Arcadia: Meet the Characters
By A Noise Within
September 9, 2016
Meet the incredible cast of Arcadia in the video below and read on to find out what our actors love about the characters they play.
played by Jeremy Rabb
What I find endearing about Chater is his ability to overlook the relentless assaults on his dignity for a taste of genuine affirmation and fame. His utter lack of talent, coupled with the brute force of his ego, is wonderfully fun to play in all its comic and tragic splendor. The exaggerated quality of his bluster reflects, at its core, an actor’s similar need for self-preservation: “That critic doesn’t really hate my work: he’s upset about something in his life that has nothing to do with me… Many great artists through the ages have been wrongly ridiculed, so of course I’m misunderstood.” I also love Chater’s volatility, swinging from rage to affection to self-pity and then back again to rage all in an instant. This flipping of mood and opinion like a pancake is a trait actors share: “So-and-so didn’t like the show?? Well, he’s an idiot!…Oh, but you say he loved MY performance and thinks I’M talented? Well, I’ve always admired his taste.” What makes the character so touching is that we can laugh at his absurdity, while secretly recognizing the seed of his insecurity in ourselves.
played by Susan Angelo
I first read Arcadia years ago when I was auditioning to understudy for both Hannah Jarvis and Lady Croom at the Mark Taper Forum. I spent a good deal of time preparing for what was to me an impossibly difficult play to even read, much less act. I was offered the job, but due to a work conflict, ultimately had to decline. Having only dipped a toe in, I hoped that someday I would return to Arcadia. Years passed, and last season, I got to read the role of Hannah in ANW’s Resident Artist Reading Series. No less in awe of Tom Stoppard’s mind and brilliant craftsmanship, this time I put a foot in. So, when ANW selected Arcadia for its 25th anniversary season, and Geoff asked me to play Hannah Jarvis, I was over the moon!! Finally, a chance to dive fully into this masterpiece!
What’s incredible about this play is that to get a handle on even a short exchange of dialogue, you are sent immediately into the research mode: Classicism vs. Romanticism, Lady Caroline Lamb, Lord Byron, History of English Landscape, Capability Brown, Salvatore Rosa, Claude, Virgil, Chaos Theory, concepts of Entrophy, etc. With your head spinning, you grab hold of just enough to be able to get through the scene, but are left with the opportunity to continue learning and deepening your understanding of these subjects throughout rehearsals and performances.
It is being thrust into the research mode that has brought me into the world of Hannah Jarvis. I share her curiosity, her appetite for learning, her drive to discover and to make sense of the injustices in the world. I also identify with her comfort level that is more aligned with work than play; that trusts her brain more than her heart. Arcadia is a place where science is woven together with language, art and spirituality. Where the mystery of the universe is more compelling than the absolutes we try to control, and the chemistry between human beings is the most powerful energy of all.
HA! Written like a “true Romantic”, which Hannah Jarvis emphatically is NOT! Or…is she?
played by Tavis Doucette
Valentine Coverly is a passionate and dedicated mathematician. He is the voice of the sciences within the present day era of the play, explaining complicated theories to the other characters and the audience. In many ways, he embodies The Enlightenment, believing that scientific progress, knowledge, and rationalism are of paramount importance. Valentine is studying population changes in grouse, a game bird similar to a pheasant, attempting to find the algorithm which would determine the population year to year. In other words, some very boring yet complicated stuff. He is in turmoil with his own mathematic endeavors, his lust for Hannah, and the discovery of Thomasina’s potential genius.
As a character, I am drawn to Valentine’s passion for work, and his undying thirst for knowledge. In his monologue to Hannah, we get to see Valentine explore the joy of new discovery, and with it, being proven wrong: “It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing… It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.” He is a dedicated man who, even in his own mathematic failures, understands his mortality and the importance of learning. Later in the play, while arguing with Bernard, we get to see Valentine express the importance of knowledge over personalities: “The questions you’re asking don’t matter, you see. It’s like arguing who got there first with the calculus. The English say Newton, the Germans say Leibnitz. But it doesn’t matter. Personalities. What matters is the calculus. Scientific progress. Knowledge.” This is the thrust of Valentine’s purpose in Arcadia. He is the counter argument to Bernard’s robust, romantic idealism. He is the rational voice amongst literary theorists. I look forward to learning more about Valentine as I continue my journey into his mind.
played by Abby Craden
I love Lady Croom; she is a strong, powerful, brilliant force of a woman in a time period where women were not valued for those qualities. I feel as an actor, roles are given to one to help access or in some ways work something out in your own character. To get to embody Lady Croom is truly a gift. She is helping me reconnect to my power and strength. At first I found it a bit intimidating to play someone of such wealth and esteem but she is a person just like anyone else. And I imagine she is a bit of a goddess which, as an actress, is fun to play with in my imagination. I love getting to portray both a mother and wife and a lover -I don’t think there are many women written as she is. As an artist, to play with Stoppard’s words and live in his brilliant mind is an exciting place to be.
played by Freddy Douglas
I remember seeing this play when it first came out at the National Theatre in London. It had the feeling of an event.
The role I’m playing, Bernard Nightingale is a wonderful character. His burning ambition is to be thought of as a ground breaking historian. He has grown up, as all English people do, within a class system in which everyone knows their place. It is a silent understanding that who your parents are, where you went to school, the accent you speak with has a powerful influence on what is possible for you to achieve in life. Bernard Nightingale is trying to escape these restrictions. He is teaching in a 2nd grade University and knows that to rise to the top of the academic world he needs a great discovery.
There is a reason Bernard has seized on the subject of Lord Byron. Byron was gifted, sexually impetuous, and delighted in breaking the rules of the establishment. Byron also had a club foot and was able to overcome his disability to become one of the most celebrated figures of his time. These are the qualities that Bernard reveres.
Bernard has an internal ‘club foot’ of his own: A desperate need to prove himself better than all who have looked down on him in his life.
To meet him you would never guess, but as the play unfolds we see him unravel.
Gus and Augustus Coverly
played by Richy Storrs
Everyone has a part of themselves that is silent, a side that plays the role of observer or listener. Often it is when we are speechless or experiencing something that is beyond words that we are most fascinated. For Gus, this part of his mind has become his primary mode of existence and no one knows why. I wonder if even Tom Stoppard knew! In the script, we’re told only that he “doesn’t speak. He never speaks. Perhaps he cannot speak.” What I love the most about Gus is the total sense of mystery that Stoppard gives him without saying much at all. Gus speaks for himself in action alone and, because we’re told so little about him, playing the part has been a wonderfully imaginative experience. He is a blank slate, a silent reflection of the world around him. It’s an added joy to also be able to play Augustus and work in both time periods of the play.
played by Erika Soto
I love Thomasina’s intelligence and determination. Her mind works on so many different planes at once. She
understands the world in pictures, images, and numbers. One of my favorite scenes is when she talks to Septimus about her pudding; imagining the jam swirling in her cup, she relates it to the picture of a meteor in her astronomical atlas. This link leads to an amazing discovery she is never able to fully develop. So, a very simple, every day, common occurrence, in her mind, is immediately connected to a bigger, cosmic understanding. Although I could never claim to be as smart as Thomasina (some even consider her a genius), I do connect to her passion. She is an eager learner and is passionate about her contributions to the subjects she is learning about. She trusts her instincts and makes amazing connections among all the things around her—and still remains a young girl, concerned with things like kissing and dancing! What I would most encourage the students to keep in mind is how beautifully the play is written…it is an example of the heat equation itself: One thing slowly going to another until an equilibrium is reached.