Interview with Anais West
“It was in TSP that I experienced all the wildness, confusion and rambunctious joy of adolescence … It’s where I formed relationships with some amazing theatre mentors who helped me develop as an artist and helped me take that leap of faith that is devoting your life to something as beautiful and precarious as the arts.” — Anais West
We’re always over the moon when TSP alum return for more… and here’s a prime example! Anais West, a veteren of four summers at Teen Shakespeare, is back to design sound for Julius Caesar. I was lucky enough to get a few words in with her about her experience with TSP.
Interview by Andrea Houssin.
Just so I’m caught up… What’s your history with Teen Shakespeare? How many years did you participate, and what roles did you play?
AW: I’ve been a part of TSP for four years, since Summer 2007 when I stumbled into it a hesitant, bumbling, but theatre-mad girl. I’ve been lucky enough to have always got the part I wanted in each production I’ve been a part of: the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, Audrey in As You Like It, Banquo in Macbeth, and Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew.
What has it been like for you, switching to the production side?
AW: It feel like it’s part of growing up. I get to sit at the adults’ table now. I also get to work more closely and on a more equal level with people I admire a lot (like Carole Higgins and Allan Zinyk) so I can steal all their wonderful techniques. There have been times when I’ve had the overwhelming desire to leap back onstage and start soliloquying, but I really do believe it’s time for me to let other people have a shot.
Why sound design?
Because it was the only job that did not require prior training in tech and I HAD to still be part of TSP in some way? Yes, but that’s not the only reason. I love music, especially period music, so when I found out TSP was setting Julius Caesar in the 1950s, I was all up in there.
What do you like about sound design? What’s challenging?
I love how simple sounds being produced in a certain pattern can bring up so many associations for the listener. I especially got to play with this while designing the sound for this production because of its ties with not only Ancient Rome, but the Godfather films: for instance, I try to make a variation of the Godfather Waltz play in Caesar’s scenes, so that the audience really feels his mob-boss presence. The greatest challenge has been trying to match certain sound cues with certain events playing out in scenes. I have difficulties with this because in a live show, something like the lead-up to the conspirators stabbing Caesar, as well as the first stab, all take slightly different amounts of time to play out each night. So I can’t just have one long track I play for the whole scene, but rather multiple tracks I have to play one after another from different sources.
What does sound bring to this show, in particular? What role does your work play?
Sound really helps flesh out the setting. Set and Costumes does most of the work, but sound really helps. Part of the elements that make up our ideas of Rome are the ancient instruments, the war drums, the shouts of the Plebians, not just the columns, togas and gladiators. Sound also helps give things emotional value. A certain song could be tied to the relationship between two characters, and this can become their “theme.” For example, I’ve using the Speak Softly Love (The Godfather Love Theme) to represent Cassius and Brutus’ connection.
What has TSP meant to you?
I don’t know if I can sum that up in a couple of sentences. Saying “everything” wouldn’t be an exaggeration. It was in TSP that I experienced all the wildness, confusion and rambunctious joy of adolescence. It’s where I’ve met friends and some more-than-friends. It’s where I formed relationships with some amazing theatre mentors who helped me develop as an artist and helped me take that leap of faith that is devoting your life to something as beautiful and precarious as the arts.
What’s up next for you?
I’m going to be performing at this year’s Fringe Festival, in a show called ROVE: The Legend of Rusty Point. After that, I plan on taking up the accordion, until January, which is when I start theatre school at Studio 58.
Why should people see Julius Caesar?
Because it’s young people breathing life into the greatest poetry ever written. Because it’s all the grandeur and tragedy of Ancient Rome combined with the cool and the edge-of-your-seat action of The Godfather. And because IT’S FREE.
And finally… any other comments for our readers?
COME SEE THE SHOW!!!