David Joseph is the kind of guy who has always had a lot of different things going on in his life. One of them, acting, is keeping him pretty busy these days.
“I have three degrees, because my parents were always telling me to have a backup plan,” said Joseph, a Hancock, Mass., native who is starring in the Shakespeare & Company production of David Ives’ “The Liar,” which begins Friday at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theater in Lenox, Mass., and runs through March 24. “I still own a real estate company and I try to do that as well, and like some other people in this company, I’m doing double duty also working in the marketing department here. It keeps me busy, but it’s all worked out great.”
Joseph has been part of the troupe at Shakespeare & Company for the past eight years. He starred in the fall 2012 offering of “The 39 Steps,” and is stepping right back into the spotlight with the group’s winter production of “The Liar.”
WHERE: Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble Road, Lenox, Mass.
WHEN: Previews Friday through Feb. 7; opens Feb. 9 and runs through March 24, performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $50-$15
MORE INFO: (413) 637-3353, www.shakespeare.org
Ives adapted the story — originally written by Frenchman Pierre Corneille in 1643 — for the Washington Shakespeare Company in April 2010. The French farce centers on the character of Dorante, played by Joseph, a single young man who differs with his father as to how he should best spend his time.
“I’ve just arrived in Paris with my father, and he wants to procure me a wife and all I want to do is have fun,” explained Joseph. “I meet these two girls, instantly fall for one of them, but I don’t know her name. I have to find out who is who, and there’s a constant case of mistaken identity. Also, my father thinks he’s getting me a bride, and I have to create these stories to get me out of all the situations I get into.”
Density of language
Ives, who spent time with the group during rehearsal, not only adapted and translated Corneille’s work, he also kept “The Liar” in iambic pentameter with rhyming couplets.
“There are lovely rhyming couplets throughout the play, and I love the way he has chosen his words,” Joseph said of Ives. “He was only here for two days, but it was amazing to have him in the room and see first-hand where he was coming from. He has a density of language in his work and that’s such a gift for an actor. That’s what I really love about it.”
The production is being directed by Shakespeare & Company founding member Kevin G. Coleman. In the cast with Joseph are Alexandra Lincoln as Clarice, Doug Seldin as Cliton, Enrico Spada as Alcippe and Dana Harrison as Isabelle.
Joseph, who now lives in Lanesborough just north of Pittsfield, graduated from New Lebanon High School just across the border in New York. Then, while he knew he wanted to be an actor, Joseph headed off to UMass-Amherst and pursued a very practical education.
“I studied business as an undergrad, and when I got out of college I headed right to New York City,” said Joseph. “I moved there to become an actor. But after 9/11, I moved back here, did some acting in the Berkshires, and I went back to school at Amherst and got my master’s and my MBA.”
A chance meeting with Shakespeare & Company member Elizabeth Aspenlieder led to Joseph getting an audition with S & Co founder Tina Packer and Joseph had himself a job.
“Elizabeth worked here and told me to audition, and I thought to myself, ‘I would love that,’” remembered Joseph. “So I did, I got a role, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a production ever since. Then, when the opportunity came to also work with their marketing department I was lucky enough to get that job.”
While he has been a regular at Shakespeare & Company for eight years now, Joseph had never been directed by Coleman until work began on “The Liar.”
“It’s great because Kevin is also the head of our education department, and he approaches us the same way he does the youth of the area,” said Joseph. “Working with them has been an integral part of our training, and I love how Kevin is really collaborative in his nature. It’s really educational, and I think it’s that collaboration that gives us all such a wonderful feeling.”
Ives is a Chicago native who went to Northwestern University and got his MFA in playwrighting from the Yale School of Drama. His first big play was “All in the Timing,” a collection of six short plays that premiered in 1994. He has had two original plays, “Venus in Fur,” and “Is He Dead,” produced on Broadway, and also adapted various other shows for the New York stage, including “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” and “Wonderful Town.”
Along with showing up in Lenox at rehearsal in January, Ives also visited Shakespeare & Company when the troupe used his work as part of their Studio Festival of Plays reading series in 2010.
“We did a reading of ‘The Liar’ a few years ago here, and I’m looking forward to having it be a part of their winter season,” Ives said in a S&Co press release. “To be part of the rehearsal process, to be in the room in the early days of rehearsals working with the director and actors is something I very much enjoy. Hopefully this will be the first of many more collaborations with the company.”