Department of Theater Arts

Undergraduate Experiences

LaRue Vigil Performs in As You Like It

LaRue Vigil '26 as Phebe in As You Like It at Prague Shakespeare Company

Theater Arts Major LaRue Vigil '26 and Professor Dmitry Troyanovsky spent summer 2023 in Prague with the Summer Shakespeare Intensive Program, hosted by Prague Shakespeare Company. LaRue participated as a student and performer, Dmitry as a faculty member and director. Here they are discussing their experiences in Prague.

Dmitry: You're passionate about Shakespeare. What was special about exploring Shakespeare in the Prague intensive? What were some of your discoveries?

LaRue: I have always loved watching and reading Shakespeare, however before this program I never had any formal Shakespeare training. The Prague intensive taught me so much about both Shakespeare and acting in general. The program is split in a way where we were doing Shakespeare workshops from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then rehearsals from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The workshops taught me so many different techniques and so much about the theater industry in general. I especially loved the voice and movement workshops since they helped me get into the body and voice of my character which made everything feel much more natural. I also learned a ton in rehearsals because of the environment of the program. Since the rehearsal process is so fast, we were expected to memorize our lines as soon as possible, being off book so quickly helped to give me more time to be in the body and mind of my character, Phebe. We also did not have time to overthink each of our moves, so that helped me to just go with my instincts, so Phebe felt much more human-like.

Last Spring you directed the show Stupid F*cking Bird here at Brandeis. Are there any big differences you found between directing that show here at Brandeis versus directing Macbeth in Prague? Since the rehearsal process for the Summer intensive is so sped up, did you find that it changed the tone of rehearsals?

Lady MacBeth in Prague
Lady MacBeth in performance

Dmitry: Unlike the actors in SFB, the actors in Macbeth didn't know each other before the process.  They came from different countries and had very different kinds of prior theater training. In just a few weeks, I had to inspire a sense of ensemble and make a highly stylized project.  As you mention, it's also a more compressed rehearsal process in Prague.  You don't have as much room to finesse the staging.  It's like painting in brash bold strokes rather than tiny pointillist ones.  You have less time for self-doubt in rehearsal.  You must embrace your instinctive artistic choices and keep moving forward.  It's not a bad exercise for actors and directors.

You were directed in As You Like It by Sharon Ott, one of the preeminent leaders of American regional theater.  It's a unique opportunity to learn from someone like Sharon.  What was your rehearsal process like?  What did you take away from it?

LaRue: Being able to work with Sharon was an absolute dream come true and I felt so lucky to get to learn from her. She is truly an artistic genius. She would always push us to make our own strong choices and encouraged us to connect with our characters. She always trusted us to go with our instincts and believe in our knowledge of our characters. This helped me learn so much more about my character and she made it a safe space to play around and make bold crazy choices, she would mostly just give us little directions to help with the aesthetics or guide us in the right direction if we weren’t interpreting something correctly. I remember for the first ever scene I rehearsed I was so nervous since it was also my biggest scene. She told me to try it once without any directions and just do what I felt was right. I came running onto the stage while my scene partner, Silvius, chased me around the stage. It was such fun blocking and she ended up loving it, she just gave us some minor adjustments about which directions to run and how to interact with each other. It felt great to have a director who trusted all of our visions and our ideas of how our characters would act. 

Prague is an extremely beautiful city, did the environment inspire any ideas or visions that you could apply to your show?

Dmitry: Definitely.  For example, we often rehearsed at Na Zabradli theater.  The theater was founded by the legendary playwright, dissident and later Czech President Václav Havel. During the days of Communism, people like Havel made theater despite the censors, the ideologues, and the threats from the regime. They made intricate, metaphoric, multi-layered theater. Whenever a moment or an image in my Macbeth was feeling too literal, I tried to remember where I stood.  And then I would make a more interesting directing choice.

What's the funniest thing that happened during your time in Prague?

LaRue: Between exploring Prague with the friends I made in the program, the comedy workshops, and the late night rehearsals, there were many laughs and funny moments. However, there is one memory which I will always be able to laugh about. In ‘As You Like It’ my director, Sharon, decided to have a huge dancing, celebratory scene. It was a beautiful idea and I have been told it looked great on stage, but getting there was definitely an interesting process. Most of the people doing this program are just actors and not dancers. So, this resulted in about 15 of us stumbling around the stage running into each other, while our director and stage manager hysterically laughed at us in the audience. It was great because no one took it too seriously and we all could just laugh at each other. We worked on it for a few days and eventually it all came together, so it was a really fun and beautiful experience! 

Were there any big discoveries you found that you might not have otherwise? 

Dmitry: I don't think of myself as a Shakespearean director.  I'm always nervous when I approach Shakespeare's plays. Perhaps it's because English is not my first language.  Being part of the summer intensive made confident.  I had terrific colleagues who encouraged me.  There isn't one right way to stage Shakespeare. Sure, there's technique when it comes to handling the language.  But in terms of concept or style, Shakespeare can be so many things.  During our weeks in Prague, we saw a musical version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Hip Hop infused adaptation of the Roman tragedies, a deconstructed Richard III, a delightfully elegant As You Like It, and so on.  I made Macbeth my own and it worked out well.

Would you recommend the program to your peers at Brandeis?  If yes, what advice would you give them?

LaRue: I would definitely recommend the program to anyone at Brandeis who wants to learn more about Shakespeare. It is such a wonderful, unique experience which taught me so much. The advice I would give is be prepared to work and be focused. You have some time to explore the city, but your main focus is going to be whatever show you are in. Also, it’s very possible to explore and work on several the shows at the same time. There were many times when I worked on lines on the trams or in some of the many beautiful parks in Prague. It is a chaotic, intensive program, but everyone is so dedicated, talented, and respectful. It is a big group effort to put the shows together, so bond with your cast and just throw yourself into it, don’t hold anything back!