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Quick Questions with Patrick Page (Coriolanus) and Steve Pickering (Wallenstein)

Patrick Page

Photo of Patrick Page in STC's 2005 production of 'Othello' by Carol Rosegg.

What is the difference between a hero and a traitor?

PATRICK: The eye of the beholder.

STEVE: For me, both words require a solid act of selflessness or self-sacrifice for the benefit of the “greater good” to be credible descriptions. Which word you choose depends entirely on the eye of the beholder, though. A soldier in combat, who—motivated by his own common decency—saves the life of an enemy combatant, would be a hero to one army—a traitor to his own.

Hands down, both of our characters are military “heroes.” It’s only in the civilian political arena that the definition of “traitor” impacts the Grey Zone. Coriolanus would never see himself as a traitor—and I agree with him, regardless of his extreme social point of view.

Wallenstein, on the other hand, is very much aware that what he’s doing will, by many, be interpreted as treason—and for good reason, as he has a hard time defining what he’s doing as anything but that.

What questions do you think an audience will take away from these productions of Coriolanus and Wallenstein?

PATRICK: For Coriolanus, I hope the audience asks what it means to be true to one’s self. Do we know our selves? Is the “self” we believe in our genuine self, or a false construct created by family, country, culture and peers? What might one do to protect one’s image of the self if it were threatened? If I think of myself as patriotic, courageous and selfless, what happens if I discover I am actually, selfish, disinterested in my country’s well-being and terrified of extinction?

From both plays I think one might question what it means to be loyal.  Is loyalty—especially to one’s country—absolute, or conditional? And finally, how well do we understand our own motives? Both Coriolanus and Wallenstein justify their actions, but both are dealing with deep unconscious forces that shape their behavior. Do wars, alliances and treaties really come down to psychological issues, more than political ones?

STEVE: Both plays are so astonishingly timely, I’d hope we can inspire folks to read more about the real events and historical periods in which the plays are set—to better appreciate, as we have, just how close both cultures’ sociopolitical and military crises are to our own. It seems nothing changes.

Steve Pickering

Photo of Steve Pickering in STC's and Goodman Theatre's 2006 co-production of 'King Lear' by Liz Lauren.

What draws you to the role?

PATRICK [on Coriolanus]: The difficulty of the role drew me to it. I think he may be the hardest of Shakespeare’s heroes. His language is frightfully complex, his personality is daunting and the physical and vocal demands of the role are intense. I wanted to test myself against that. I am also drawn to the psychology of the character—particularly as it relates to his narcissism and his relationships with his mother and his shadow-figure, Aufidius.

STEVE [on Wallenstein]: Answer one is Michael Kahn, Robert Pinsky and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Answer two is Wallenstein’s willingness—for the sake of human lives—to demolish the political system that has made him rich and powerful. And his fondness for red capes.

What is interesting about the other title character?

PATRICK [on Wallenstein]: I find the fact that Wallenstein is inventing a new way of approaching politics fascinating. He’s an innovator. A thinker in a way Coriolanus is not.

STEVE [on Coriolanus]: His genuine inability to compromise. Amuses the hell out of me—especially in the splendid way Patrick Page plays it.

What is your favorite line in the play?

PATRICK [on Coriolanus]: “I’ll never be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand as if a man were author of himself and knew no other kin.”

STEVE [on Wallenstein]: “Young idiots love to boast about their dying. Your death—your posturing—won’t be needed today.”

If Coriolanus had an iPod, what would be playing on it?

PATRICK: Phillip Glass’ score to Mishima (Yukio Mishima was a model I used for Caius Martius), along with lots of patriotic marches played by drum and bugle corps and marching bands.

STEVE: Unstoppable by e. s. posthumous.

And Wallenstein’s iPod?

PATRICK: I bet Wallenstein listens to books on tape.

STEVE: Face the Face by Pete Townshend.

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