Lowell Byers on playing Orlando
What do you find interesting about Orlando?
I like that Orlando is a character who constantly seems to be fighting against the odds. At the start of the play, this becomes very apparent when we witness that his own brother, Oliver, wants him dead. As the play continues, Orlando, once again, is approached by characters and situations which test his disposition. However, it seems to be inherited within him to battle back, time and time again.
What's Orlando's journey in the play?
It is very important to Orlando to receive a 'proper' education. In his dialogue, as well as the entire play, Shakespeare provides us with various lines using words such as, 'gentle,' 'gentility,' and 'gentleman.' This illustrates Orlando's desire to shed his animalistic upbringing and receive a gentleman's education. Throughout Orlando's retreat into the Forest of Arden, he begins his adventure believing he must use barbaric ways in order to survive. When he encounters other characters (including his love Rosalind disguised as a man) he discovers the true meaning of 'gentility,' and love, without the need of a proper education. He also learns how to love with honesty, which may not have been gained in his quest for a proper education. I think Orlando has a fascinating character arc in the play because we witness a young, naive man become educated, not through standard schooling but through his interaction with a banished society.
Can you relate to him?
Having been involved in athletics my entire life, I can easily relate to the idea of overcoming the odds to succeed. Possessing a 'thick skin' would always prove advantageous. I think Orlando is a very courageous character given what he has to endure at a young age.
I also have been fortunate enough to experience how being in love can turn your world upside down. I have discovered attributes about myself from being in relationships that I, most likely, would not have found otherwise.
I believe it's important for young people to obtain a proper education. However, I do believe that a unique form of education can be gained in interaction with people outside of an academic environment as well.
What do you think are the important themes of the play?
When observing the themes of the play, the contrast between living a life of banishment in the Forest of Arden versus a life of form and order in the Court begins to appear. In Orlando's journey, a desire for a genteel lifestyle serves as a major catalyst for this contrast.
Love, as a form of education, seems to be a very strong theme in this play. Characters learn about themselves through their love for others. Silvius gives a speech about what it means to love, Rosalind (as Ganymede) compares the stages of love to the months of the year, and Orlando becomes aware of his own 'gentility' in his love for Rosalind. Love also acts as a healing factor for Rosalind and Orlando when they find something to live for...each other.