Meet the Artist: Robert Spencer
10 Questions with King Lear's Fool:
What brought you to theater and to Shakespeare?
When I was a young boy I loved to sing. As a teenager in the mid-'50s, I began studying voice with a vocal coach in downtown Chicago. He produced scaled down Broadway Musicals on the weekends. I hadn’t been there three weeks when he threw me into the chorus of GUYS AND DOLLS, and from that moment on I knew I wanted to pursue a life in the theater.
After appearing in several Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, I started working in regional theaters throughout the country. In the mid-'70s, as a resident actor at The Loretto-Hilton Repertory Theatre (now St. Louis Repertory), I was cast as Puck in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and Malcolm in MACBETH. In spite of no formal classical training, much to my surprise, I took to those two roles with great elan. I was hooked.
Fast forward to the summer of 1993, when I stepped onto the stage as Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, and remained there as a core company member for fourteen seasons. I also worked at Milwaukee Shakespeare. In all, I have appeared in 23 of The Bard’s 37 plays.
What did 10-year-old you think you’d be when you “grew up?”
The next Frank Sinatra!
What do you think is the greatest challenge of portraying the Fool?
Given all his riddling, rhyming and cryptic language, my greatest challenge was that he be understandable, accessible…And maybe a little bit funny.
What do you hope the audience took away from King Lear?
I wouldn’t presume to know what any audience may take away from any performance, since it’s such a subjective experience. That being said, given the vast scope of this great play that not only deals with greed, cruelty, deception, family dysfunction and death, as well as, love, devotion, loyalty, and a sense of duty and honor, I hope people came away with a deeper understanding of what it is to be human.
What Shakespeare character do you most resemble?
Old Gremio in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, except for all his money.
Besides Shakespeare, with what person, living or dead, would you most love to have a drink and a chat? (And, what’s the drink?)
Michelle Obama, and I’d be sipping slowly on a double Tullamore Dew on the rocks.
What’s your superpower?
I have no superpower. Unless we’re talking about my superior intellect, breathtakingly good looks, extraordinary acting talent, hysterical sense of humor and my Mother Teresa saintliness. And if you believe any of the above, “I have a bridge in Brooklyn, I’d like to sell you!”
Tragedy, comedy or history?
It depends on what I’m working on. This summer, it was TRAGEDY.
Truth or dare?
Just like the Fool -- truth!
Dark chocolate, the darker the better.