Variety is the spice of life. That’s what makes Pick of the Vine so popular. As Little Fish founder Lisa Coffi is fond of saying, the nice thing about Pick of the Vine is if you don’t like the play you’re watching, wait five minutes and there’ll be another one.
We actors enjoy that just as much. The one thing we pride ourselves in is disappearing into a role. Unlike in film, where you often get work by meeting the requirements of a certain “type,” theater actors often find success in ambiguity. After all, we have fewer special effects and a much smaller budget to work with, so the more you can disappear into the story on your own, the better off you are.
There is no greater challenge when it comes to this than Pick of the Vine. This year we present ten plays, featuring eight actors playing thirty-three different roles. (I myself get to play five, one of which even has a split personality.) It’s important for each actor to create characters that are as different from each other as the stories are. Pick of the Vine has offered comedy, romance, drama, farce, and even sci-fi in seasons past, and we must tailor our characters to fit well within each piece.
But while we ourselves might want to be ambiguous, our characters must be anything but. We have maybe ten minutes and twelve pages with which to draw you, the audience, into our world, get you to buy in, make you laugh, cry, or ponder, and make you feel complete before moving on to the next adventure. Choices must be bold, intentions must be clear, and once you’re done with a piece, you’ve got mere minutes – sometimes even seconds – to get ready for the next one.
In the end, it’s worth it. The experience gained is second only to the fun we have. After all, who doesn’t crave a little variety?