Actor Drew Cortese, fresh from a turn as the famously misshapen bad boy at the Folger Shakespeare Theater, is the latest guest on The State of Shakespeare. In the in-depth interview, Cortese explains how he takes inspiration from sources as diverse as Frank Underwood from House of Cards, and the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious.
Cortese descants on the recent discovery of the historic Richard III’s bones in a parking lot in Leicester, and how the news infused the spirit of the production. The spirits of the famous actors who have gone before to play Richard III on stage can be equally tricky for an actor to exorcize, but Cortese is undaunted. In tackling the iconic role, Cortese embraces the long, rich history of the play and feels honored to take his place among the others who have animated Shakespeare’s hump-backed king. He takes the listener on a psychological journey with the doomed usurper; from the early earthly scheming to a final reckoning with the supernatural.
In an examination of Act 4, Scene 4, (“Look what is done cannot be now amended…” ) Cortese illuminates the layered interplay of word against word. Attention to wordplay can enable an actor to discover the foundation of a character. An actor, he says, must embrace the audacity and the absurdity of a man who dares to woo the wives and mothers of his victims without a hint of contrition.
The interview showcases Cortese’s driving, vocally athletic performance. His reading is a muscular examination of rhythms and stresses, rhetoric and meter.
The last segment of the 19 minute interview exposes how the actor fortifies himself against the specific challenges inherent in a role that is so famously exhausting, both physically and emotionally. A peek into this actor’s process is a must for any up and coming Shakespearean who wants to be able to give his all each and every night.
Dig into the bones of Richard III with Drew Cortese. No need to call for a horse, just visit The State of Shakespeare, or subscribe to the podcast (free) on iTunes.