What actors want: to tell stories

Alejandra Escalante

Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor, Alejandra Escalante, plays Hotspur, the hardened, quick-triggered leader of the rebellion, in OSF’s production of “Henry IV Part 1.” Escalante’s recent OSF roles include Miranda in “The Tempest” and Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet.”

EH: Do you have a theory or method of acting?

AE: I had great teachers at Boston University. I had a fantastic physical acting teacher named Elaine Vaan Hogue who changed my view of what acting could be. Everyone has methods that work for them; a lot of times, we just take bits and pieces from here and there.

The Stanislavsky and Meisner techniques were fascinating to me, but they were very intellectual. I don’t think they actually work for me. I had a hard time applying them to my character. Whereas physical acting for me was, “Oh this, I can get.” It was eye-opening for me, that I didn’t have to write down every tactic and all my verbs: which is really cool; but it just doesn’t work for me. I need to have a very strong understanding of the language. Physicality helps me understand the characters, an understanding of who they are in their bodies.

AE: Juliet is such a difficult part, in the best way. It’s such an interesting part because she is actually alone so much in that play. You have to figure out: Why she needs to speak in this moment, in this empty room, and what does that mean? Is she a child that has always been alone, that has only had her nurse and her parents around? Is she not particularly graceful? Maybe she’s not as comfortable and perfect with poetry. Actually, it’s her first love. I remember that I was not a particularly graceful teenager. And I don’t think most are. So it was kind of fun, to find the reality of that, very different from Hotspur.

EH: How did you prepare to play Hotspur?

AE: I read books on modern warfare and the psychology of soldiers; I watched a lot of action movies to figure out the physicality. I have never worked-out so much in my life. It was time to lift some heavy weights, which immediately helps. You feel like a brick.

Looking up female soldiers, how they move and how they walk, watching videos of swat teams and seeing how guns are held. She’s a career soldier; this is all she’s ever known. She’s been battling for years and years. Coming up with that quality took a little while.

The rest came naturally, once we started rehearsals: Chatting with everyone on stage, looking them in the eyes, being confident about rebellion. It came more naturally than I thought.

EH: Did you learn anything from Denis Arndt when he played your father in “The Tempest”?

AE: I learned about sticking up for yourself, and respecting your choices as an actor: to have a voice and to stick up for it.

EH: Is there any similar quality that runs through all actors?

AE: All of us work so differently. There is certainly something within us that wants to tell stories, whether it a larger story, or just the story of our character.

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