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Alexandra Silber, who has been seen on Broadway stages in Fiddler on the Roof and Master Class, will be featured as Guenevere in STC’s upcoming production of Camelot. She recently spoke to STC about the comparison between Guenevere and Tzeitel, her experience adapting modern adaptations of Greek classics and her thoughts on Camelot.
What’s most exciting to you about bringing the character of Guenevere to the stage at STC?
The story is about a young leader who is trying to change the way things are through reason, equality and humanity. That feels beyond timely. Guenevere is the woman at Arthur’s side who shares his vision, and helps him fuel, build and create it. That also feels beyond timely.
Above all, I’m intrigued by the unapologetic examination of three endemically flawed protagonists—all doing the best they can, derailed by their humanity, their ideals, and ultimately, by one another. I adore living inside of and exploring human flaws, darkness, weakness and shame—we don’t take those things out and look at them enough. Yet our less favorable natures are there, latent within us all, informing all of our moment-to-moment choices and overall lives. Aren’t most of us endeavoring to do what we consider to be “good,” and don’t we all, at some point, fail?
Is there a specific moment or song that you look forward to from the piece?
I have always felt that “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” is one of the greatest sung scenes in musical theatre—on par with Carousel’s bench scene and West Side Story’s balcony scene (and I’ve played them both!). What makes this musical scene unique is what is unspoken, unuttered. In this remarkable display of a deeply loving, but crumbling couple’s marriage, we see the spark that continues to connect them: their capacity to seek beyond themselves and approach existence with ravenous curiosity. It is the quality that initially enchanted them about one another—the depth and breadth of their discussions create a new era, a new England, and this is their articulate, singular, irreplaceable love language.
Throughout the course of this deceptively not-at-all-trivial song, we see two souls—a husband and wife—awaken to the reality that their marriage, and likely their vision for a better world, is over. They feel it. They know it. Yet they say almost anything else. This is the last of their “one brief shining moment.”
And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I have stared into the eyes of someone I loved desperately and known it was over, and not uttered it; hoping that one more conversation, metaphor, or chorus, would delay the inevitable if even for a moment.
What would you imagine Guenevere and Tzeitel meeting would look like?
Both Guenevere and Tzeitel discover themselves within the circumstance of an arranged marriage. Both are strong-minded, deeply feeling and passionate women, who take great issue with their given situations. Both roil against the lack of agency allowed to them as women, both instinctually fight for their autonomy despite extraordinary pressure to conform, and both, at heart, are deeply principled about the nature of true love.
I’m certain Guenevere would mine Tzeitel’s experience of having loved one man fiercely the entirety of her life, and Tzeitel would be fascinated by the complexities of Guenevere’s simultaneous loves: her constancy for Arthur and passionate awakening discovered with Lancelot.
I also think their dialogue would be very different if they met as their Act One and Act Two selves! Both women grow tremendously, grow up, change, suffer, endure. I know Tzeitel like a very old friend, and barely know Guenevere at all yet, but I sense a possible bond, and hope they’d find common ground and be able to connect and learn from one another.
The Cosmopolitan magazine answer to this question is: I’m sure they’d talk about their mutually fabulous manes of hair because let’s face it: both gals won the hair lottery.
You have written modern language adaptations of Greek classics. Is there any another classic you’d be interested in adapting?
My passion for re-examining and re-imagining the Greek classics is rooted in a fascination that our societies, regardless of time period or culture, seem to be reliving the same relationships, political struggles, griefs and arrogant mistakes that we have been making since the dawn of examined life. I am obsessed with picking apart the well-known (and sometimes simplistic) myths, and zooming in on the psychological microscope on why these familiar icons of Greek lore would make the choices they do. What are the particular nitty-gritty complexities of their relationships, their inner workings? And not only insinuating it in the playing, but putting new, sometimes fairly contemporary but always poetically visceral words in the characters’ mouths. I do try to honor the poetic tradition, while also making the language feel more a little more immediate. I’m no definitive playwright, but as an actor I know that if a phrase in my mouth feels like a missile? I’m getting somewhere!
My existing adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone is probably the piece I feel closest too, and the one that feels the most currently ripped from the headlines; and, to loop back to answering the question, I have already begun adapting Seven Against Thebes. The play is Aeschylus’ take on the epic struggle between Antigone’s brothers (all of them children of the doomed Oedipus Rex), Eteocles and Polynices, for control of Thebes. I feel like there are some really potent American parallels to micro-factions myopically fighting narrow-minded battles for control their country.
For more information on Camelot, click here.