Language is a wonderful thing. Sometimes working in another language can be really freeing; It can give you something extra to discover new things with and to find new spaces in yourself, but sometimes only you own language can help you to really connect to the deeper layers of certain characters and stories. Which is something I experienced during the Park Avenue Summer Intensive of 2023.
For the intensive, I had chosen to work on a monologue of Brutus wherein he explains to the audience why he has no other choice but to betray and aid in the murder of his good friend Caesar. Quite a heavy topic, but this monologue, where he struggles with this choice and tries to convince himself as well as the audience, intrigued me from the moment I read it.
But how to tackle a character with a dilemma like this? I had only worked on the monologue a bit, but Jo really has a talent for figuring out which players need which exercises. So of course, Jo knew exactly which exercises would help me the most and first we did some exercises where she really challenged me to connect with the words of the text. During this I already felt the emotions and thoughts of Brutus coming up, but it was still stuck somewhere below the surface. Which Jo noticed I think, because then she gave me the final exercise; which was to do the monologue in my own words and in my own language and wow, this was powerful.
The first sentence was really difficult. I had to really search for the words in Dutch that could best explain it; which words can really portray the brutality and tragedy of Brutus’ first sentence? Impossible, but after a while I had found the words in Dutch, but they were still really hard to say for some reason. Somehow, I still did, and the interesting thing was, I was not even three words into the monologue before the floodgates opened (I literally started crying). Everything that had been stuck below the surface, that I had felt building up in the previous exercises, it connected and came pouring out. In that moment while doing that monologue, it all snapped into place. I came to the absolute horrific realization, realized the horrible truth, that Brutus really had no other choice, truly no other option, but to betray and murder his friend. And Brutus fully understood what this meant. He understood the consequences. Understood that he would lose everyone and everything with this choice. No-one would understand why he did it, Caesar was his friend.
But no-one understood Caesar like Brutus did.
This was not a decision born from selfishness, jealousy or some power-grab. Brutus understood the workings and mechanisms of power, spend years in the senate and watched politicians rise and fall. He deeply loved and admired his friend, but he also knew what power of this magnitude would do to Caesar. And what a Caesar with this kind of power, without any check and balances would mean for the world.
In a way it was an act of love.
That night, I kept thinking about the character, his dilemma, his loneliness, his strength, his intelligence, his love for Caesar and it kept clicking into place. It is fascinating. I love this part of acting. This feeling, connecting with characters, merging with them until you understand and feel them on a deep level. This is not the first time I’ve experienced this, but I’ve never experienced this connection happening this quickly through only a couple of exercises in one day. It’s one of those annoying things that only happen when you’re not deliberately looking for it. But it was an amazing experience and Brutus now holds a very special space in my heart (poor guy). And thanks to Jo for giving me the right exercises at the right moment!