For committed Shakespearean actors, their job is almost always to remain focused, realistic and deeply, deeply serious.
But “in Twelfth Night,” says actor Michael J. Hume, “our job is just to have as much fun as possible, to establish a spirit of relaxed hysteria and to have a great time. And we are. The spirit of fun, mirth and misrule are definitely there. We’re having a ball. I adore this play.”
Hume, a 24-year veteran of the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland is currently playing the foolish inebriate Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Marin Shakespeare Company’s rollicking production of Twelfth Night, directed by Lesley Currier. This is Hume’s fifth production of the play over the course of his career, but his first playing Sir Andrew, and his first appearance with Marin Shakespeare.
“I’ve known Robert and Lesley Currier forever,” he says. “But I’ve never been able to perform here because I’ve had a summer gig in Ashland since 1992.”
This year, however, Hume found himself with his first free summer season in two-and-a-half decades, after appearing in a production of Pericles at the renowned Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Committing to Pericles meant Hume would be unavailable for Ashland’s 2016 season, and when the Curriers learned he’d be gig-less this summer, Lesley immediately offered him the role of Sir Toby Belch.
Having played that part twice already—once as a youth at the American Conservatory Theater and six years ago at the Oregon festival—Hume said he’d rather take a crack at Sir Andrew, one of Shakespeare’s most complex comedic creations.
“I honestly had no idea how I’d play a character like Sir Andrew,” he says. “It actually scared me a little. Lesley said, ‘Michael, if Sir Andrew would make you happy, then you can play Sir Andrew.'”
Hume admits that, compared to the relative opulence of the Tony-winning Oregon festival, doing Twelfth Night on the Forest Meadows stage at Dominican University is a production that’s a bit less fancy than he’s become used to.
“At OSF,” Hume says with a laugh, “if my character needs a handkerchief, then wardrobe gives me 12 or 15 handkerchiefs. At Marin Shakespeare, someone says, ‘Hey, Michael, do you have a handkerchief you can use?’ It’s a mom-and-pop operation . . . a bit rough-and-tumble.
“But as actors,” he adds, “we all come from rough and tumble. Working here, doing this show, it’s a great reminder of what I got into theater to do in the first place—and it’s marvelous.”