, Port Arthur, Texas

February 26, 2013

Nederland man in spotlight

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

SABINE PASS — Daniel Sharpless has no idea how he stumbled upon theater. He just knows he loves it. And his reason for loving it is tinged with irony — playing another character, he has the freedom to be himself.

“I love going to see a show and then going to see another show and seeing a completely different take on it, because they’re still getting the same thing across, but just in a different way,” Sharpless said.

 This is why Lamar University’s adaptation of “Macbeth,” in which Sharpless plays the eponymous character, seems tailor-made for him. Anyone who didn’t sleep through their high school English class is familiar with the archetypal tragic Shakespearean plot ? steadfast protagonist (Macbeth), an ill-executed plan spurred by ambition (taking the throne of Cawdor for himself because a couple of witches told him to) and, finally, a tragic, untimely ending.

 That’s where the typical becomes atypical. The Lamar University Department of Theatre and Dance is presenting the “Scottish Play” ? it is often referred to by the superstitious ? a way no audience has seen before. An example of this is mixing medieval-style weapons with modern combat attire.

“It’s more like an ethereal setting,” said Sharpless, who is currently studying speech pathology at Lamar when he isn’t busy wielding swords. “It’s neither back then nor now. We still use swords, but the dress is kind of modern ?  I come out wearing digital-style camo. So there’s no setting, there’s no place, it just is. That’s our director’s interpretation of it ?  it was never truly a setting, it was more of just being.”

However, purists need not fret, Sharpless said. The play’s central message remains unchanged.

“It’s not like we’re taking an LSD trip,” he said. “It’s still going to be Shakespeare.  It’s just not going to have a certain place or time.”

 Along with the changes made to the setting, there is still the original script to contend with. Sharpless isn’t exactly a novice ? he has been involved in theater since performing in “Grease” his sophomore year at Nederland High School, as well as competing internationally in speech and debate. Still, Shakespeare required some getting used to.

“I read ‘Macbeth’ in high school and loved it ? thanks to my English teacher at Nederland High School ? but I’d never performed it, never even seen the show other than a movie, so it definitely was a new thing to take on,” Sharpless said. “Normally you just memorize lines. It’s like, ‘All right, I’m used to doing this, my brain’s trained to do it.’ But when it comes to Shakespeare, it’s a different language. It’s Old English, so you have to dissect it, understand it, and then memorize it, or else it’ll just go in one ear and out the other. So it takes, like, an extra 40 minutes to memorize a small amount of lines.”

In spite of the challenges presented, Sharpless has enjoyed his first brush with the Bard.

“I love Shakespeare because all he does is mock humans,” he said. “In that time, they believed everything was in align. When something wasn’t right, you would know. Things would happen, buildings would tumble, the skies would fall ? something bad was going to happen if things weren’t in align.

“Another thing I love about Shakespeare is that most of the time, you’re a great actor if they can see your emotion, because you can’t normally talk. In Shakespeare, all I do is talk. It’s like, ‘I’m going to say something to you, and then I’m just going to walk off and say my 15 lines to myself and to the audience.’ And it really allows the audience and myself to really think through what’s going on and get so much more detail.”

 And of course, Shakespeare’s work allows room for interpretation, which is what acting is all about for Sharpless ? camo or no camo.

“This is really an interesting take, because it’s not like I have to speak a certain way and be this certain character,” he said. “I feel like it gives me the freedom to just be me, and to take my own person and my own thoughts into it.”

But how does Sharpless feel about the camouflage?

“Well, it’s not what I’d wear out in public,” he joked.

As a wise man (perhaps even Shakespeare) once said, “Suffer for thy art.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA