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Valentine's Showcase: Interview with actors Josh Davis, Alice Lussiana Parente and Elize Layton

At Blind Cupid, one thing we are extremely proud of is our ability to work and connect with actors from all over the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has made performing very challenging, however a new opportunity has arisen that allows us to provide a platform for artists to connect and work together, regardless of what country they are in. Our Valentine's Showcase fundraiser All's Well As It Ends Well will feature a range of scenes and monologues from actors from around the globe and, yesterday, I had the pleasure of sitting down with three of them, over Zoom, to talk about the scene they shall be presenting for us Henry V Act 5 Scene II.

If you would like to read more about each of these actors and who they are, click on their picture in our All's Well As It Ends Well Company page, under Shows, and you will be able to read their full bios. Otherwise, please enjoy!

Hello guys! For the purposes of the interview, in your own words, please tell us who you are, where you are from and what role you are playing.

E: Hello, I'm Elize...(laughs), this is far too difficult! This is the hardest one. I'm in London, I'm from the UK and I'm playing Alice in Henry V.

J: Hi, I'm Josh. I'm Australian but I am speaking from New York City and I'm playing Papa Henry V in .... Henry V.

A: Hi! I'm Alice, I'm originally from Italy, speaking from Italy and I am playing Catherine in Henry V.

Whether upon a first read or as you have gone through rehearsal, what sort of things have struck out to you about the scene?

E: I knew it was a fun scene but I think I didn't realize how fun, how playful and how much joy there is in the relationship developing between Catherine and Henry. There's a wonderful arc present in that, and the way their relationship develops is really interesting and it's been a joy to discover and work with.

A: Yeah, same. I think, also, the whole 'lost in translation thing' is so much fun. Especially because we are all reading from different countries and we're all from different nationalities. I think it's very fun to play with something that we're probably all used to! (laughs) That whole 'lost in translation thing'. And I totally agree with Elize; it's so playful, so fun and in so many aspects, it's so modern.

J: Yeah. And, you know, this whole play- this whole chunk of Henry V- we've been following Henry as he becomes a king, as he becomes a man, as he becomes a soldier, all of this stuff. But now, he has to like...flirt (laughs). He has to win this girl over and he's not that good at it! So as the girls said; it's such a fun scene. Such a playful scene. And just to watch him try and fail and keep trying! But that connection built up between Catherine and Henry is really sweet.

Obviously, as you may have heard, we're working during a pandemic. How has the experience of working and performing over Zoom been for you guys?

J: Well, I mean, it's tough! There's a bit of lag that comes with Zoom and so trying to get the flow of the scene has been hard. Figuring out the timezones has also been challenging! We've got someone in GMT time, EST and I don't know...what's your one Alice?

A: I think we use Rome! (laughs) Or European? I don't know what it's called!

J: So yeah, figuring timezones! Elize has been good about getting the rehearsals going and figuring a time but it's challenging! But, it's also good that we have it, in its own way. You know? Thank god there is zoom or we wouldn't be able to do this! But there's some things we're playing with such as camera's coming on and off, plus other features of zoom that we're trying to sprinkle into the scene. So we'll see how that goes!

A: I think, related to what Josh said, it has its pros and its cons. The pros are that we can actually do this! We have the chance to unite theatre and screen work together because, when you work on zoom, you have a medium that is in between. So, it's a live show but it has all the same platforms as a short movie. So, we get to be creative on that. And the cons, obviously, are that it's so hard to create real connections over screen. At the same time though, I think we're incredibly lucky because we have so much fun during rehearsals that it almost seems like we're in the same room! Even though we are actually in three continents, because the UK is now no longer on planet earth? I'm joking! (laughs)

E: It's awful!

A: It's out of Europe so I believe it's now its own continent? I don't know (laughs). But even though we are now in separate countries, that could never be possible without a pandemic! We could never do a show in two continents and three countries. So, it has its good parts.

The theme of the showcase is "love". I would love to know what the concept of love means to each of you and to your characters.

E: Oh, that's such a big question! The concept of love!

A: Don't be shy, Elize! What is love?

E: What is love?! It's an eternal, embedded human emotion and experience. There are so many facilities and capabilities that it has! So, I think it's so hard to reduce to one situation or modality. Right, okay, the technical jargon is out of the way! (laughs). Yeah, I think that the love and relationship in this scene is really interesting. And in a lot of Shakespeare. You often have marriages and relationships between people who don't really know each other, for courting reasons and for so many different reasons that have nothing to do with love. Or, it's the fight of marrying for love rather than marrying for marriage's sake. But I think love is the most important human emotion and experience and it's what keeps us going and what keeps us connected. And in this pandemic, we haven't been able to see loved ones which has been one of the hardest things for a lot of people. And it just shows that love is what we all need! That feeling, that connection.

A: You can't live without it! To me, love is listening and sharing. And I think that is very much what we do on stage every day. We listen and we share. So, that's how I approach every character, even if it's not related to love. I listen to the people around me on stage and on Zoom and I try to share something about what is going on inside of me. I don't know how much Catherine understands but she does listen! And she likes to share as much as she can! But no spoiler alert on how this scene is going but me, Alice, is doing her best to share as much love as she can even through zoom.

J: For me, love is when you look at someone and you don't see yourself. You don't think; "you complete me" or "you make me feel good" or "you're my wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, sister, brother, mother, father", (different type of love, of course), you just see them for who they are completely and purely. Not what you can get from them, not what they mean to you but just them. So, that's love to me.

So, what do you think Henry sees when he sees Catherine?

J: That's the thing! Because, the way he's been brought up is that marriage is just a political move! They talk about this in the scene. And for people at the time- princes, kings etc- it was about strengthening political ties. He marries Catherine and he gets the land he just conquered. So that's the way he's been brought up. But I think that he wants to shirk all of that. Change how it's all been because I think he does love Catherine. And he falls more deeply in love with her as the scene goes on. He wants to be able to see her for what she is and I think he does in the scene. And I hope that she does too. I hope that she sees the true Henry. Not Henry the King, not Henry the warrior, not any of those things but just Henry.

Alice, from Catherine's point of view, do you think she sees potential for love from Henry at this point? Especially after he's invaded her land.

A: I think Catherine is used to seeing whatever other people are telling her to see. I don't think she lives in an era where she can decide to see much further or decide what she wants. I think she's conscious of the fact that she has to marry this guy, no matter what. She says; if it pleases the king, my father. She brings up the fact that England is the enemy of France but immediately it falls. But I think she finds a way to love the circumstances she's put in. I think Henry does a great job of wooing her and stepping out of his comfort zone. I don't underestimate the fact that he tries very hard to communicate with her, speak French to her. It's not just the fact that he has to marry her. I appreciate that.

And, Elize, as the third wheel of the scene, what do you think Alice is seeing?

E: I think Alice has a very good understanding of the bargain aspect. But for me, she wants something more for Catherine. I think, on the one hand, she does want it to work out. She's on Henry's team and is hopeful this union will happen. But, she also wants what is good for Catherine and so is protective of her. So they both take a long time to be convinced by Henry. She sees that there is a genuine question there.

Centuries after Shakespeare wrote his plays, why should audiences still go and see his work and why should they invest in a company like Blind Cupid?

J: I was once taught that an actor could only play Shakespeare, his whole life, and still play every aspect of the human condition. Throughout all the choices you can make, you can play every human experience that has ever existed. And that's why, when you look at this production which is obviously the theme of love, you can look at how many different versions of love there will be throughout these different scenes. Same playwright, same guy. Different circumstances, different characters, different relationships thus different point of views. And all the actors will bring in their own interpretations, views and choices. Shakespeare is such a vehicle to exploring every side of the human condition. That's why you should keep watching Shakespeare.

A: Okay, why Shakespeare? I believe Shakespeare is timeless. I believe, as Josh says, he brings to us every possible human condition. I think you have so much material to work on so why not? I feel that all his circumstances are so easily transformed into modern adaptations and that's why it's so timeless. Everyday, as an actor, I always think of ways of bringing Shakespeare to now. He wrote King Lear during the plague and so much of what he says relates to now. And the reason that people should invest in Blind Cupid is not just for this fundraiser, which is a great way of bringing Shakespeare to the Zoom platform, but also because of the mission of the company itself: to bring Shakespeares to communities abroad (at the moment, in Spain) that do speak English but don't have access to Shakespeare. So, I think it's important to reach out and bring it to as many people as possible. And especially to young adults or kids that are still, maybe, frightened by him. I remember in Italy, I'd talk to young kids and say the word "Shakespeare" and they would say things like: "Hard, boring, inaccessible." Which is just not true. It is hard but it is also so simple. And if you present it in the right way, which I believe is what Blind Cupid is trying to do, you can really make people fall in love with it and create an audience that one day will love going to the theatre and will love bringing and adapting the classics to the modern world.

E: I think all my points have been made! But yeah, the thing I have to agree with the most is just the universality of the themes and the timelessness of his works. And how transferable it is to the modern day. Look at examples such as And Juliet on the West End. You can put pop music in to it (I did a pop music version of R&J) and it makes it so accessible to modern audiences. By doing that, I got messages from kids after who said "I didn't like Shakespeare before but I love it now! It's totally changed it for me". And I think it's so important that we continue that tradition of bringing Shakespeare to communities and people so they can continue to learn from it and grow in themselves. Help them feel things that they might otherwise not feel as if they have permission to feel. The language is so expressive and so broad and deep, accessing core human emotions and allowing people to experience them for the fullest! That's why this company is so important because you want to take Shakespeare to communities that don't have access. And nowadays, especially during the pandemic, we really want to bring these stories and histories to all people and not make them only accessible to people who can afford to go to the theatre. We want it for everyone, so they can find joy and love from Theatre and Shakespeare.

Thank you so much cast of Henry V and see you on the 12th for performance night!

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