‘In Acting Shakespeare’ is a superbly engaging one-man show, arriving on tour in Ireland this October following a two-month sold out run off-Broadway in New York City.
“In Acting Shakespeare” is a funny, touching and uplifting story of one man’s discovery of Shakespeare, acting and language. Freely adapted, with permission, from Sir Ian McKellen’s ‘Acting Shakespeare’, the wonderfully talented James De Vita tells his own story of a young fisherman searching for a new career. This fun, fervent tribute to one man’s personal journey, deftly weaves some of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues with James’ days as Long Island fisherman and his nights as a classical actor. This is a show for anyone interested in Shakespeare or theatre.
We had the chance to interview James Da Vita ahead of his appearance at the Pavilion theatre and nationwide as part of ‘In Acting Shakespeare’. You can see the results below:
Shakespeare has such a vast catalogue of work. How did you choose what to include in this current work?
As the play developed, we started choosing sections from Shakespeare’s works which related to events which were happening in the play. For example: a theme develops in the play about fathers, and we chose some pieces from Hamlet between Hamlet and his father that suited the moment. Or when posing the question of who might have been Shakespeare’s first love, we chose a piece from As You Like It, where a young boy is hopelessly in love. So the show is not an evening of showcasing famous Shakespeare monologues—it is exactly the opposite of that. There are a few well known pieces, but they all fit into the context and story of the play.
Is it difficult to cater for Shakespearean scholars as well as the general public, or do you try?
My only job is to tell a story as honestly as I can, and with as much specificity and clarity as I can. I put great importance on making the work accessible to everyone, and that means the scholar and the farmer, the academic, and the fisherman. Shakespeare wrote for everyone, not just for court, and not just for the groundlings. He was a man of the the theater and knew his audience well. He is at heart, a great storyteller.
Did you always love Shakespeare, even in your school days?
No. I did not like Shakespeare at all in high school. When it was read in class, I felt stupid. I felt like everyone else was understanding it and I wasn’t. But then, when I was older, I saw Sir Ian McKellen’s one-man show Acting Shakespeare, and suddenly I was understanding Shakespeare, and enjoying it. Sir Ian made the language accessible. It wasn’t Shakespeare that had made me feel stupid, it was the way his work had been introduced to me.
As this is a one man show, are you literally travelling by yourself, or are you part of a team?
I am travelling with Tim Smith of Pemberley Productions, who does more work than I have time to write about in this article. This whole tour was Tim’s brainchild, and he is the reason I am in Ireland. He saw the show when I was performing it Off-Broadway in NY city, and he eventually put together this entire trip. So, we are a team of two: the Tim and Jim tour.
Was there a Shakespearean part you always wanted to play, but never got the chance?
Yes. Puck, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As a young actor I had always wanted to play him. I used to be a gymnast in my much younger days, and I had all these ideas of a physical life for Puck which I thought I could bring to the part. But, I missed that one.
Do you ever miss working as a fisherman on Long Island?
Very much so. It was a hard way to make a living, and it is really a young man’s game, but I certainly miss the ocean, and the feeling at the end of the day on the boat when all the work was done. On this tour of Ireland I am so often by water that it does my heart good.
‘In Acting Shakespeare’ will tour Ireland from October 8th – 24th opening in Limerick before touring to Ennis, Kilkenny, Cork, Blanchardstown, Dun Laoghaire, Waterford, Galway, Portlaoise, Roscommon,Sligo and Thurles. Full details and ticket information at www.shakespeareireland.com