It has to be unnerving for a director, casting someone he or she has never met in a part so large, the entire venture hinges on a confirmation of what happened in an audition. “For 27, Zach is a wise soul,” Richmond says. “He always says he has an old head on young shoulders.”
They tackled the part together. “We worked on the telephone and a little bit by e-mail for a few months after that.” When they continued in rehearsals in Washington, Richmond adds, “it all came together in performance.”
That clicking has something to do with an actor being able to cement an instantaneous bond with the paying customers. And with the special demands of Shakespeare’s language, the click is even harder to activate. Page says he learned early in a career brimming with Shakespeare that “you had to command the back of the audience with your voice.”
“When I was first learning at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, I remember coming out on stage in costume, and I was shocked: It was summertime, the audience was wearing pastels and shorts, it was so incongruous. What was evident to me immediately was it would be completely false to pretend they weren’t there. You had to make them part of your world, even when a character is in a private situation.”
“It’s an awareness of the audience, it’s an eagerness to reach to the back,” Page says. “I feel a lot of responsibility to the people at the back of the house. You think they wanted those tickets? You have to send your energy to them, that way.”
A Shakespeare star, in other words, has to have size. And Appelman is hoping he continues to be a good fit. “I don’t want to do only Shakespeare,” he says, “but I would love to continue doing Shakespeare for the rest of my career. I want to keep growing with the roles.”
directed by Robert Richmond. Through Sunday at Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Visit www.folger.edu/theatre or call 202-544-7077.
directed by David Muse. March 28 to June 2 at Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Visit www.shakespearetheatre.org or call 202-547-1122.