We are pleased to begin our Actor Spotlight series with core company member and OSF leading man Bernard Bygott. He will be playing our Macbeth this summer. We think he's pretty awesome. Check him out.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.
I was born and raised in Center City Philadelphia, the son of a truck driver and opera singer. Sports took up most of my life as a kid (and 8-bit Nintendo, obviously) but I always found time to pursue acting as well. Eventually I went to Amherst College where I graduated with a degree in Theatre and Dance—the dance part was not earned, it was a combined department, but that combination has gotten me a few auditions over the years; let’s keep that secret! After many twists and turns in the biz, I returned to school to get my MFA in Acting from Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Play House. These days I live in New York City where I mostly appear on TV, usually in situations where I die; it’s great fun for everybody but the blood spatter artist—ask me about it sometime!
I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a classical actor, but I did begin performing Shakespeare in first grade, memorizing monologues and saying them in front of my school in a monthly poetry competition, so the roots are deep. Still, I do fall in love with Shakespeare once a day, so if you’d like to think of me as a “Shakespearean actor,” I’m happy to play along!
WHY ARE YOU TRAVELING ALL THE WAY FROM NYC TO DO MACBETH AT OSF?
There are way too many reasons to list! I’ll try my best! Macbeth is fascinating, haunting, an almost religious challenge! Lara Mielcarek (who is playing Lady Macbeth) mentioned taking it on before our final curtain call for Much Ado About Nothing last year. It was the perfect time to suggest it, because I’m riding high in those moments, and thinking, “Why not?! Plays are so fun and easy, right?!” But even after the euphoria passed, the witchcraft of the suggestion remained. I’ve always felt that Macbeth infects its audience: the occult, the prophecies, hallucinations, all the dream imagery, we can’t help but have deep subconscious attachments to these ingredients. And while the subconscious was not yet coined in psychology, the play operates in those areas. Well, Lara’s suggestion did the exact same thing; it infected me, and made me want to do Macbeth more than I think I have a capacity to rationally explain! Can you tell?
Maybe I should have gone with the easy answer: it’s a great play, it’s a great role, and I get to do it with people I love.
HAVE YOU EVER KILLED A MAN?
Only in an emotional sense. That man’s name: Bernard Bygott.
SO YOU'VE NEVER KILLED A MAN. HOW CAN YOU RELATE TO MACKERS?
First of all I’d like to point out that there is a lot of time between now and August 5th! I don’t want to brag, but I could probably kill several people between now and then!
That detail aside, relating to the man is ultimately my job, so even if it were hard, I’d have to find a way in. For a person with a conscience (and I’ll flatter myself to believe I’ve got one!) Macbeth’s struggle and ultimately *spoiler alert* failure to achieve what he wants, personifies the tensions we all face trying to achieve greatness. What means are we willing to take? Where do we draw the line we are unwilling to cross? For that matter where is the line where the means fundamentally destroy the ends—as they do for Macbeth? Then there are the many questions the play raises about the role of fate: are we really in control at all? I’ve got dreams and ambition, just like Macbeth. I certainly would prefer to have a positive influence over my “fate,” should there be such an option; lucky for me I’m not plotting to be King in 11th century Scotland! But I can relate to his challenges already, and the idea is (at least in theory!) it only gets easier once you start rehearsing the part!
BEST THING YOU'LL GET TO SAY.
But in the play, how about…
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
WORST THING YOU'LL HAVE TO SAY.
WHAT COLOR IS YOUR HAIR?
This is one of life’s great mysteries, and should stay as such. But perhaps an audience poll is in order?! I once did a show with a wonderful actress from Brazil who swore my hair was green. Like most things in life, it sounded way cooler in Portuguese. Also, it was not an unreasonable opinion!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT SHAKESPEARE?
Everything. But maybe most of all his fearlessness.
DO YOU HAVE AN OSF ANECDOTE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
My anecdote has to be about Henry Bishop, a company member who passed away in October. I came to know Henry towards the very end of his career and in many respects, I didn’t really know a quarter of what he was teaching me until he was gone. But maybe in that same subconscious way I discussed Macbeth earlier, I knew enough to watch him. There are a hundred things to say about Henry’s talent, relaxation on the stage, humor, and his unparalleled ability to let you see him completely—as if we just happened to be watching his private actions. Those were obvious reasons to watch. But in our final play together, Henry V, I would fixate on his entrances and exits. Offstage I would risk being seen by the audience so I could just see him… walk. And sometimes when that walking seemed exhausting for him, I would think, “Hasn’t this man given enough? What is left to prove?” And you know, it wasn’t until the news of his passing shortly after closing that those images of him just walking came storming back, and I finally realized what I was watching. I was watching the most important thing you do in life: SHOW UP. You bring all of yourself to this world. You SHOW UP. COMPLETELY—to your art, to your family, to your friends, to anything you do. That’s what you can offer this world; that’s your meaning; so start doing it. And I think I’ve been better at it since. So that’s my anecdote. Well really, it’s Henry’s anecdote which I stole. Steal from the best; I guess that’s really my anecdote. I love you, Henry.