‘The final character of any play is the audience’

Jamie Ann Romero is playing Viola de Lesseps, the fascinating muse of young Will Shakespeare, in “Shakespeare in Love” opening Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Romero, who played Juliet in “Romeo & Juliet” at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, is looking forward to playing both Romeo and Juliet in “Shakespeare in Love.” We chatted over lattes at Mix Bakeshop in Ashland.

EH: What is it like to work at OSF?

JR: It’s a great collaborative team process. You’ve got everything that you could possibly need. They have personal trainers; we have the Feldenkrais method to help realign your body; then there are voice and speech coaches and dialect help.

EH: How do you approach a play?

JR: What helps me is building it with fellow actors and the director. Christopher Liam Moore is a brilliant director. He’s really collaborative, he’s willing to hear ideas, and try different things. He has such a great eye. He knows what he wants, but he is willing to try other things too.

EH: How do you cope with auditioning?

JR: In New York, I work as a reader: Sometimes a casting director will call me, and I’ll read the other parts for the actors that are coming in to audition. What I learned is, the more relaxed and excited you are to be there, the better. Everybody on the other side of the table wants you to succeed, so there’s no worry. I think Brian Cranston said something about looking at your audition as your own personal performance for the day. It’s great advice. Having been a reader in the room, I’ve experienced directors saying, “That person’s great, but they’re just a little bit too short for our lead.” You never know why you didn’t get the part, so the competition is more within yourself.

EH: How is acting in theater different from film acting?

JR: It’s completely different, and it’s all the same. It’s all rooted in the same truth. If you’re not honest on stage or on camera, people know immediately. It’s just a matter of scale. It’s learning to act within the space you’re given.

EH: What makes an actor?

JR: The thing about actors is that we’re so wildly different from each other. Some people study Stanislavsky, some people just barely memorize their lines. Everyone came to acting for different reasons. Some people were always the class clown, and loved being the center of attention or, like me, being very shy. But somehow, this is what opened me up.

But the common thread through all of us is that we all want to tell stories and we all want to connect with people. The final character of any play is the audience. If you don’t have an audience there is no reason to do it.

It’s that connection of being sucked into a story, because somebody is telling it to you. It is that one moment in time that cannot be recreated, that you all share together. That is something that you share with the acting company and your audience. There is something so human about that.

It’s a great gift, that I get to go on stage every night and have a chance to connect with even just one person in the audience who says, “That changed my perspective, or that changed my life, or that made me feel something.” I think that theater is still alive because it does evoke emotion and debate.

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