As I mentioned yesterday, I’m going to be playing Oliver du Boys in As You Like It this summer with Shakespeare & Company. This will actually be the second time I’ve appeared in a production of As You Like It, the first being my inaugural show in college during the University of Minnesota’s 1999-2000 season.
This leads to an interesting story:
Cast lists for the University of Minnesota were posted on a bulletin board in the basement of the theater building. Wendy Knox, the director of As You Like It, had chosen to list the roles in alphabetical order by the actor’s last name. My name, of course, appeared right at or near the top of the list. So I almost immediately spotted it:
JUSTIN ALEXANDER – JACQUES DU BOYS
My heart leapt for joy. This was going to be my first show in college.
While I had seen a couple productions of the play before, it had been several years and I had never been particularly familiar with it. So I headed home, grabbed my copy of the Complete Works, flipped it open to As You Like It, and began to read — eager to see what my role was.
It was only a couple of scenes before I saw my cue: Enter Jacques.
As I read I got more and more excited. Jacques is a major character in the play. Among other things, he says the famous lines about “the seven ages of man”. This was going to be awesome.
I continued reading. And then, on literally the second-to-last page of the play, I read another stage direction: Enter Jacques du Boys.
Yup. A completely different character also named Jacques.
Now, Jacques du Boy gets a nice, meaty monologue. It’s a lengthy piece that basically ends the play. It’s a nifty little part. Plus, I ended up getting a variety of other lines for characters like “First Lord” to pad it out a bit. But Jacques du Boys sure as heck isn’t Jacques.
Okay, fast forward eight years. I get a voice message from Shakespeare & Company offering me two roles: Bolingbrooke in Richard II (Richard’s nemesis and the guy who becomes Henry IV) and “Oliver in As You Like It“.
Hey! I already know this one! Oliver du Boys is the elder brother of Orlando, the main character character in the play. (He’s also the older brother of Jacques du Boys — who really shouldn’t be confused with Jacques.) Oliver is a fun little villain who tries to kill Orlando and, thus, kick-starts the entire play. He’s going to be a lot of fun.
So I pull out my Complete Works again and flip it open to As You Like It. I glance at the cast list, and what do I see?
SIR OLIVER MARTEXT
… you have gotta be kidding me.
Sir Oliver Martext is the name of the priest who comes on at the end of the play and performs some marriages. (Does saying that there are marriages at the end of a Shakespearean comedy constitute a spoiler?) He has a grand total of three lines. He is so totally inconsequential that I didn’t even know who he was and I had been in the play before.
Surely this couldn’t be happening again… could it?
Nah. It wasn’t. I’m playing Oliver du Boys. (Which, coincidentally, means that I’m making my way through the du Boys brothers. I figure the next time I’m in As You Like It that I’ll be a shoe-in for Orlando.) But I find it amusing nonetheless.
And, seriously, what was Shakespeare thinking? Why do all of these characters have the same first name?
I figure it’s personal. Shakespeare’s just fucking with me. I must’ve done something to piss him off and now he’s holding a grudge against me. I’m like Rob Paravonian, only instead of Pachelbel, the du Boys boys are my personal cross to bear.