Homepage > Joss Whedon Cast > Armin Shimerman > News > Armin Shimerman (snyder) - No fool he: Shimerman goes ’full (...)
« Previous : Michelle Trachtenberg - ’Ice Princess’ Premiere - Medium Quality Photos 2
     Next : Michelle Trachtenberg - ’Ice Princess’ Premiere - High Quality Photos 2 »

From Signonsandiego.com

Armin Shimerman

Armin Shimerman (snyder) - No fool he: Shimerman goes ’full circle’ to Globe

By Anne Marie Welsh

Monday 14 March 2005, by Webmaster

The first actor to play the Fool in "King Lear," circa 1606, was Robert Armin. At the San Diego Rep, another Armin will take on that pivotal role: Armin Shimerman.

"My mother was prescient," he jokes about the unusual name and coincidence.

He’s kidding. But it is a fact that the nimble actor has followed in Armin’s footsteps. Though Shimerman is best known for his television roles as the Ferengi concessionaire Quark on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and the pernicious principal Snyder on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," he has also played many of the clown and fool roles that Shakespeare created for his fellow player of London’s King’s Men, Robert Armin.

Shimerman’s first job out of UCLA was at the Old Globe, where he was selected (one of eight from hundreds) for the Summer Shakespeare Festival. He was directed there by both Craig Noel and Jack O’Brien in an ensemble that included (his now longtime friend) Jonathan McMurtry.

"I’ve come full circle," said Shimerman over soup recently, clearly happy to be back in the city where he got his professional start. It’s been more then 10 years since he took on a role at a regional theater like the Rep. But all along, since returning from the New York stage to Los Angeles (where he was raised), Shimerman has taught Shakespeare to actors by showing them how to analyze 16th-and 17th-century English rhetoric.

"I teach Shakespeare by way of Elizabethan rhetoric. It’s the Rosetta Stone for speaking Shakespeare. If you can figure out the logic of why he wrote it that way and you get the key, then you know how to open up the line."

He’s trained students in that approach at UCLA and at "dozens of small theaters, always with a happy result," he said. "Matt Heneson, who plays Albany, was a student of mine." Also in the Rep cast is McMurtry, and Shimerman’s closest actor friend and longtime neighbor, Peter Van Norden, who’s playing Lear’s loyal counselor, Kent.

Van Norden nudged his friend to audition. "Peter, like the Fool in ’Lear,’ took the scales from eyes so I could see," said Shimerman. "He just asked about what was it I really always want to do. He inspired me to go back onstage."

The adviser Kent tries to convince Lear of his folly "by yelling," said Shimerman. "His daughter tries to be nice and reasonable. The fool goes in for obliqueness and jokes. Unlike the others, he goes at him from the side."

The Fool’s jests clarify the king’s understanding. He doesn’t hide the truth, but points it out in images, puns and jokes, provoking Lear to face up to the horror he has brought upon himself.

Some of the Fool’s lines were cut by director Todd Salovey. But Shimerman worked what he calls "a good Ferengi move," which means he bargained with Salovey. "Being a good person," Shimerman said he told Salovey, "I’ll trade you. I took back some lines, and said here’s some lines I don’t want."

In Nahum Tate’s infamous 1681 adaptation of Lear, the Fool’s role was dropped altogether, his earthy humor judged too crude for the later audience’s taste. Not until 1838, when William Charles Macready staged the play at London’s Covent Garden, was the Fool’s role restored. Macready cast an actress, as is sometimes done today. (Emma Thompson was the Fool in England’s Renaissance Company production in 1990, and at the Old Globe in 1993, Patricia Conolly took on the role to Hal Holbrook’s Lear.)

"My opinion is the Fool loves him so much, he realizes he won’t change unless he hits rock bottom, so he guides him there," said Shimerman. At the rock bottom of his own sensibility, the actor said he feels "most confident when I do something of worth, of value - to make someone think, to move someone. My job is to create catharsis in the audience, and I can do that best in theater."