The Play’s the Thing for Seattle Shakespeare’s George Mount

The local actor and director dishes on the best way to watch Shakespeare in the park.

NAME: George Mount
OCCUPATION: Actor and founding artistic director of Wooden O Theatre
FAVORITE ROLE: “Hamlet. It really is the single character that taught me the most about my craft.”
FAVORITE PLAY TO PERFORM: A Comedy of Errors. “Because it’s just so damn silly.”
PARK MUST-BRINGS: A picnic and a blanket or a low-backed chair.
SCHEDULE: seattleshakespeare.org/woodeno

Sure, all the world’s a stage, but according to George Mount, 43, a Seattle park is a better bet. As an actor, director and founder of local outdoor Shakespeare production company Wooden O (which started in 1994 and merged with Seattle Shakespeare Company in 2008), this native Seattleite and Phinneywood resident is as passionate about classical plays as he is about ensuring thatpeople experience them free and firsthand. This season (Wooden O’s 18th), Mount will direct A Comedy of Errors—the first play he ever appeared in, during high school. Also on the roster is Macbeth (directed by Tim Hyland), so you can feast on tragedy or comedy, as well as whatever’s in your picnic basket.

SM: What makes doing Shakespeare outdoors different than doing the plays indoors?
GM: Outdoors, the audience sees everything that usually happens backstage. They’ll watch us set up and practice fights beforehand, go through vocal warm-ups…and yet the magic of storytelling still happens when the actor steps onstage. The illusion begins, and people still believe it.  

SM: How does your approach as the director differ?
GM: In the theater, you craft subtlety and nuance, depth of character and emotion. In the parks, you actually find that these plays have huge scale as well. You don’t go deeper in emotion, you go bigger in emotion, to draw the audience in.

SM:
What about distractions?
GM: There are always big distractions, but the audience still gives themselves over to the play. We do plays at a park near Sea-Tac airport—there are sometimes 50 to 60 takeoffs and landings during our performances—and yet the audience is glued; they shut out all the distractions in order to get the story.

SM: How often does it rain on a performance?
GM: Surprisingly less than you might think. One time, with Hamlet, we had our first-ever intermission where we stopped and waited for the rain, then wiped the stage and went on with the show. Poor, dead Polonius was getting rained on while waiting for me to drag him off the stage. We try to power through it.

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