Vince Eisenson has performed with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company since 2007 in such roles as Richard III, Puck, and Mercutio. He is a Teaching Artist as well as a Resident Actor. He has appeared with us in A Christmas Carol, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, and Cymbeline, among other productions.
Who is this Jack Rover fellow I’m getting to know so well, and what the devil is he about? A humble but ambitious traveling actor in 1791, he loans money generously and seduces chambermaids equally generously. Is Rover an honorable gent or a conniving rogue? Can he be both?
Rover fancies himself a fine actor, perhaps destined to take the London stage by storm. Yet he seems open to almost any detour to this plan, including pretending to be a rich squire and seducing…wait for it…a lady he happens to meet while seeking shelter on his way to a gig. His life appears to be one of extravagant whimsy, but is guided by a quest which remains a secret until the play’s end.
Jack has the combined memory of a herd of elephants, or is at least able to recall quotations from upwards of 25 plays almost instantly. Of course, there were no Netflix binges or Facebook updates to distract an actor in the late 1700’s, so it was probably easier to store and recall vast quantities of verse back then.
So how does one play a part like this? Naturally, I simply keep going over the lines. Still, one afternoon while going through a speech in my head, a woman on the street asked me a question and I replied, reflexively, with an appropriate quote from Twelfth Night. She gave me a puzzled look and I realized I understood who Jack Rover is.
As a touring player, required to perform at a moment’s notice, he almost always has to be “on.” It can be difficult to turn off the switch. We get to see a few moments in Wild Oats where he does, and that’s when he reveals quite a bit about himself to the audience. We find out that he’s a pretty decent guy who lives by a simple maxim: “Hurt nobody but myself.”
What turns the wheels of this part, and of the whole play, is the simple performer’s response: “Yes, and…”
When Jack finds himself a participant in an elaborate con, he quickly learns that his best course of action is to take whatever the other characters give him and build from it. As an actor, I do this in every play, but it’s particularly crucial in a grand farce where characters never know who will burst through the doors.
As we open the show, I know my fellow actors and I will keep “Yes, and-ing” our way into surprising moments. We can’t wait to share them with you.
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Resident Actor
PHOTOS BY TERESA CASTRACANE