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Interview: Carl Swanson of SOMETHING ROTTEN at Lyric Arts

This production runs now through August 14th

Interview: Carl Swanson of SOMETHING ROTTEN at Lyric Arts It's 1590 in beautiful, plague-ridden England and the Bottom Brothers are desperate to write a play to undermine the success of that Renaissance playwriting rock star, "The Bard!" When the brothers seek aid from the local soothsayer, they learn the future of theater involves singing, dancing, and acting-all at the same time! To take down their rival, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world's very first musical. But amidst the scandalous excitement of opening night, the Bottom Brothers realize that reaching the top means being true to thine own self, and all that jazz...

We chat with Carl Swanson who plays William Shakespeare about his role and the production.

How does it feel to have live audiences and theaters back?

It feels amazing! This is my 4th show since theaters have started to come back but I still feel so grateful for the chance to perform live again! There truly is nothing quite like performing in front of a live audience and getting that immediate response from them. During the pandemic, I did a lot more film and Zoom plays and such, and while I enjoy doing film, the feeling of having a collective experience in one room with a group of people is one that you don't get in many other places besides theater.

What inspired you to pursue performing?

The human experience fascinates me. How people think and why they make the choices they do is something that I think about a lot. What better profession to explore than acting! You have the chance to be so many different people and think about what makes them tick.

I will also say that it was an obvious option from a young age. Growing up I was always a pretty loud kid who loved the attention. My parents like to tell stories of me entertaining the kitchen table by just talking about my day. Once I got into the school I got bit by the performing bug rather quickly and knew that it was something I wanted to pursue beyond High School. I attended the University of WI - Stevens Point for a BFA in acting and after graduating immediately moved to the Twin Cities and started working! I've been very blessed with consistent work in my time here, and the beauty of the profession of acting is that education is never done. There are always new things to learn with each role.

How does this role compare to other roles you've played?

Shakespeare is pretty different from many of the roles I've played. I often have been cast as the sidekick or comedic relief side character or the older role. It's a fun change of pace to play a character who is rather narcissistic while still finding the moments of humor in him. It's also been fascinating to play a character who has had their ego built up by everyone around them and the pressure that comes with that.

What was your process for developing your character?

I always start with a character's walk and voice. How they walk and move through space informs how they respond to people and how they view the world. Like I said above Shakespeare is the Rock Star and center of attention in almost every scene he's in. And such I thought what a better way to move through space than to strut. Lead with the legs and pelvis to always show that cockiness that follows him.

Also, it's been fun to play with accents in this role. Even with the play being set in London, Shakespeare is the only one with any kind of British Accent. The accent informs both me, the other characters, and the audience of Shakespeare's status. He needs to float above everyone and I hope that I've captured that.

But, the most important thing with a ridiculous comedy like this one is timing. The sheer amount of jokes in this show is ridiculous. Luckily we have an incredible cast of comedians who all make this show sing!

Do you have a favorite song in the show?

There are far too many great songs in this show to pick just one:

Favorite song to perform: "Hard to Be the Bard"

It's so fun to start Act 2 with it and it's a rare look at Shakespeare when he's alone and to see his insecurities.

The song I think is the funniest: "Black Death"

Honestly, the lyrics of this song mixed with Hannah and Scott's staging makes me laugh every time.

The song I wish I was in: "A Musical"

This is probably the song that people will remember the most while walking away from the show. The mixture of pure spectacle and the hilarity of musical theatre tropes and references make this a near-perfect show-stopping musical number.

Did you face any challenges with your character or the production?

The major challenge for me was the fact that he's not in that much of the show and thus you don't get a ton of rehearsal time since there are far more pressing things like big musical numbers to rehearse and clean.

Beyond that, there are some very intricate subtle jokes in this show that just took some time to figure out the timing.

How was working with the cast and the creative team?

Scott Ford is a comedic genius! I love working with him cause he just gives small ideas for bits and things that you can take and really run with. I also love the freedom he gives an actor when coming up with the character while still keeping you in the world of his vision! Love Scott!

Hannah Weinberg-Goerger's choreography has been so fun to learn and do especially the tap dancing portions. My favorite was the tap battle which allowed Kyler and me some freedom to create some comedic bits through tap dance. It's been a very collaborative process with her which I thoroughly enjoy!

Working with Anna Murphy has been a blessing as well! She's been great about taking the music as is and then adjusting things when needed to fit the voices of those playing the characters. She also just has a great ear and can always let you know when something could be better which I always love!

Also big shout out to our incredible stage manager Jenna Hyde for steering this beast of a show every night and killing it!

This cast has been an absolute joy to work with! The creative team did an incredible job not only casting a bunch of talented people but also a bunch of really funny people. We've laughed so much in this process both from the ridiculousness of the show itself but also just because everyone is at the top of their comedic game when performing! It's also fun because everyone is such a clown and likes to change things up so the show always stays fresh.

What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing this production?

Honestly just that they had a great time! That's the point of this show, to make people laugh and to possibly escape from this kind of crappy world we're living in. I think our goal is just to make someone's day better! To make them forget their problems for at least a little while.

What are your favorite local spots?

If you mean like places to eat? lol

A favorite place of the cast is always Bostons! Great food and drink at a reasonable price.

Other good places around the theatre are:

The Wheelhouse

10K Brewing

Billy's Bar

201 Tavern

Thank you Carl for your time!

For more show and ticket information, click the ticket button link below.

Photo courtesy of Lyric Arts

From This Author - Jared Fessler

Jared [He/Him] is originally from Iowa and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up doing theatre and studied music, dance, and theatre with additional training in BFA musical theatre.

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