When Artistic Director William Downes launched Classics on the Rocks four years ago he had a vision of creating a company that creates Shakespeare you can understand.
He knew that Shakespeare doesn't need fancy concepts, modernizations, frilly costumes, or big sets to make it relatable. All you need are talented actors who trust the text and tell the story.
And so, Classics on the Rocks was born.
This week, we're featuring Will in a different spotlight - not as artistic director but as actor. This summer, Will is playing the snearing, self-important butler Malvolio - and trust us, you do not want to miss seeing him in yellow stockings.
Read on for his take on that brilliant bard and Twelfth Night.
Name: William Downes
What character do you play in Twelfth Night?
Where are you originally from?
Long Island, NY
When you're not onstage, what can you be found doing?
Spending way to much time watching Netflix. Hoping against hope that the NY Islanders win the Stanley Cup. Spending even more time than I probably should playing video games on Xbox one.
What intrigues you most about Shakespeare?
His ability to tap into the heart of what it means to be human. When we take a step back from the scope and epic-ness of these plays, we find very intimate stories. He may have dressed his characters as king, queens, lords and so on, but when look beyond that, we find fathers, mothers, lovers, siblings, friends and foes, and because of that he has remained relevant for over 400 years. That is probably the most intriguing. He was able to write characters that have withstood the test of time. As Ben Johnson wrote about him in the First Folio "Soul of the age" that age just happens to be any age.
What character is on your Shakespeare "bucket list" to play?
Richard 3. Of all the "villains" he is the one you can't help but root for. Especially if you start your journey with him during the Henry VI trilogy. Even though he does what's best for him, he always keep the country in mind-it just so happens that he thinks he's what's best for England. I also love how he interacts with audience. His words to them, are so captivating, much more than any other character in the canon, and you can't help but not only see his point of view, but also begin to feel sorry for him, that everybody is so mean to him.
Favorite Shakespearean quote:
"Most wonderful" from Twelfth Night. It's so simple, but it's placement in the play, is perfect.
Twelfth Night is a classic tale of twins shipwrecked and separated in a foreign land. Both assuming the other has perished - search for a way to survive in this strange new world. In doing so, they find themselves quickly caught up in the shenanigans of a world filled with clowns, pirates, and lovers.
Twelfth Night performs July 14, 15, 21, 22 at 7pm and July 23 at 5pm at the Alchemical Theatre Laboratory. Tickets may be purchased in advance here.