Researching the plays I am working on was challenging as both playwrights lived in such tumultuous times. The more knowledge I absorbed, the more fascinating it became. The British Library’s Russian Revolution Exhibition was a powerful experience. Miller’s autobiography Timebends was brilliantly written and very helpful. I fell in love with Chekhov’s short stories. He manages to be extremely funny and heartrendingly sad – sometimes in the same sentence. Stella Adler insists her actors interrogate their playwrights’ themes. While an actor can’t play an intellectual idea – it is up to us to fight for our characters’ lives – researching these writers has enriched my understanding of the plays.
2. Be flexible and dive in
Listening to older actors talk about the rep system, it seems actors have lost the chance to stretch themselves in terms of natural casting and the ability to make quick, instinctive decisions. With most new jobs, you have to get used to working with a new group of people. When doing two plays that cross over, you have to adapt quickly – not only to a completely different script, character, accent and time period but also to respond to directors’ different approaches. Be playful.
3. Have fun
Working on a classic, you reach upward to the playwright’s level – particularly daunting with two of them in a short period of time. This is my first time doing Chekhov. I was intimidated by his reputation and preconceptions about what his characters look and sound like. At the audition, director Giles Croft asked me to read Dunyasha in my native Bristolian accent. This brought a playfulness and comedy which made so much sense to me. I find Chekhov’s plays surprisingly funny. Miller’s serious tone and epic themes can also have an effect on actors – reverence for his genius can make them seem stilted. You need to trust your instincts to make the part your own.
Sasha Frost is appearing in All My Sons (October 6-21) and The Cherry Orchard (November 3-18) at Nottingham Playhouse . She was talking to John Byrne