Mark Chamberlin as Odysseus, with April Wolfe as Calypso.
Last week Taproot Theatre opened their 35th season with The Odyssey, starring local actor and Phinney Ridge denizen Mark Chamberlin. A 30-year veteran of the field, Chamberlin found himself in the title role of Homer’s epic poem for the first time, and shared the challenges of preparing for Odysseus.
Have you ever played the role of Odysseus before? How did you prepare for the role?
No I haven’t played it before. I prepared myself the same I would for anything else: I read the script a lot, go to rehearsals, try to memorize lines and not run into the furniture! Although this time there wasn’t much of it.
I see that you came right off a run of playing Scrooge at the ACT. Was the transition from that character to Odysseus difficult?
Well I suppose only in the sense that both Scrooge and Odysseus are characters that are on stage pretty much the whole time during the show and especially in the case of Odysseus he never stops talking. What I needed to do as quickly as possible was delete the lines of Scrooge in my head and make room for Odysseus’ lines.
What was the most challenging aspect of preparing for this play?
I think there is a real challenge wrapped around productions whose designs have so little to them. Basically we’re talking about some bamboo poles, a couple pieces of cloth and some stools. So while it’s not hard for me to imagine the physical world that the play is happening in, what I found most difficult are the transitions of being both the narrator and a character involved in the action. You have to step out and narrate, then turn back in and be in the action, then turn back out and narrate again, and it’s easy to get lost.
Step away from Odysseus for a moment. In your own life which character in the play do you relate to the most?
Well I’ve played a lot of “bad guys,” and I love playing bad guys. Usually the parts are better-written and there is more action of a greater variety involved in them. Also, when you’re the bad guy you are very much the focus of whatever scene you are in. In the play Antinous is the lead bad guy suitor, so I think I might most relate to him in a theatrical sense.
Photo Credit: Erik Stuhaug