After a wide variety of types of roles: supporting (Calpurnia, Sebastian), sweet and innocent (Miranda), dangerous and disturbed (Lady Macbeth), a misunderstood/complex anti-hero (Shylock), and the steadfast best friend (Pisano), it was time for Ariel to play a true heroine; one at the very center of a Shakespearean play. That’s Viola in Twelfth Night. The play follows her journey, and it is a pretty bumpy one. Viola is a “pants” role—a woman who dresses as a man—a necessary box to check off for a classical actress. She navigated the sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking consequences of a woman deeply in love, but in disguise. Viola is not able to confess or show her love. Only once everybody leaves the stage does she get to cut loose and confess to the audience. Not only does Ariel feel comfortable talking directly to the audience during her soliloquies, but also she genuinely seems to thrive including them in her plight. I often invite friends and theatre colleagues to come see these shows, and most of their comments afterward are about Ariel. Why is she so engaging to watch? She prepares… HARD. She knows what every word means. She loves and relishes Shakespeare’s words. And that makes her fearless on stage. She showed real chops for comedy in this role, yet found subtlety and nuance. The clarity of her text was stronger than ever. Ariel took on the added challenge of singing solo, as well as choreographing the final dance sequence for the ensemble. She breathed new life into speeches I have heard a hundred times, fought hard for what her heart was after, and never gave up. It’s all you want in a Viola.
Photography by Melanie Eve Barocas