it. For me, playing the role is extraordinary, it's awfully hard work, I get terribly hungry by the end of it, and it's a challenge. It continues to be a challenge, and every day, every performance is a discovery of my perception of a certain moment in the play.
But our production of KING LEAR is that of a touring theatre company that arrives in a town, let's say a town like Oxford in England, or Cambridge, or somewhere, and they enter the marketplace, they put up their set, their stage, they go around telling the town that, "we're in town, come and see us, come and see us, we're going to be doing this production of KING LEAR," and they're dressed as normal people. The king wears a crown, but you know, he's dressed like kings were in those days. They were the true renaissance men. They had brains and brawns. They led from the front, they were not administrators, especially in Lear's time. He led armies, and he was a vigorous man. It's simply that he could not wield a broad sword for eight to twelve hours anymore. His arms were tired, but he certainly wasn't frail. And that is simply what we've done. So what we're presenting is a king who leads, who leads by example and discovers that there's a difference between the monarch and the man. And the man cannot deal with the stuff comes across from the family, and in the end, it's a family drama really.
I so want to see the show! If it comes to your city, GO TO IT!!

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Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz/Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

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