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Shakespeare in Yosemite: Posthumus Leonatus

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Sep 16, 2021 at 04:25 PM in Project News

While filming Imogen in the Wild, Shakespeare in Yosemite’s research assistant Monica Perales interviewed the cast and crew about their experience adapting Cymbeline. This seventh interview presents Monica in conversation with Tonatiuh Dwayne Newbold, who plays Posthumus Leonatus. Watch the video below to hear Tonatiuh performing Leo’s love song for Imogen, and read on about his experience learning Shakespeare, dealing with car troubles during rehearsals, and realizing the potential of ecotheatre.

MP: What is your experience acting in Shakespeare, and what draws you to these plays?

TN:  I had a first introduction to Shakespeare in my senior year of high school. I took an “Introduction to Shakespeare” course and had one of my favorite teachers in high school. He got the course approved, opened up the course, and we were the first trial run of the class.

MP: That sounds amazing.

TN: It was amazing. I met a good friend of mine in there, and we always duoed acting in front of the class. We had to present four different scenes throughout the year because we read four different plays. We didn't do it to be perfect. We did it to really express the emotion and setting Shakespeare in the current time period, or alternate time periods. It really made me think about adapting Shakespeare as a whole; more than just Shakespeare, I think plays in general, just the idea of adapting them to fit another setting to tell a story—an alternate story—in tandem with classic tales that majority of people are familiar with through Shakespeare media. I had never thought about it before that time, and it was beautiful and amazing. Years down the line, I was here at the UC and things came together, and here I am doing Shakespeare in Yosemite. I love it.

MP: What is your personal experience with environmentalism and ecotheatre?

TN: Environmentalism wasn't always a facet of who I am. I would say it's not like I was directly opposed to it, I was just oblivious and more aware of other things around me at the time, but by happenstance, I surrounded myself with a lot of people who were more conscious about those issues at a key point in my life where I feel like I had a lot of growth. I was still learning a lot about who I was, and I'm very thankful because their influence around me really pushed me into better directions and better habits, [like] being more conscious of my own impact on the local community and how that affects everyone. 

Ecotheatere has been new for me the past few years. I'll be really honest. It hasn't really been until Shakespeare in Yosemite where I was doing any of that in terms of the stage. Now, I've been doing it for three years—I don't know if we're counting the year of which we shall not speak its name—but I feel like in those plays, the [most influential for me] was my first one, when I played Lysander. I really enjoyed what we were doing and why we were doing it, but I was still new. I was a fresh face to the whole ecotheatre scene, so I really did allow myself to be used as more of an instrument for Katie and Paul, what their directions were, and they told me to do X, Y, and Z and I would do X, Y, and Z without question. I obviously still had my own take on playing Lysander, but I feel like especially this year, I actually feel connected to what we're doing in this production. I feel like there's a reason for it. I felt personally I was ready to do more things that I believed in already at the time, especially since last year's production never occurred. 

I really did feel like I wanted to double down, and then, when I discovered that this was for this organization Cymbeline in the Anthropocene—back when we were still doing callbacks and everything was like, whoa. When I found out that everything that we were doing this year was for this global organization, I thought that was more of a reason, an opportunity to really come back in double force. I feel like it's actually something that I would pursue. This is kind of what Billy [Wolfgang] told me yesterday: grassroots theatre. I had never really put that terms of theater; I always put that in terms of music. It's cool. It's a better medium than just music alone.

MP: How does your character relate to or understand the environment in the play world, and how might this differ from other characters?

TN: I feel like Leo is in the first stage of that [understanding]. There are a lot of points in the play where really [he] was hurt for emotional reasons, and he [travels] out to nature to seek out healing. I think that's a really important motif in Shakespeare, the whole city-versus-nature theme, and I think that's a really key issue in this play. I feel like whereas most other people go out into nature because they're lost, or they need to reconcile something and have a change of heart out there, I feel like Leo has an emotional attachment. He knows if his soul is broken, being [in the wild] is going to fix it. I feel like he's the first character who really is like, "I am hurt, I will go out to nature." I feel like that's a really important piece to his healing.

MP: How do you think ecotheatrical productions can impact environmental consciousness in the cast, crew, and/or audience?

TN: There's a lot of common ground [in the play] with things that happen in the present, and history repeats itself. I feel like that's a core essence of ecotheatre: really showing people that problems and issues that happened in the past are still happening today. When things are accomplished and things progress in society, there's still always a regress of where culture is, and I feel like it's important with ecotheatre to tell stories of problems that people might think are behind us, or even stories that sometimes don't get much input into the grander scheme of things. I feel like you can bend stories that people know the trends and themes or morals to, and really apply that to any setting and make an audience recognize, "oh, these are still issues," or "oh, insert positive inference here." I feel like that's the essence of what we're doing here. Most organizations, like Cymbeline in the Anthropocene, are doing that as well.

MP: What do you hope viewers will take away from this performance? 

TN: This performance! There's a big key at the end where every storyline comes together and finishes. There are a lot of points where there's some obvious Shakespeare clashes in there: where Shakespeare doesn't really wrap things up, and things don't really seem to have the prettiest bow around them. I think an important thing to remember is what's central to this—the core of everything [in the play]—is forgiveness. I feel like with that bow of forgiveness in mind, you can wrap up a lot of the things that do get solved in the play, and things that don't get solved. A key line is, "the power I have on you is to forgive you," and I feel like that can be said across the board. If you let go of your ego like Iachimo did, like Cymbeline did, and by the end of the day we forgive each other for any past transgressions, that's a really important thing regardless where we're at in any kind of climate. At least being able to forgive each other is a good stepping point. That's a big and essential issue in this play, at least the way we framed it. I feel like if there's anything I hope that's what people take away from this: forgiveness.

MP: What has been a highlight and a challenge for you in your involvement in this production?

TN: My car broke down. It was really stupid actually! So already, I'm living in the park. Getting to Merced was already a drive, which is not really an issue, like that's not that far at at all, but I went on vacation like the week we started rehearsing, and on my vacation driving seven to eight hours down south, my drive shaft ripped out of my car. For a month, every single weekend, I was borrowing my dad's truck. Thank God, thank Mom and Dad, that I was actually on vacation with them! I borrowed my dad's truck and left my car over at their place and went back every weekend to do more work on it. I think in a previous life and years before when everything was a lot more hectic, the driving would have killed me, but at this point, I feel like I've been living in the park for so long that driving actually wasn't as much of an issue. I feel like in terms of thinking progressive about the things that were good in this whole production, realizing driving was an issue, I spent a lot of time with this cast. I feel like they were key people that I knew from working with in the past like Katie and Paul and Lisa and all these people. This time I really was just like, "Oh you need me to be in Merced? I'll be there." I spent a lot of time with the cast this time around, and it was really nice. That was good.

MP: My final question is do you have any other thoughts you'd like to share or maybe even answer a question you wish I would have asked?

TN: Good question. I think a really important way to look at things is that everything is changing. This is a very broad, very general thing, that nothing is truly static, and if there's any way that you can influence that to move in a positive direction for anything—whether it's for personal reasons, for a friend, for the urge, or for the environment—why wouldn't you? I hope that what we're doing here is pushing that in the right sort of direction.