Doug Powers (Claudius) is a regular
on stages all over Indianapolis. He was
most recently seen in AUP’s “A Streetcar
Named Desire”. Select roles include Asher
in “Ashes to Ashes” for Twilight Productions,
Maxim de Winter in “Rebecca” and Howie in
“Rabbit Hole” for Carmel Community Players,
Donald Peterson in “Apt. 3A” for Spotlight
Players, Peter Quince in “A Midsummer
Night’s Dream” for Wayne Township
Community Theatre and The Marquis in
“Quills” for the Alley Theatre. Doug also
directed “Extremities” at Spotlight.
How is Claudius like you and how is he different?
It’s tough to think about how a character such as Claudius might be like me, because he’s really a pretty horrible person. I think one trait he and I share is a measure of insecurity. Clearly, his amp on that goes to 11 and he responds to it in horrible ways. So while he and I don’t share the level or the response, I can connect that trait in him with something I deal with in myself. One thing about him that is very different from me is that he is almost totally self-serving. He does not care who or what gets in his way, as long as he gets what he wants.
What do you love (and hate) about Claudius?
It’s always fun to play a “bad guy.” The trick to making him more than a caricature, though, is to figure out why he does what he does, and how he rationalizes his actions. He has to believe that what he’s doing is right—or at least that it is the best course for him to take—and I love finding those depths to such a “bad” character. On the other hand, there’s no getting around the fact that he’s a manipulator and a user—and [spoiler alert!] a murderer. I certainly wouldn’t want to hang out with him. The story bears out that getting too close to Claudius is quite dangerous to one’s health.
What do you think will surprise people about AUP’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet”?
I think people who haven’t read or seen Hamlet before will be surprised by how funny it is. I think there’s this cultural image of Hamlet as a dark and mopey play. Well yes, it is a tragedy. And yes, there are dark elements. As with life, though, there is also a lot of humor—even if some of it is (at one point quite literally) gallows humor.
Why did you want to be involved in this production?
I just couldn’t pass up a chance to work with this group of people on one of the most iconic plays of the English-speaking theatre. There’s no shortage of local Shakespeare productions, and some of them are very good. But few companies offer the opportunity to take on a play as complex as Hamlet. I’m always looking to challenge myself as a theatre artist, and this play can be a theatre artist’s Everest if s/he lets it.
How is this production bringing something new to the story of Hamlet?
I think the way Brian is setting and staging this production will pull the audience into the story in ways even those who have seen other productions of Hamlet may not have experienced before.
Favorite line of dialogue:
Overall? Hamlet’s “He will stay til you come.” Of Claudius? Hmm. I think his response to Polonius’ asking him whether his [Polonius’] advice has ever been wrong or led Claudius astray. Claudius responds, “Not that I know.” It’s such a simple line, but there are so many ways to play it and so many different shades I as an actor can give it.
What makes a good scene partner?
First, a good scene partner is an actor who has done his or her preparation. Second, though at least as important, a good scene partner is an actor who actively engages so that the partner and I both have the ability and the freedom to respond to one another and to whatever comes out of each of us in each moment. I’m fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches in good scene partners with this cast.
Tell us about another cast or crew member and what you enjoy about working with them.
You’re asking me to pick just one? Well, as brilliant as it is working with Lauren Briggeman as Hamlet, Claudius has even more direct interaction with Gertrude. I think the arc of both Claudius’ and Gertrude’s characters is driven by and reflected in their relationship. One of the things I really enjoy about working with Amy Hayes as our Gertrude is that from the very beginning of the rehearsal process we’ve been willing and able to explore what’s happening between these two characters at each point of the story and to see where that takes them as they interact with each other and with the other characters in their scenes. Sometimes it can take an actor some time to get comfortable with a scene partner whom he or she has just met before their characters can interact realistically on stage. Because Amy seems to prefer, as I do, to “dive right in,” we were able to get a head start that’s given us time to explore more of the subtleties of these two characters’ interaction.
What was your very first stage production?
I had the lead in a church play when I was about six. It was called “The Little Boy Who Had Lost Something,” or some such title. The first “real” stage production I was in was “Voices from the High School” when I was a sophomore in, well, high school.
What inspires you?
Ultimately, I am inspired by love. The notion that we humans can learn to approach solutions to the world’s problems from love rather than from fear is a big part of what keeps me moving forward. Fear can be a useful tool, but it’s lousy at rational decisions and long-term planning. I think love makes better decisions. Personally, inter-personally, culturally, and institutionally, learning to come from love rather than from fear is the work that inspires me.
What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?
I’m father to a terrific daughter named Lilly, I’m companion to a cat named Freya, and I work for a software consulting firm in Carmel. Those are the basics. I also enjoy exploring local restaurants and doing my own cooking. When possible, I enjoy cinema and books. I occasionally do a bit of writing on various social justice topics.
What is the last thing you do before you step out on stage?
I used to follow the tradition of whispering a French expletive to myself. Now I just make sure I’m in my character’s mindset, listen for my cue, take a breath, and go.
What would you tell someone who has never seen live Shakespeare about why they should come to this production?
Shakespeare can be wonderful on the page or on a screen, but he’s really at his best in the live theatre. The best way “in” to Shakespeare, I think, is by being in the presence of living, breathing actors inhabiting these rich characters and speaking and living these brilliant words. This production has adapted the play into a modern setting, which could make it particularly accessible to those who haven’t yet experienced live Shakespeare. If you’ve never seen a Shakespeare play done well in a theatre, you really must. And this production is a great place to start.
The Tragedy of Hamlet will be presented Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., July 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 (Sunday rain dates 13, 20, 27) at the outdoor Allen Whitehill Clowes Amphitheater on the campus of Marian University, 3200 Cold Spring Road, Indianapolis. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets may be purchased below or by calling the AUP box office at 317-207-2135 or online at http://2bornot2b.bpt.me/. Audience members will want to bring blankets or chairs. Candy, popcorn, soda and water will be provided for sale. The Tragedy of Hamlet is a summer production you won’t want to miss.