The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre produces two mainstage shows a year, running in repertory. That means the 14 actors in PST’s current production of “Hamlet” will also appear in “As You Like It” — sometimes on the same day.
But it would be hard for any performer to match the challenge local actress Mary Tuomanen is facing, as she plays Rosalind in “As You Like It” and then bends her gender full-time to portray the most analyzed character in stage history — that brooding prince of Denmark.
“It’s nice sometimes to begin the day with the silliness of ‘As You Like It,’ before having to steel myself again to take on what is turning out to be one of the greatest challenges of my life,” says Tuomanen. “When I began the process, the director and my friends had a lot more faith in me than I did. It’s been about working up the courage, for me. Just saying, you know, ‘today you can do it’ — and not worrying about tomorrow.”
Tuomanen trained at the famed Lecoq theater school in Paris — a program revered for molding performers in physical theater and mime. But for Hamlet, she’s taken a more interior approach.
“I got some good advice early on: Hamlet is everybody. Everyone can play this role, it just takes mining some of the deepest parts of us,” she says. “It’s just not useful to me to think about the character’s gender.”
On a role
Just five weeks ago, Tuomanen was playing Emma Goldman in a one-woman show, “Red Emma,” by local writer Chris Braak. “I won’t say the timing was unfortunate, because it was a great experience. But it did add to the challenge — diving into Goldman and back to Shakespeare,” she explains.