Actor Keith Hamilton Cobb website

Tag Archives: Regional Theatre



Integrity in the Time of Post-Truth

An Actor Wonders How to Be in a Culture Devoid of Honest Self-Assessment

It’s Tuesday, November 15th, so how long is that after the presidential election?  And that’s how long it’s taken for me to realize this most absurd of things has actually occurred.  In fact, the level of absurdity is such that it cannot bear rational commentary.  The only truth to be gleaned from the morass of sound that generated it, and that it is generating, is that it HAS occurred.  We can try to put our brains around that fact if we like—it’s taken me a week—and take action from there.  But I can leave the talking to the pundits of the entertainment news networks, who are wholly culpable in helping to bring this absurdity about.  While I haven’t watched any television news since election night, I’m quite sure they are readily embarked upon the lucrative endeavors of talking about the absurdity that their talking about promulgated in the first place.  They got you comin’ and goin’…  It’s a helluva business…  But I don’t have to invest.  I don’t think any of it was my fault, and know that I wouldn’t be able to fix it if I tried.   That doesn’t mean I won’t try.  There’s much to do, but I don’t think there’s much to say at this point unless you’re selling something.  It’s fucked in numberless ways, but there it is.  And here we are…

If I’m going to talk, I want to talk about theatre.  This is something I know.  I’m an actor.  I can impact this, a little bit with my talent, but that’s the cheapest of commodities.  I can impact it more, much more, with something far more scarce, integrity, and the simple, but not easy act of showing up with all 110% of the artist in me ready to play, or fight, however you wanna bring it.  Discussions of American theatre are important to me.  We must have them because Read More →

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Romeo and Juliet at The Shakespeare Theatre Company

Romeo and Juliet at The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, D.C., August – November, 2016

This was a long summer into autumn with many talented people and a company that has been in the Shakespeare business for a long time.  An extended run, I mean it is Romeo and Juliet after all.  I think you might draw a few more if you did West Side Story, but not many…

Lord Capulet is another one of those supporting roles that needs to be fleshed out. Because you can’t add text, and, in many cases, as in this one, text is removed to shorten the play, there is some work to be done to make him anything like a human being.  The things that motivate his behavior have to be firmly rooted internally for them to appear to an audience without the text that might otherwise accompany them.  There is also a process of nurturing each of the characters on stage to the point where they are able to assist in the telling of one another’s stories.

This Capulet was interesting, struggling clearly with his urges towards love and hate, and navigating the space between, if not wholly there.

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Photo: Scott Suchman From left: Rafael Sebastian, Elan Zafir, James Konicek, Jasmine Alexis

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Photo: Scott Suchman From Left: Jasmine Alexis, Judith Lightfoot Clarke as Lady Capulet

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Photo: Scott Suchman Background: Inga Ballard as The Nurse

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Photo: Scott Suchman With Ayanna Workman as Juliet

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Photo: Scott Suchman With Ayanna Workman as Juliet

 

 

 

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Julius Caesar at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Julius Caesar  at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival  June/July 2016

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This was a talented ensemble of seasoned professionals, with a young company of eager, intelligent and highly focused students at Desales University.  The director, who was also the producing artistic director of the theatre, Patrick Mulcahy, was/is a seasoned professional and former actor who knew his Shakespeare.  Ya gotta know your Shakespeare, y’all!  He told a tight, intense, moving story with simple staging, costumes, and sets.

It helps, I think, when directing good actors, to have been one yourself.  Too many directors, I find, have studied telling actors what to do without any real understanding of why and how actors do.

Roz Coleman as Calphurnia

Roz Coleman as Calphurnia

As the artistic director of a mid-tier Shakespeare festival with limited funds, it also pays to be deft at the husbandry of resources.  I’ve always maintained that good Shakespeare can be done on a bare stage in jeans and t-shirts.  But that probably doesn’t work quite so well if you are trying to sell it to the American masses, who are much better at seeing than they are at listening…  Mr. Mulcahy was able to rally the requisite team of creatives to paint a compelling picture and tell a believable story without the benefit of uncountable riches, and I imagine he was able to do that as a manifestation of his extensive experience.  Of course, experience doesn’t always guarantee any such result.  Not all regional theatre experiences can I call successes, and some that are would be better termed “happy accidents.”  But I think, in this case, that clear intention and an ability to work with and integrate all creative elements bolstered by a life already lived in the theatre were to be given the credit.

Spencer Plachy as Mark Antony

Spencer Plachy as Mark Antony

As for the play…  I haven’t seen many Caesars who didn’t stalk about the first half of this play declaiming self-aggrandizing platitudes, and making themselves so damned annoying that nobody ever really gave a shit when they got knifed to death in the assassination scene. That’s sort of how Shakespeare wrote him, and he can be forgiven for the parameters of his form that sometimes left characters to stand as representations of a thing more than the authentic human incarnation of that thing with all its nuance and complexity.  People aren’t simple. The way I see it, if we are telling stories about people, then no one in the story can be left as an unexplained idea, least of all the title character, or else the story isn’t ever really told… I didn’t want to be that guy.  Patrick Mulcahy and I both thought it much more important to the play to make it rather ambiguous whether the issue was ever really Caesar’s conceit and ambition, or the egos and jealousies of his assassins.  He had to behave in such ways as made people think about who he might actually be as a human being, not just what he represented.  When you begin to recognize the levels in a man, you can begin, perhaps, to empathize.  I wanted the audience to like him enough to mourn him when he died.  I think we did that.

Kathy Lauer-William wrote in The Morning Call: “Keith Hamilton Cobb’s Julius Caesar is something of an enigma. He is certainly charismatic but is he a danger? There are some hints of arrogance but it’s never clear if he would truly be a threat to Rome.”

Paul Willistein wrote in The Bethlehem Press: “Keith Hamilton Cobb, an imposing figure, strides the stage like a colossus (“This man has become a God,” Cassius marvels-warns) and yet he’s likable, humble and the least wrath-filled God this side of the universe”

And Mark Cofta wrote in Broad Street Review: “Keith Hamilton Cobb makes an appropriately enigmatic conqueror. Tall and dignified, with President Obama-style hair tinged with gray, he doesn’t seem “a man of such a feeble temper” as Cassius (Greg Wood, compelling as always) describes, and has a majestic charm that’s easy to like.”

I think my director and I found old Julius a little justice.

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from left: Henry Woronicz as Brutus, Steven Dennis as Metellus Cimber, Greg Wood as Cassius

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