Mallory Spanjer once saw Jude Law as King Henry – storming Harfleur and rousing his troops on St. Crispin’s Day – in Shakespeare’s Henry V. It remains the most powerful Shakespeare performance she has seen. “Jude Law restored my faith in Jude Law,” she says, “It made me realize that was where he belonged: on the stage!” Mallory herself wouldn’t necessarily posit that she “belongs on stage” in exactly the same way Jude Law does. Yet, she’s been involved in theatre since age nine and now, at 27, she keeps coming back to it. There is one simple reason for this: Shakespeare.
Mallory’s fascination with Shakespeare stems from a literary and historical perspective, as well as a love of the language and characters. She contends that her involvement in theatre over the years has fostered her love of literature. “Actually,” she jokes, “The first timne I ever saw a Harry Potter book was backstage during a Shakespeare play.” (Her friend was reading it voraciously between her scenes.) So you are really giving Shakespeare the credit for your love of Harry Potter?
“Yes!” she laughs, “Well, no, but yeah, sure.” Mallory also argues that Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be performed rather than studied, which is why she continues to act. “I think I like trying to understand Shakespeare, and acting is a necessary part of that,” she explains, “And I also simply support keeping the world aware of Shakespeare.”
This summer, 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, Mallory will do her part in keeping the world (or at least the Portland area) aware as she plays the role of the Duchess (originally the Duke) in As You Like It. To Mallory, this character is slightly reminiscent of parts she has played previously, characters like Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and King Richard in Robin Hood. “They are all old and wise, never anyone’s love interest, and get to make fun of the . . . something of youth . . .” She says, reaching for the right word. “Capriciousness?” Her sister Caitlin suggests. “Yes!” returns Mallory, “That’s not the word I was looking for, but it is basically exactly the meaning of the word I wanted.”
Mallory (left) as Fabian in Twelfth Night in 2002/2003.
The play’s title – As You Like It – appeals to Mallory. “It is simple,” she explains,” It doesn’t give anything away.” It also hints at the fact the play contains a smattering of everything and you can take away what you want from it. The play is packed with music, comedy, villains, heroic deeds, fighting, philosophy, dancing, confusion, myriad types of love, and some strong female characters. Do you think Shakespeare was a feminist? “I don’t know,” Mallory considers, “but Rosalind [in As You Like It] certainly seems to be.”
And why should we all continue to watch Shakespeare plays? “Okay, I think I got this,” Mallory begins, “[His] characters and the way they interact and treat each other and the decisions they make are wonderful reminders that humans haven’t changed as much as we may suspect. Their stories are just as relevant to us as they were to those watching in The Globe more than 400 years ago.”
Come see Mallory entertain as the Duchess, hiding out in the Forest of Arden with her band of followers, in As You Like It at Lewis and Clark Park, August 3-6th. Tickets can be purchased HERE.
Mallory (left) as Witch 1 in Macbeth in 2015,