by Christian Hatcher
Playing d’Artagnan is like playing a dream role that I didn’t know was out there. This process has been one of the most interesting and eventful ones that I have ever been a part of. I found the audition online and thought that it would be a cool experience to be in a show with some sword fighting let alone be able to act in my first professional show. Boy, I did not know what I was getting myself into.
Before I really talk about my experience as d’Artagnan I want to first brag on this cast and crew. I can count on one hand the number of casts that I have enjoyed as much as this one. Every member comes into rehearsal not only ready to work, but to learn. Each actor/actress has taught me something. I am honored and humbled by these talented people and pray that they had as much fun telling this story as I have.
It was around 6:00 when I pulled up to the BJCC. Traffic was abysmal and the only parking I could find was $10 across the street from the event center. Apparently, there was a huge basketball game going on and I, of course, happened to be having my audition right before the game was scheduled to start. As I got out of my 2005 Chevy Cobalt I looked across the street and saw what seemed like a horde of people entering the event center and seriously doubted that I would be able to make it on time if where I was supposed to go was anywhere near that mass.
My audition time was slated for 6:10 and parking the car took about three minutes of that so that left me with seven minutes to get inside. Luckily, I made it. Once they called me in I proceeded to have one of the best auditions that I have ever done. I did a monologue from I Gelosi and a song from Curtains. They also asked to see some tumbling. Afterwards they said they would let me know after SETC and the rest is history!
A couple of months after I auditioned I was offered the role of d’Artagnan. I was beyond ecstatic! I mean I had just booked my first professional show. At the time I was in a production of Cabaret and wasn’t really worried about doing too much research about the Musketeers. I figured I had heard enough about who they were. Zach Stolz (a MFA grad at UA) told me that he would be playing the part of Aramis. I had seen Zach in plenty of other productions at the University and was excited to be working with him.
When I first picked up the script I realized I had a lot more lines than most of the shows that I have been in. I was a little nervous to say the least. I also, from what the script said, was in more than half the fights in the show. I wasn’t as worried about that, though. Stage combat has been one of my skills since high school. That was about all the time I spent on the show until the first fight rehearsals. Besides I had exams to worry about.
Building a character
Every actor approaches building a character in their own unique way. Some like to do lots of research for the time period. Some like to visit similar areas that their character might have lived in and get a better idea of the experiences that their character might have endured. I tend that the best way for me to find my character is through the rehearsal process.
I usually start by finding out the relationships that my character has with other characters and comparing that to what a traditional relationship between two people in similar situations might have. This usually gives me a baseline to work with when trying to figure out how my character and another would react to each other. After creating a baseline, I love to try these ideas out when doing scene work and deciding if what I am doing seems natural. I try and put myself in place of the audience member and think, "if I were watching myself right then would I be able to tell that I was acting?" If I think that the audience would feel like they were watching an actor on stage I choose a different way to play the character in that moment.
The director also plays a large role in character development. I like to think of the director actor relationship as a coloring book. The director is the one that sets the picture that need to be filled and the actor decides what they feel would be the best way to fill that picture: what colors to use, how bright those colors should be…etc. Ultimately, it comes down to the director’s choice on how the scene should look but I find the best directors are those that collaborate with their actors to create a scene.
Finally, during the rehearsal, plenty of discoveries are made based on a multitude of different variables that help to inform the actor. It’s these moments that are my favorite because one moment can literally change a character’s entire demeanor for the duration of a show. An example: if an actor decides that they are attracted to another character, even if the audience didn’t pick up on it, an actor’s decisions would need to reflect that attraction in the way that seems appropriate for each situation.
d’Artagnan as a character
d’Artagnan is larger than life itself. He feels with his entire being and goes for whatever he wants 100% in every situation. He’s adaptable. He’s a little naïve. But most of all, he has a sense of honor. d’Artagnan never backs down from a challenge even when he knows that he’s probably going to lose in the long run. His child-like attitude toward life breeds hope to those around him. And he lives his life as though any obstacle in his way can be solved by a sword and an honorable duel.
The best way that I can describe d’Artagnan is the way that I felt right before I went off to college. I grew up in suburban Alabama, in a community full of like-minded people. I didn’t have to worry about the world because I wasn’t really affected by it. Everything that I saw on the news or read on the internet seemed so isolated from where I was that I never gave it too much thought. As soon as I left I was confronted with so much diversity. Many beliefs were questioned or even changed. I was really able to sit down and come to terms with what I thought about issues as opposed to what I had been told to think. d’Artagnan clearly isn’t a twenty-first century teen going off to college, but he is confronting something that all children must face when they first leave their parents and go off into the world. This story is a snapshot of what the beginning of d’Artagnan’s experiences in the real world are like.
The biggest challenge of playing d’Artagnan is that everything must be completely raw. What I mean is that there are no ulterior motives with these characters. What you see is what you get. The comparison between playing these types of characters and those that are more grounded in a contemporary reality is that those in a contemporary reality have so much more of a grey area to define what is right and what is wrong. Whereas in this story there is a clear good vs. evil scenario.
What I am most looking forward to in playing d’Artagnan are the fights. The fights, sometimes even more than the dialogue itself, help to establish who every character is in the show. Alexis Black has done a great job of making sure that moves are motivated and follow the personalities of the characters that are performing those moves. After each fight there is a moment of release. I think back to where I was not even a month ago and it amazes me how far we all have come. The work that we put into this show goes beyond the blood, sweat, and tears. I feel like doing this show will impact me for the rest of my life and I thank BCT, Brandon, and all of the cast and crew for the opportunity to tell it.
“All For One…”
THE THREE MUSKETEERS runs July 12th – 29th at Brookwood Village. For more information and to get tickets, click here.
Christian Andrew Hatcher (d’Artagnan) is a rising sophomore at the University or Alabama, where he is a double major in Criminal Justice and Musical Theatre. Christian hails from Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham. He is an avid learner who enjoys pushing the limits of himself and those around him. Some of his pass times include: exercising, dancing, singing, and trying to answer deep philosophical questions. The motto that he strives to live by is “success is not an option.” He thanks BCT for this amazing opportunity to learn, laugh, and tell such an adventurous story!