Brutus and Cassius, the two Romans on the balcony plotting the assassination of Caesar, an hour ago were the amiable fellows Paul L. Coffey '98 and Joshua Scharback '98. On the Theater at Monmouth stage, Brutus resembles the young Dustin Hoffman. Brutus and Cassius both project well-versed, sure-footed mettle.
Even though it's the next to last performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in Monmouth's repertory season and everybody is well past opening-night jitters, both actors took the stage an hour early to rehearse the assassination with their fellow conspirators, making sure they'd got it in hand. Scharback, the company's fight choreographer, spent 2000-2001 learning the craft in a workshop at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and knows someone can easily get poked in the eye. Twice in slow motion the conspirators polished off the tyrant.
When the bloody, dark play ends two hours later on a sunny, 80-degree August afternoon in Maine, you'd think the actors, like divers coming up from the depths, might need readjustment to real life, their real life being the theaterCoffey and Scharback are on stage changing the set for the evening performance, The Philadelphia Story. They act major roles in that play, too.
Coffey, back in shorts and T-shirt, seems remarkably cool for a guy who just murdered Julius Caesar. He's checked his e-mail and wonders where to take his visiting parents to dinner. Next up may be "a little power nap or more errands. Get something to eat." The call for the 8 o'clock performance of The Philadelphia Story is 7:30, and when the actors come back it's similar to the afternoon routine: running through lines, stretching like athletes before their event.
"They're extremely long days here," says Scharback.
"Day and night," Coffey says. A three-day break is the longest time he's had off this summer.
"You're always on a bit of a high," Scharback says, explaining how he stays juiced up over the two-month season, though he admits it's sometimes tough mustering energy in crowd scenes for AARP audiences on summer afternoons.
"That's why a repertory theater is good," says Coffey. "You never get old at one show. You switch genres. In college you have a few weeks to rehearse one show, but we rehearse them all at the same time. There's a theater saying: 'You don't know what play you're in until you see what costume you're in.'"