Antoinette Robinson, 30, is playing the role of Viola in Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of "Twelfth Night" at Sidney Harman Hall through Dec. 20.
I'm always amazed watching Shakespeare that actors not only memorize so many words, but deliver the lines flawlessly. Is it harder or easier than it looks?
Oh, my gosh. I think it's both. I say that because growing up, Shakespeare is like this untouchable thing that you don't want to f--- up. But I find that if you just release into the language and not think about making sure that you're saying it right or hitting all the stresses, that actually you end up doing it correctly. But it's just our fear about not doing it right, not saying it right, not sounding like the Brits. I find that if we can let go of that, it's actually easier than it seems. But bringing yourself to that text in a way that is real and not stuffy, that can be a more complex thing.
Just the idea of being onstage to me is terrifying. Are you ever scared onstage?
Always. I'm never not nervous. That is an absolute truth. I'm always nervous beforehand, so I'm trying to breathe and say a prayer and calm myself. But really you just have to make friends with the nerves and go for it.
How old were you when you started acting?
I was maybe 16. But I was in high school. Nobody thinks it's going to be a lifelong thing. But when I first thought, Oh, yeah, I really like this, I was cast as Antigone my senior year. In Texas we do these things called one-act competitions. You take a show, you whittle it down to 40 minutes. You have seven minutes to set up the entire set, 40 minutes to do the entire show, seven minutes to break it all down, and if you go over time you're disqualified. And you're doing this against so many other high schools. And I thought, Whoa, this is cool.
What was your first big break?
I don't really know if the big break has happened. If anything, I would consider this a break only because STC is the place I've dreamt of working. This is my first show here.
What's the biggest disaster you've had in a play?
I was doing "Timon of Athens" at the Folger, and there's a scene where people are dancing and I'm supposed to pick up clothes that people have thrown off. So I go out, I'm in four-inch heels, and I pick up the clothes and turn to go offstage. My shoe got caught on my pants, and I flew — I'm talking flew — across the stage. I did not catch myself and just slid, like across home base. I tried to save the tiniest amount of dignity that I had, picked up the clothes and scurried off the stage.