Actor Kevin McClatchy on going out of his comfort zone and the most important lesson he instills in his students
This spring, you played Prospero in the Royal Shakespeare Company's sensory-friendly adaptation of "The Tempest." What was it like engaging children with autism on stage? It's insane what happens. To see a child who's essentially nonverbal snap off a line of Shakespeare's text or hold eye contact with you for more than the blink of an eye. They're little victories, but they all add up to something profound. Talk about acting training. The wild card is children with autism have no filter. [The children] would come in with their own unique armor, defense or limitations. And by the end of the performance, it was just like theater Mardi Gras. It never failed to produce these magic moments where you'd have to check yourself to keep your emotions in control.
Have you found it more fulfilling to portray characters you can relate with or to go outside your comfort zone? I think going outside whatever you define as your comfort zone is always the thrill of it. If it's not a little bit terrifying, why do it? Part of being an actor, your job is to find those parts of yourself that identify with the character. For instance, if I was going to play Charles Manson, I couldn't approach the role like a crazy person, because that's not the reality. Charles Manson probably didn't go around thinking of himself as a crazy person. We all have different sides to ourselves. That's the fun of it.
What key lessons do you try to instill in your students? What most actors find difficult is to listen truthfully on stage or on camera-to really listen. To get actors to be in the moment means doing all this other work-read the play carefully, read it more than once. You work out all the details so you come as prepared as possible. Because you can't do both at the same time. You can't analyze your performance while you're performing.