With only a tiny number of lines like “Lord Helicane, a word,” 19-year-old Mychael Green is stepping into his first paying gig as an actor—and the beginning of what his director calls a lifelong journey for a potentially spell-binding actor.
Green will take the stage in Edgerton Park, where Elm Shakespeare Company will present its annual production. This year’s production, Shakespeare’s infrequently performed Pericles, runs from Aug. 14-31, with plenty of time to picnic in the park before the nightly 8 p.m. curtain. (Click here for the full text of the playbill.)
Green graduated from Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School in June. He is headed for the Hartt School, the arts conservatory at the University of Hartford, in the fall. On the way to a rehearsal run-through the other day at the Elm Shakespeare borrowed stage on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University, Green came by the park for a brief interview.
He was eager and excited. Never mind that he has starred as Hamlet in the Bard’s great eponymous tragedy and as Algernon in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest while at Co-op, and here by comparison his role is minuscule.
He also was beholding for the first time the set in his first professional theater production.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said.
Pericles As Louverture
Artistic Director James Andreassi has transferred the Bard’s Grecian island fantasia of monarchs gone amok—including pirates, incest, prostitution, and floating coffins coughing up dead people back to life—to the racially charged 18th-century Western Caribbean.
He’s made Pericles, a prince of Tyre, in the Mediterranean into a figure looking very much like Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Overture, whom Andreassi greatly admires. Shakespeare’s play opens in ancient Antioch, whereas Andreassi’s Pericles opens, he said, “in our plantation island of Antioch.”
Having recently done two of the most popular plays from the Shakespeare canon—Macbeth and Julius Caesar—Andreassi was interested in exploring Pericles, one of the few plays he was not familiar with, and one whose first two acts, some scholars argue, are likely not even written by Shakespeare.
Back in March Green had wowed Andreassi when he performed a monologue from Hamlet during auditions at Co-Op High for Elm Shakespeare’s tech and acting apprentice program, the Elm Scholars.
“He was completely spell-binding,” Andreassi said recollecting the ten-minute audition Green gave.
Then he told him he wanted Mychael to be with the company for the upcoming production.
Normally rising juniors, or younger aspiring thespians, are hired to learn acting and tech as part of the production, because seniors like Mychael are often bound for college and can’t be with the company for the full run of the summer.
However, Andreassi wanted Mychael Green in the cast. Since the young man was bound for college in nearby Hartford, Andreassi offered him a true plum: one of the eight non-Equity acting jobs in the upcoming Pericles.
Managing Director Daniel Fitzmaurice said Green is making the most of it, talking to everyone, absorbing the business side of acting, and the acting side of acting, especially from Paul Pryce, the powerful actor who played Mark Antony in last summer’s Julius Caesar.
This summer Pryce is back playing Prince Pericles. Green plays Escanes, one of the prince’s courtiers, who has a few small lines, mainly directional, and also appears without lines in other scenes.
Green said he is somewhat daunted by the powerful actors around him.
“It’s a lot of pressure because I just came out of school. And so many talented people here, like Paul Pryce. He’s so incredibly talented. I feel I need more training to get to that level. In terms of speech, everyone is fluent in Shakespearean speech. I feel I’m just scratching the surface of being a Shakespearean actor.”
But like all good actors, at whatever level, he’s milking the character he’s been dealt: “I like being Escanes. It’s cool. He’s still an important character to play. Escanes becomes ruler of Tyre [toward the play’s end]. He’s basically a prince in training, a young politician. It’s cool, and he’s a messenger for Pericles.”
Then Green gamely popped onto the island stage-in-the-making, and declaimed his first lines: “Lord Helicane, a word.”
“Mychael’s at the very beginning of his journey. He has unlimited potential and charisma. On the stage you can’t take your eyes off him. It’s up to him to get the discipline,” Andreassi said.
Then the young actor, and the older ones, all broke for pizza.