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An Interview with Olivia and Maria

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Let's talk more about the silence, because—as you played Julia—the most notorious silence of all time is Sylvia. Care to weigh in?

What do you do with that, right? I don't know if I have anything intelligent to say about that. It's tricky. She chooses not to speak. That's the trouble with trying to do Two Gents is no one accepts that ending. It's just really hard to stomach. I saw one production that I really liked when it all resolved, the first thing Julia did was slap Proteus and then kiss him and all is forgiven. And it worked for me because it was sort of like, "I could kill you but, oh, I still love you," you know? And just the acknowledgement of the betrayal instead of just sort of sweeping it all under the rug because it's the end of the play, I like. But it's still really hard to accept. It's really unsatisfying.

Well, I can see a contrite Proteus, and I've seen a contrite Proteus, but Valentine, he's inexcusable.

Yeah. Which I guess is why Sylvia doesn't say anything. [Laughs]

What about some other female characters you've played? You said you were curious about the silences Shakespeare brings in. What are some of the others?

I always found Kate really interesting when she stops talking. It's been a while since I played her or looked at the play, but there was always something really interesting to me in the tailor scene. After he takes the clothes away, there's a section where she stops arguing with him and he talks about appearances. I was in a production of it once several years ago and the director wanted to cut a big chunk out of that scene, and she whittled down the appearances speech to, like, three or four lines. I fought to have it put back in. She asked me why I cared because those weren't my lines, and I was like, "This is where Kate falls in love, so we need that." I guess she hadn't caught that that's where that might happen. But that's where I've always thought that she realizes, "Oh, here's the man who really understands me." But she doesn't say it.

That's one example I can think of. I played Ophelia years ago, and it was kind of the opposite. She was quiet until she went mad, then she can speak.

What other Shakespeare women have you played?

I've played Beatrice. I have played—

Beatrice never shuts up.

No. That was the one play where I didn't get struck by this weird silence, because she always talks.

Who else have I played?

Phoebe doesn't shut up.

No, Phoebe never shuts up, until the very end when she realizes that she loves Silvius.

You think she does love Silvius?

I think so. I think she decides to.

You need the happy ending.

Yes. I think Shakespeare wants her to love him.

And you think Shakespeare wants Katherine to love Petruchio? Which I agree with.


I did a whole commentary that I don't think it's a mysogynist play. I think we haven't gotten totally past the postfeminist backlash.

That makes a lot of sense. I've played her twice, and both times people have come up to me after the show and asked, "How do you say that last speech without just wanting to throw up?" And it's really easy. It's really easy if you believe at some point they fall in love with each other. It's a huge gift that Petruchio gives her. He allows her to show her sister and her father and everyone else in the room that she's the ideal woman. And she's never gotten to be the ideal woman before.

When you talk about Shakespeare's women and silence, I've noticed that twice you've said when women go silent that's when they fall in love.

Oh, I didn't even realize that. I didn't know I said that.

Maria may be the other way.

I think Maria is in love with Toby when the play begins. I think they have an existing relationship. That may be a secret, but it's already there.

Is that a proper relationship? Given—in your setting it doesn't matter, maybe, but I was wondering that because he's a knight—I guess he can have anybody he wants, he's not noble.

It's definitely an upstairs-downstairs sort of, you know.

It depends on how you treat her, too.

Yeah. I've seen productions where she's definitely a scullery maid and very much a servant. I think in our production I am higher up in the pecking order of servants, although I'm still a servant. So, I guess no matter what, there's a bit of scandal there. But being a knight isn't the same as being a countess.

No, it isn't, but is there a counter parallel to Malvolio who believes he can have Olivia? Maria's got Toby.

Oh, definitely. But he has to be punished because it's a stepping stone for him. He wants Olivia in order to better himself. Maria and Toby love each other.

You don't like Malvolio, do you?

No, I don't. I mean, it's a wonderful role but he's a terrible person. When I'm not playing Maria, I don't always feel that way. [Laughs]

Do you remember how you felt toward him in Taffety Punk?

I do. I remember thinking that he was full of himself and, "Oh, I should do something about that some day" you know, like, "Whatever, I don't care." I didn't care as much. And then I felt very sorry at the end after he came forward with the letter, very regretful that I had not been paying attention. But in that cut, my last line to him was, "Poor fool, how have they baffled thee"; I didn't get to say, "you're going to get your revenge." I didn't have those lines, so I had to go back to, "well, I don't care about that."

Well, your Olivia was kind of full of herself anyway.

Yes. She was very self-centered.

I don't think I've ever seen it that way, either, and it made the scene with Viola where they're going back and forth, Viola saying, "I'm not what I am."

And [Olivia] doesn't hear it.

She has no idea; it's all going over her head.


And Esther was just like—

"I'm trying to tell you something." Yeah.

That was just so funny.

That scene has always reminded me of when someone refuses to hear the truth, you can point blank say, "Here is the situation," and they go "Lalalalalala." And in that scene, that's exactly what's happening; she doesn't get it. Viola could literally open up her blouse and say [she whispers here as Viola], "I'm a girl," and Olivia would say, "Come again tomorrow." [Laughs] She's just not ready to hear it. That was a really fun scene to do.

And it came across as fun, too.

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