Patrick Vest played Macbeth opposite Renee O'Connor's Lady Macbeth in a Shakespeare by the Sea production of Macbeth. Mr. Vest is a fun guy, full of life and charm -- not to mention the nicest person to talk to. He is very easygoing and enthusiastic. This interview took place on July 6, 2002.
Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare (01-06)
Acting History (07-10)
Plumbing the Depths of Macbeth (11-22)
Memorizing Shakespeare (23-26)
Connecting to the Character (27-28)
Interview Aftermath (29)
AN INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK VEST
Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare
 How many Shakespeare plays have you done before?
 This is my nineteenth Shakespeare production.
 Nineteenth! Wow! You are a pro.
 I've done a lot, yeah, ever since I graduated from college. My first professional work was in [Washington, DC], doing Shakespeare. Then I moved to Seattle and did Shakespeare. Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare. I formed my own company up there doing Shakespeare. Then I moved down here, did three shows two summers ago.
 So this has been your trademark?
 Yeah, I don't know why. I love classical theatre. I wrote a show about Henry David Thoreau, as well, which I've toured with. So those two are my loves - Shakespeare and Thoreau.
 How long have you been acting?
 Since I was a kid. Long time. Longer than I've not been acting.
 Have you done Macbeth before?
 No I hadn't. I hadn't played the part or been in the show.
Plumbing the Depths of Macbeth
Rehearsing a fight scene in Macbeth
 So what drew you to the part?
 Actually, I did a DVD, just this past summer, where I played Banquo. So it was interesting coming to this show, because my whole experience with Macbeth was, "Here's the guy who's going to kill me." So [I had] to really find something to love about him.
 What I love about [Macbeth] is that, more than any other character, I think, in Shakespeare, or maybe that I've ever seen, he just responds to whatever is in his moment. So, he meets these witches and he believes in them, he responds to them positively. He decides not to kill Duncan, then his wife comes in and says, "You're going to do it." "Ok, I'm going to do it."
 It's that childlike quality that's just so exciting. And he has such supreme confidence. When he decides to do something, it's done. You know, "I go, and it's done." So, that's what excited me about it. Cause it's just so much fun to delve into that. It was hard. It was daunting, cause everybody has these expectations about what Macbeth is.
 I know that with people I have talked to, that you and Renee [O'Connor] have switched many people's opinions of these characters. In that, they are not evil villains. They are human beings with a purpose.
 Right. That's great.
 Someone mentioned the idea of the amateurness, almost, of what they are doing. They have never done this before.
 Oh absolutely! They're horrible liars. She's "Oh, what? In our house?" What kind of lie is that? It's horrible. He's like "I'm sorry, I did kill them." It's just, they're not good at that. Exactly.
 I love that playfulness.
 It's interesting. I've seen Macbeth before. I saw it years and years ago on stage, and I saw the Ian McKellen one not so long ago. And it's just, [Macbeth, the character,] always seemed so dour, and so, kind of pensive. I think that's for Hamlet, you know? I think Macbeth is a man of action. It's exciting.
 The physicality you bring to the role-
 Thanks. You know. Many people keep coming up to me and going, "Well, you've done different things with it." And I'm like, "Oh well, ok. Yeah, I guess."
 One question I wanted to ask, because Renee O'Connor told me to ask you, was about memorization. (He laughs.) You are "Mister Experience."
 For me, especially with Shakespeare, it's very easy for me. Renee and I both work in the same way, which is Meisner training. We both come from that kind of background, which is being in the moment. Because, if you know what you're saying, then Shakespeare's words are so much better than any I can put on them. So as long as I know what I'm saying, from moment to moment, from beat to beat--this is what this guy is about, this is what he's saying, this is what he's trying to get. Shakespeare's words are great and mine are… this. (He points to his mouth and laughs.)
 So the key is understanding?
 Absolutely, and with verse especially. The times where I've done Shakespeare where it's in prose, it's been harder, because the verse just sings.
Connecting to the Character
Patrick Vest in three earlier roles: (left to right):
(1) With Jennifer Mack as Oberon and Titania; (2) With Chris Benson as Hotspur and Prince Henry; and
(3) With J.J. Mayes as Prince John and Price Hal
 Is there anything about Macbeth the character specifically -- because Shakespeare's a bit heightened, obviously -- that you were able to find in the character to connect to?
 We're doing two shows now, but some of us were only in one, because obviously we couldn't do both. We had a first read through, and then Renée and I went and rehearsed that first night. So we have to do these scenes and just connect and be that sort of couple and have that energy. And the safeness developed between me, her, and Anna [Andersen], our director. We just had this sort of comfort level. And that's where [we found that] sort of "we're in it together." I felt safe.
Interview Aftermath A few weeks after the interview, I had a chance to email Mr. Vest and ask him about his Meisner training. Several people have asked me for further explanation on this technique which both he and Renee O'Connor use. In addition to suggesting the book Sanford Meisner: On Acting by Meisner and Dennis Longwell, and recommending I check out the acting classes at Playhouse West in North Hollywood, he also shared his own experiences:
… I'll tell you in my own words what I think of the Meisner "Method". (I put that in quotes because I'm not crazy about the word method. To me it has a sour connotation because everybody I've ever met who called themselves method actors have been self-indulgent freaks...but maybe that's just me.) I think of my Meisner training as the best thing I ever did for myself. Back in college and throughout most of my career as an actor, I was very technically proficient. I could break down a script, hit my mark, and give the same performance night after night. Only occasionally did I feel like I was missing something. It was during those magical moments when I was "in the moment". And for something like twelve years of my professional career, I assumed that being in the moment was a lucky gift that happened very rarely. I had no idea that there was a way of working that would put me in that space, until I went to Playhouse West. The day that I went there to audit (and you can only audit the basic level class), there were two students doing a scene, and it was so real and powerful and unexpected that I knew I had to learn to do what they were learning to do.
The goal of the technique is listening to your acting partner and responding from the gut. If you audit the class or read the book you will better understand the tools used for doing this. But you and your partner repeat one another until something from deep within you makes you change what you say.
As an actor, I was so comfortable working from my intellect for so long that it took me quite awhile to break down my bad habit>s and become alive in the moment. There are a lot of really good actors out there who understand how to be in the moment without ever taking a class, but for me it was painstaking, but so worth it. And when you get the chance to work with someone who works the same way you do. Someone committed to listening and being in the moment, no matter what that moment is...it's special.
I think people have responded so positively to Macbeth because Renee and I are so connected. And we're so connected because we allow ourselves the luxury of only listening to one another and seeing where that takes us. I used to be the kind of actor that had to plan out my every line reading. I now shudder when I run across this type of actor, because it's not truthful. It's not in the moment. And it leads to very stale, boring performances.
Anyway, thanks for your interest in my approach. I could talk about acting/theatre/art forever and never get tired of it. But truly, the book and the class are better sources to really get to know the technique.
Sarah Mears, "An Interview with Renee O'Connor", Whoosh! #73 (10/02)
Sarah Mears, "Renee O'Connor in Macbeth", Whoosh! #73 (10/02)
Sarah Mears, "An Interview with Anna Andersen", Whoosh! #73 (10/02)
Sarah hails from Ohio where she performed in and worked behind the scenes in some 50 stage productions. She's now living in Los Angeles trying to work professionally in the big, bad world of the entertainment industry. Sarah has been a faithful Xena: Warrior Princess fan since 1998. For more information about Sarah's work go to http://PrincessMoon.biz. Further ramblings from Sarah may be found at her fan website, The Acropolis, http://samxart.8m.com/acropolis.html.
Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE, ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, and FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Lookin' good!" FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS
First episode seen: SACRIFICE II
Least favorite episode: SOUL POSSESSION