We are pleased to give you another actor spotlight, this time on core company member and Associate Producer Tess Burgler. This is her 14th summer with OSF, and she will be playing Ariel (Tempest) and Maid Marian (Robin Hood), and assistant directing Macbeth. She also writes and directs the Greenshows.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.
This is actually harder to answer than I thought it would be! I started compiling a list of facts (I’m scared of heights, I like to read, Christmas is my favorite day…) but I don’t think that’s very helpful. I think it’s a hard question to answer because everything important I would tell you about myself is answered already in the next interview question: why OSF? Most of who I am circles back, in some capacity, to OSF, whether it’s the art, the people, the place, the play. So I guess I’ll just say you can get a good sense of who I am by looking at what I love, which I explore a little bit below.
WHY SPEND 14 SUMMERS WITH OSF?
OSF is the work of my heart in every possible sense. There is no other playwright I love as much, no other stories I love telling more, no other characters I connect with as deeply (Imogen & Viola are my girls). I love the setting we get to play in—when a deer strolls by as we rehearse in Sherwood Forest or a gust of wind sends Prospero’s cape billowing behind him, it’s hard not to believe that you’re truly there. What else in my life comes as close to real magic? Seriously—I’m in Sherwood Forest with the actual Merry Men!!
I love how much other people love it—I get such deep joy from watching our company that has come to love and trust one another so much. Our friends call it “summer camp for adults.” I love how the audience takes such ownership of the festival—how it becomes a summer tradition for them and they know our style/people/places so well that they feel like, for that night at least, they are a part of our company. And speaking of family, I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to share your passion with your actual family. I get to play with my mom and dad and husband every day. Joe and I have been Hero and Claudio, Helena and Demetrius, Hotspur and Lady Percy. Who gets to do that?! Ridiculous. I love it, purely and truly.
Like many people, I believe that no matter how talented a performer you are, an audience responds most deeply to honesty. If they sense you are truly having fun, truly belly-laughing, truly in love, they will appreciate what you are putting out there. (Just watch the Greenshow—what is awesome about that troupe is that they are actually playing. How often do we get to see true and unbridled play on stage?!) To think that we put that comfort, sense of play, joy, love out into the community—to think we put a little bit of levity into the world each evening, both in ourselves and our audiences—it makes me feel like I’m in the right place.
I could go on. I’ll spare you!
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO OTHER MAIDENS LOST IN THE GREENWOOD?
Never travel without a good friend and a dagger tucked into your boot, just in case.
ARIEL IS DESCRIBED AS A "HIM" IN THE SCRIPT. WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE PLAYING THAT CHARACTER?
I will begin by saying that I had NO hope that I’d get to play Ariel. I knew Terry usually preferred to see Ariel played by a man, both because that is traditional to the script but also because of Ariel’s powerful and sometimes ferocious nature. Like Terry, I agree that Ariel isn’t a nymph or fairy, he doesn’t move like a ballerina. And I feel that when a woman plays him, it can easily fall into that world. Ariel is both delicate and terrible—just like the wind to which he belongs. He can’t fall solely into the masculine or feminine worlds.
When Terry cast me in the role, I was thrilled for several reasons. One: it’s an awesome part. But also, I felt like I had the opportunity—maybe the responsibility—to show that being a powerful and potent character has nothing to do with gender. It was also great motivation to go to yoga class.
WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING WITH, BASICALLY, YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY?
If you’ve ever been part of a family business, you know that it can be very challenging to totally separate the two relationships of work and home. Even when you are on your best behavior, it’s easy to forget that your parents are not your parents right now; they are your bosses. I will never pretend that those lines don’t blur some days, but I will say that I grow up a little more every year, though I think I will always search for that perfect balance.
But for all the complicated dynamics that can come with a family-run theatre, there are also the incredible benefits that prove invaluable to our art. I understand deeply what Terry and Nancy want from my performances. Sometimes, Terry doesn’t even have to finish a thought, and I know what adjustment he wants to see. We share that wavelength. The stage relationships are also pretty incredible. It was ridiculously cool to play Cordelia to my dad’s Lear, and our Ariel and Prospero also have a particular dynamic. (I think I break Dad’s heart a little every time he releases me from Prospero’s service...”then to the elements and fare thou well!”). And I am never as comfortable or honest with a scene partner as when I’m on stage with my husband Joe. I think and hope audiences appreciate those authentic relationships.
And of course, there is the hardship of always being (rightly) labeled the “director’s daughter.” And with that title comes the inevitable questions of worthiness/talent/fairness. All I can say to that is: I happily spent the first 8 years of OSF being a fairy, a soldier, a musician, a page, and a student of Shakespeare. I love the festival too much to accept a role I couldn’t perform.
FAVORITE GREENSHOW PARODY?
Let me start by saying that every year, I think there’s no way I can do it again. I can’t write a decent parody and get it to the halfway funny point one more time. I write the script and think, “Oh, god. Is it funny?? What if it’s not funny?!” And every year, I turn the script over to the capable and hilarious hands of that Greenshow troupe and they bring it to life. I breathe a sigh of grateful relief that my friends are funnier than I.
That said, I loved the “Rick 3” parody of Richard III. I never got tired of watching all the “wrong” ghosts (Mufasa, Patrick Swayze, Obi Wan, and Marley) coming out to cruse Richard. “Walt Disney’s Cymbeline” was a close second.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT SHAKESPEARE?
Every. Single. Thing.
But mostly, I love the people that his works have brought into my life.
SHARE AN OSF ANECDOTE WITH US?
I have 14 years worth of excellent memories to pull from. There is no shortage of favorite moments. So I’ll limit myself to this year.
Rehearsing Robin Hood has been a real blast. I am proud of our creativity and collaboration, certainly. But what I love most is feeling like I really am there with Robin, Tuck, Will Scarlet, and Alan-a-Dale. I watch the Merry Men kill it on stage, and when they walk off, they keep doing the exact same stuff. They really are the Merry Men, playing in Sherwood, enjoying a good jest. A scene is rehearsing on stage, and in the background, David of Doncaster and Randall are having a quarterstaff duel (legit just for fun); Alan-a-Dale and Will Scarlet are strumming a tune. I don’t think it gets any closer to living in a storybook.