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Keith Dahlgren has been a part of the Seattle theatre community since 1978. When he’s not on stage, he’s Managing Director at Seattle Public Theatre. It turns out the acting bug didn’t really fully bite until he was studying at Whitman College in Walla Walla when he walked into their theatre facility for the first time. “I just felt really comfortable. I thought, wow, this is a place I’d like to stay.” Keith plays Duke Senior in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It.
I just finished a couple of days ago, Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: The Biography, which is a great book, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Right now I’m reading a book by Stanley Elkin called The Living End. It was published about 20-25 years ago. I just started it. It’s a comic take on heaven and hell.
I listen to a lot of NPR. One of my favorite shows is Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. I always end up listening to that once a week. If I don’t listen to it on Saturdays when it’s locally broadcast, then I listen to the podcast.
I’m waiting to see The Avengers. I just watched BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. A great, great, great take on Sherlock Holmes. I’m on season two and looking forward to the third one.
Which Three Shakespeare Characters Would You Invite to a Dinner Party?
Definitely Lear. I have three daughters and in a lot of ways, structurally, it’s a lot like Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia. I wouldn’t mind chatting with him. I’d be interested in Hamlet, I’d like to know more about him. Maybe, oddly enough, Timon from Timon of Athens. Just because I like that play and Timon went through a lot of crap. I’d be interested in hearing what he thought of it all.
Actor Keith Dahlgren plays Duke Senior in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2012 production of As You Like It and talks about why he enjoys acting in a Shakespeare play.
In As You Like It, Shakespeare created one of the great female friendships in theatre: Rosalind and Celia. There’s no other relationship like it in the canon. And for the game of romance in the woods, Celia is kind of Rosalind’s wingman. In Seattle Shakespeare Company’s actress Rebecca Olson plays Celia and shares her thoughts about the character and the challenges of playing the role.
“Oh, I love Celia! I love Celia because she’s an optimist, but she’s also very pragmatic. Especially in this production, I really like what George has done. The world that she starts out in is not a happy place, but she has obviously made a choice to be optimistic and think that things are going to work out. She’s very loyal. She’s very funny. She’s just got all these lovers running around her, completely acting like morons. She’s almost the voice of the audience, pointing out to Rosalind (played by Hana Lass) saying, “You do realize you’re dressed like a boy?” (Laughs). Saying all the things you would say if your best friend was acting foolish. I love that her wit is really, really funny. And then at the end she gets smacked in the face with love, too, and it’s really unexpected and it comes out of nowhere.
“One of the challenges of playing the role is that she’s on stage a lot and not saying anything. George (the director) and I made a choice that we’re not just going to have Celia falling asleep in the background. If she’s on stage, there’s a reason she’s on stage, even if she’s not speaking. So finding what that is, activating that, and figuring out what I’m to be doing when I’m not speaking is tough. I spend a lot of time observing, and I think that helps in that journey, so when the one-liner’s come out. They’re real zingers. At least I hope that’s how it comes out.
“Celia’s got a pretty big arc. If you’ve never seen the play before, the first third at least, could be Celia’s play. It could be a story about a girl who gives up her kingdom to follow her best friend into the forest. And then all of a sudden Orlando shows up, and the things take a turn. The challenge is to keep Celia moving forward and not allow her to sit back in cynicism while her friend Rosalind falls in love. It’s hard to walk that line of telling her friend to come back down to earth and not make Celia sound like she’s jealous and mean. This is the only relationship like this in Shakespeare where there are two women who are equals and have equal stage time and are not villainesses and are not just ingénues. Orlando is the ingénue in this play. He’s the one being courted! Rosalind and Celia are the two best friends who are orchestrating this entire plot. It’s important to keep the affection between the two women because it’s such an important part of the story. I don’t want there ever to be a moment when the audience thinks that their friendship is over. You watch them go through the really natural ups and downs that happen when you have a best friend, regardless of what age you are. And then that person meets someone, and suddenly they’re not available to you as much. And then you have to renegotiate what the relationship is going to be. It’s a really fantastic relationship that they have. And it helps that I’m really good friends with Hana, she’s one of my closest friends.
Nathan moved from Seattle to Los Angeles about 5 years ago but is back to play Orlando in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It. It’s a part he knows well as he played the role in the parks for Wooden O. As the son of missionary parents, Nathan grew up as a world traveler and right after graduating high school he spent a year in South Africa. “Mandela had just become president, Apartheid fell, and they won the rugby world cup. I was there for all that, and I was 18. It was a phenomenal time to be there. I can point to that moment in my life where I grew up in a big way.”
I read The Week. It’s a news digest and it’s how I get my news. I’m kind of reading everything I can about the play. When I’m in a play or dealing with a character, I tend to focus on that world, so I’m reading things about Shakespeare and his life and time period, anything that I can get my hands on. I’m reading the play a lot. It’s amazing that I’m still finding things in it and I’ve done the role before. I just picked up The Artist’s Way again for the third time. I brought that with me and I thought that would be good to have. Every artist should read that, I think.
I’m a big fan of KEXP here in town. I was really looking forward to listening to that while I’m in my car because I stream it when I’m LA. I listen to the radio a lot. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sarah McGuinn stuff. She’s doing the music for us. I’m trying to learn those songs. For some reason it’s hard for me to memorize lyrics if they’re just written down. But I can memorize a song just by listening to it over and over again.
I’m a big sports fan. I wasn’t so much when I lived in Seattle, but I became a big Dodger fan. I live right next to Dodger Stadium. In fact I’ve lived there for five years and I’ve been to over 60 Dodger games. It’s walking distance from my house. I’ve been watching the Sounders…super fun! It’s amazing how Seattle has really gotten behind that team. So I’m looking forward to seeing a live game. Also, I just finished up the first season of The Killing because I was coming up here. The homage to Seattle and the Northwest: so well done. The whole milieu is perfect.
I haven’t watched a lot of movies, but I did just watch Shakespeare in Love and 300 since I got here. You know, I’m playing the young lover and I’m wrestling with MMA style fighting. I go back and forth between gladiator films and period love stories.
What three characters from Shakespeare would you invite to a dinner party?
Shakespeare! I’d definitely like to meet that guy. The whole idea of who he was and the facts that we know about him. I’ve read a couple of different books on whether or not he wrote his plays, and I go back and forth on it, so I’d love to get to the bottom of that. I would love to hang out with other past actors who have played Orlando. And maybe Romeo, too. At least for this process. I would love to hang with the young lovers, pick their brains a bit. Romeo, Orlando, and Shakespeare. It sounds like a band!
Although this video is from three years ago, the sentiment still rings true today. Hana Lass plays Rosalind in our production of As You Like It, but she played Ariel in The Tempest for us in 2009. Listen to what she has to say about why she loves performing Shakespeare.
Our actors and crew work hard both on an off stage, but our Wooden O summer show’s are a whole lot of fun, too. Here’s a peek behind the scenes at some Wooden O shows from summers past.
If you missed Bill’s Bash, then you missed this classic moment of sports writers Steve Kelly and former Sonics start Shawn Kemp doing a scene from “The Taming of the Shrew.”
George Mount, who directs Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2012 production of As You Like It says that the play is about finding a sense of family in an isolated world. Listen to some of George’s other thoughts on the play as he talks with the cast, crew and assembled guests at the first rehearsal for the show.
Listen: As You Like It First Rehearsal