Getting to Know the Abridged Actors – Preston Taylor Stone Preston Taylor Stone: Evil Eddie Returns A Little Less Evil Preston Taylor Stone stole the stage last fall with his crowd-favorite number of”Bit Part Demon” in our production of Evil Dead : The Musical. Now he’s back! A little less evil this time and with a lot more “hair,” Preston is ready to rock some funny bones again in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, playing through July 26th. We caught up with Preston recently to hear more about what makes him tick and to discover how much fun he’s having with this show. WHT: You’re a student at Clemson currently, correct? Preston: Yes. I’ll be receiving a B.A. in English (Literature) and a B.A. in Philosophy. WHT: And you are not from the Upstate? Preston: I’m from Florence, SC, also known as the half-way point between Miami and NYC on I-95, also known as that place you pass on the way to Myrtle Beach, also known as the end of I-20. I’ve been in the upstate since 2013, when I began at Clemson. WHT: So you are joining us for the second time at The Warehouse, right? Preston: Yes, but I’ve loved both of these experiences so much. I previously played Ed in Evil Dead : The Musical last fall. WHT: Favorite production with which you physically worked? Preston: As they say, you never forget your first. The first musical of which I was a part was Hairspray. I had so much fun in the role of Brad, a nicest kid in town. It’s where I began at my local community theatre and that show is definitely one I could do every day and never grow tired of it. Other favorites include Ragtime, The Laramie Project, and Working. WHT: What is your favorite experience in a theatre as an actor, technician, audience member, or director? Preston: One of my favorite experiences as an actor was in my Clemson Theatre debut in The Laramie Project. Director Joshua Carter is such an amazing person with whom I had the opportunity to work. He really pushed me in ways I had never been before and I discovered so much about myself in that production. I am a better actor because of it and I thank Josh every day for that experience. I still look back on my notes from that production if I find myself struggling. WHT: What is your favorite part of being an actor? Preston: I think in so many ways we are forced to be masked people, hidden. Encouraged to dodge our truths countlessly. But acting offers this opportunity where we can discover the truth in ourselves we refuse to acknowledge, relish it, and present it to the world. I really do believe acting is when we are most human and it is through acting we can find within us an honesty we never knew before. It’s a journey, an introspective and sometimes scary one, but I’ve seen acting help me get closer and closer to a truer me and that’s why I do it. WHT: Is there someone’s work you greatly enjoy? Maybe admire in acting or any field? Preston: I am hugely obsessed with Lady Gaga. It’s not a secret. She’s an icon constantly in pursuit of the dreams she’s always had and what’s more, she uses her influence to help give back to the world that’s given her so much. That’s a beautiful thing. WHT: Person you haven’t worked with yet (any capacity) that’s still on your wish list? Preston: I’ve obviously seen Paul (WHT’s Executive and Artistic Director) around and hang out with him when he’s here, but I’m still dying to do a show with him. He and Anne’s performance in August was one of the greatest pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Like EVER. So, yes I’m working with Anne now but I’m really dying to act with those two. WHT: Who is the person that has influenced your acting…your process the most? Preston: Certainly Kerrie Seymour. She’s an amazing performer, such a kind mentor, and overall she’s really helped me to find what works best for me as an actor. She’s such a great person to know and she’s definitely a go-to source when I’m having troubles. WHT: Do you have a routine that you go through before a performance? Preston: I wouldn’t say I do it superstitiously, but I use the beginning of the Overture for A Little Night Music as vocal warm-up pretty much all the friggin’ time. It’s memorable, it has a wide range, and it’s Sondheim inspired from Mozart. So, like, obviously I consider it golden. WHT: How many non-abridged Shakespeare’s do you have under your belt? Preston: I’ve actually never done a Shakespearean show. I’ve always wanted to play Puck, given my body type, but I’ve yet to do any. With this show under my belt, though, and with Anne and Jayce’s help really deconstructing some of these monologues, I’m hoping the sky’s the limit for Shakespeare in my future. I’ve also gained a huge liking for all the female roles of Shakespeare’s, having to play quite a few myself here, and I wouldn’t mind donning Elizabethan drag one day either — androgyny is definitely something I love. WHT: Favorite thing about working on a script for the first time? Preston: My favorite thing has always been research. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to dramaturgical research (I actually got the opportunity to work as dramaturg of Eurydice this past spring in Clemson). It’s definitely the English major in me, but I just find it so exciting to get down to the metaphorical prospects of a text. When you, as the actor, are the vessel of the art, you do well to know as much as you can (and more) about the script. When you think you’ve got it, dig more. As one of my favorite professors, Dr. Goss, always says, “Find out what the text is DOING.” WHT: Favorite part about this rehearsal process or show’s progress? Preston: My favorite part has been hanging out with these guys (and Anne). The show is a marathon and we’re tired as hell at the end of it, but we’re really having so much fun up there. It’s also been so exciting to see where in the text we can find the comedy not in making fun of Shakespeare, but on the contrary, celebrating him. WHT: One thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered? Preston: Anne is really on this kick about how amazing this text is in teaching Shakespeare and she’s so right. The language has always been beautiful to discover and I think this text serves the Bard well in letting us, audience included, do that. WHT: Moment in the show that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now? Preston: There’s this moment in the show where my character realizes something about Shakespeare’s female characters — and really about Shakespeare in general — and it’s such a cool moment to see someone who, like most of us, shrugs off the long speeches and big words discover their true beauty and revel in that. WHT: What was it like to experience references to or pieces of rather well known texts in a bit of a different light? Preston: Well, like I said, what’s so cool about this text is that it’s presenting these things in a way where, on the surface, it looks like it’s making fun of it all. But what you discover is that while these characters may not know Shakespeare very well, the ones who wrote this show are very well-versed (pun always intended). This is first and foremost a celebration of Shakespeare’s work and experiencing that is always fun. WHT: How did your research for the show affect your performance? Preston: Well, whenever you do something with language like Shakespeare’s, you’ve got to pull out the lexicon. So, that kind of basic research always helps you because then you know what it is you’re saying. Further, I’ve always tried to find in some way a piece of my characters in myself to truly connect with and understand this journey. For the [Adam] character, I’ve tried to do the same. WHT: Did a previous screening or performance of Shakespeare Abridged influence you in any direction? Preston: I’ve never seen this show before, so likely not. WHT: Do you have a piece of advice for audience member coming to see Abridged? Preston: Embrace the Bard! WHT: Do you have other jobs outside of acting? Preston: I’m that kid who believed his parents when they said you could do anything you want to do except I said I’ll do everything I want. I’m an aspiring novelist, screenwriter, and philosopher. I dabble in musical composition, but I’ve never been paid for it. Other than that, I’m a blogger for Spry Literary Magazine, a Social Media Ambassador for Clemson Road Creative, LLC, and an avid Netflixer (which I do often enough for it to be considered a job). See Preston Taylor Stone in a ton of female roles in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged playing through July 26th!