Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Introducing JC Vasquez!

In Actors Shakespeare Company's ten-year history, Romeo has been played by Zach Calhoon, Colin Ryan and, in a recent ASC Lab, by Jonathan Hopkins. ASC’s Blogger sat down for a chat with JC Vasquez to get to know the company’s newest Montague a bit better.

ASC: What does the JC stand for?
JC: Juan Carlos. I’m Colombian by way of Miami. I was born in Miami. The reason I usually go by JC is because my name in Spanish typically sounds very beautiful but in English sometimes sounds ugly. Also in loud spaces people sometimes think my name is Warren or One, which I do think is funny because there was a Paul Rodriguez movie called ‘Juan in a Million’ (note: that 1994 film is actually called A Million to Juan, but it’s still funny JC!). It’s actually the second most common name next to Mohammed.

How did you get from Miami to New York?
I came to New York for graduate school. I got accepted into the Actors Studio at the New School for Drama. That was a three year program and I’ve been here ever since.

How did you end up finding ASC at NJCU?
That was through Playbill or Backstage. I auditioned and was invited back for a Company callback, but the callback never happened. Lo and behold I ended up seeing another audition notice for the Company, so I sent an email saying “I’d like my callback please!” And so I was invited to a callback and then I got invited to do [The Scottish Play]. And then I auditioned again and got Romeo.

Shakespeare is not where you’ve done most of your work previously. What sort of work had you done before this?
I’m contemporary. I was trained in a more contemporary style. In the past I’ve done a lot of downtown theater and experimental, avant-garde type of stuff. I’ve gotten to do many types of theater but I’ve never gotten to do Shakespeare before now.

This production has a more contemporary look and feel. Do the character and language feel contemporary to you?
Thinking of him as contemporary definitely gives me more license to ask “what would I do as a 16-year-old now?” It creates more freedom for me because I don’t have to feel constricted by the period or be unsure of what the social constructs were back then. If there were any, since it doesn’t feel as though these characters are very limited. Obviously you can’t change the language – the language is of the period. But what you can bring to it is your behavior and I think that’s what will make it seem more contemporary. I can tell you for example in the scene with Romeo and Mercutio’s vulgar wordplay [Act II, scene IV], I keep on having the image of playing around with guy friends where they’ll play the ‘smell-my-fingers’ game. You know what I mean? That sort of behavior is something contemporary audiences get and that’s what I like to watch, as somebody who doesn’t have so much Shakespeare experience. What I like to watch onstage is when the acting is clear in the physicality. I might not be listening for whatever reason, but if I see somebody play around with gestures suddenly I know what they’re talking about. We’re talking about sex? I’m back in!

How has the experience of working on one role in Romeo and Juliet differed from the many roles you played in The Scottish Play?
It’s not really that different. With Romeo, each scene he’s in shows me a different side of him. If I was looking at the beginning of the play and I fast-forward to the end of the play, these could be characters in different plays because they’re so different. It’s simpler [than The Scottish Play] because I don’t have to come up with a different physicality for each character, but I do have to discover how Romeo is different. And to make it even more nuanced, to find out how he is different from me.

What have you found? How is he different from you?
He speaks his mind. Romeo is somebody who, in a way, doesn’t have a censor. It’s either his sense of beauty or love, but everything is so much that he can’t contain it and his heart is going to explode. Or the flipside, when his despair is so great that his heart’s going to implode. But he can’t ever just say ‘nothing’ about it. That’s a big thing, because I don’t find myself ever having very much to say. And even if I do, I’m hard pressed to talk about it. I think that’s the main thing. What I have that’s similar to Romeo is that I am such a romantic. When I was younger, I had three big books that I used to write in all day. A few lines of poetry would come into my head about my day and I would have to write them down! I relate to his feelings of yearning for love or the beauty in life. His need for love, I guess is what it is. I can relate to that, but everybody can.

Are there any roles you’d like to play in the future?
I would love to play Valentine (Two Gentlemen of Verona) – that’s my audition monologue and I’ve never seen a production. And I would love to play Edgar in King Lear. I love him.

Do you have any thoughts on what you’re doing after Romeo and Juliet?
I don’t really know. I’ve really been focusing on this production. Actually, I kind of vowed not to do any more theater after this project and only do film, but I always make a vow like that at some point and I always come back. This last time I made this vow was in July of last year. I decided I was going to quit acting. But I only lasted six months before I ended up coming back. And I ended up getting this!

So I guess theater is your Rosaline…or maybe your Juliet?
It can be both! I like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “art is a jealous mistress”. I think that’s very true.

JC Vasquez will be playing Romeo in Actors Shakespeare Company at NJCU’s production of Romeo and Juliet from November 5–21, 2010 at the West Side Theater. Tickets are available through

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