A Princely Opportunity: Seamus Doyle '21 Performs Shakespeare on the Common

Seamus Doyle '21 knows what it's like to command attention.

In a critical moment nearly halfway through the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) production of Richard III, running July 18–August 5 on the Boston Common, the young heir to the throne first enters the scene.

Played by Seamus, Prince Edward is suddenly the focal point—of all the adults in that room and of the audience—in a fraught situation. His father, the king, just having fatally succumbed to illness and stress, one uncle murdered, his half-brothers wrongfully imprisoned, Edward comes face to face with his power-hungry uncle, the treacherous, dissembling Richard. Everyone knows the situation is at very least charged if not downright dangerous. All eyes are on the Prince.

"That attention is unusual for me, Seamus," says the rising sophomore, "but I have to get into the mindset that I, the heir, can walk into a room and expect all the people present to look to me. And it almost makes it easier because he's used to talking with adults. I can express exactly what this kid, the Prince, is feeling. It's exhilarating!"

In Seamus' portrayal, Prince Edward is wise beyond his years, aware of his imminent royal responsibilities, and suspicious. "He's a perceptive person," says Seamus. "I have a line where there's a little wordplay and I almost tell Richard, 'I know I cannot necessarily trust everyone around me.'" Edward's instincts prove to be spot on. "Spoiler alert! Richard murders his two little nephews—I'm supposed to be 13, my brother is 9—when they're under his protection. It might be the worst thing that Richard does, honestly," he says with a laugh. "Up until that point, you kind of want him to become king because, as he explains at the beginning—his whole life, he's never been appreciated, he's got a hunchback—but he murders these two children, and that really shows his true character."

Playing opposite veteran theater, film, and TV actor Faran Tahir, perhaps known most widely for his villainous role in Iron Man, raises Seamus' game, he realizes. "Faran gets so in character on stage. He's bringing his all to it—he's terrifying as Richard!—and I think it's bringing out a better performance in me, just being able to interact with him up there."

That connection with a scene partner, Seamus explains, is what "you always strive for in theater. In the moment, I don't think I'm aware of it because I'm so involved in the scene, but once I get off stage, I have to . . . I don't know . . . become me again," he says, smiling. "I look back, and I'm like, what even happened up there? It went by so quick, but we maintained this connection between the characters and between us as people. That brings out a better performance."  

Staging those performances on Boston Common under the open sky, Seamus says, "is such an incredible experience. Walking through our little compound backstage, being on stage, performing in this beautiful park rather than in a theater—this is the coolest place I've ever been." Over the course of 18 performances in two-and-a-half weeks, Seamus and his castmates will perform for approximately 75,000 people.

But the biggest challenge of performing this play, 15-year-old Seamus notes, has been getting a handle on the Bard's wording. "The Shakespearean language is rewarding when you get to understand it," he says. "Once the audience can make a connection with the text, it's like a magical experience, but you really need to break down that barrier of the language for them by working through every individual word, every sentence to fully understand what you're saying."

Seamus appreciates this great opportunity to work with such experienced actors and CSC Founding Artistic Director Steven Maler (pictured here with Seamus), who has directed the annual Free Shakespeare on the Common play for audiences totaling over a million people spanning the past 23 years. "Steve is there to talk through and interpret the text with you. He's been really helpful to me and the other cast members," Seamus says. "At this point in rehearsals, he's been saying, 'We need more lift on a specific word to get your point across to the audience.'"

Seamus isn't totally new, though, to working with either Maler or Shakespeare's syntax and inflections. He was cast last fall alongside Tony Shalhoub—"That was exciting!" says Seamus—in a staged reading at CSC of Brecht's Fear and Misery in the Third Reich, and he once played the plum comedic role of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Watertown Children's Theatre, where he has performed in over ten productions. Bitten by the acting bug at age four, he enjoyed treading the boards at vacation-week and summer camps. "It snowballed from there," says Seamus. "I just kept building an interest, and in sixth grade I started auditioning for professional shows." Among other gigs, he has appeared in a Straight Talk Wireless commercial and New Repertory Theatre's Fiddler on the Roof.

Seamus has found BB&N, too, a good place to hone his craft. He starred in the demanding lead role of Christopher in the School's production last spring of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, directed by Middle School drama teacher and Marian W. Vaillant Future Leader Instructor Christa Crewdson. "That was an awesome experience," Seamus says. "It's a very intense play, so ambitious." He appreciates how seriously his fellow student actors take the shows and how invested drama teacher Mark Lindberg is. "He's incredible to work with!" Seamus says. "Even when I was getting ready for what would basically be my audition for Richard III, he was there, interested in what I was doing outside of school. He's been so helpful."

Seamus also credits English teacher Wes Williams with helping him develop skills to delve into texts. "He was great! I loved that class so much.  He's so passionate about the subject matter—I really enjoyed that," says Seamus. "We did Romeo and Juliet, and he gave me a certain understanding of Shakespeare that you can't really get from just the performance. Reading closely and making annotations and discussing the text itself have really helped me understand a whole other side of it."

It's that understanding, at heart, that attracts Seamus to acting. "I like being able to get into the headspace of a different person, trying to understand their motives, what they're trying to accomplish, how they're doing it, and what they're thinking the whole time," he says. "Once I really understand a character and get into a scene, I can be totally confident and almost like a new person. It's incredibly rewarding. It's not like anything else, I think."

With an eye on a career in acting, Seamus wants to keep performing as much as he can and plans to study acting in college. In the immediate future, though, when the run on the Common ends August 5, he'll shelve his princely garb and demeanor. "Then I think I'm doing some camps or something," he says, laughing. "It's going to seem very underwhelming, I guess, after this!"  

Top photo: Faran Tahir as Richard III attempts to deceive Prince Edward, played by Seamus Doyle. Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

Written by Sharon Krauss, Upper School English