I'm excited to have Robert Sicular here, who is currently playing Toby Belch in CSF's production of Twelfth Night. Welcome, Robert. Thank you and I would like to add that it's Sir Toby Belch. Yes, Sir Toby Belch. Yes. Well, I want you to talk about that. So before the cameras started rolling, you were telling us this is your fourth time playing this role. This is my fourth time playing this role. I played it originally in high school when I was 16 and then I played it at the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival when I was 25, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when I was 49. Coincidentally, the actor playing Sir Andrew Aguecheek in that production was Christopher DuVal, who directed this year's production of Romeo and Juliet. Excellent. Small world. It is. It is a small world. This is actually also my eighth time doing this play. I played Malvolio three times and Feste once. Wow, that is something I'm going to want to talk about. Yeah, it's a lot of fun looking at things from different angles. You have an extensive Shakespeare resume? I do. I lost count a little while ago, but I believe it's somewhere over 90 productions of Shakespeare, going back to when I was 15, playing my first Shakespearean role, which was Peter Quince in a Midsummer Night's Dream. Yeah, excellent. So class figures pretty strongly into this play. That's true, it does. He has the position or the luxury to behave in the way he is. He does. That's one thing that I think Americans in particularly have a difficult time with, the idea of class structure and especially as almost codified as it was during Shakespeare's time. It still exists in Britain to a degree. Most of the class structure we have here in America has to do with money and not how you're born. There is a point in the play, now you're talking about his relationship with Malvolio. Malvolio, of course, is Olivia's steward. He runs the household, he's joyless. She wants to be in mourning for seven years so she's hired this guy to make sure that there's no frivolity, no extraneous noise, and all that. Of course, Toby wants to party and there's one late night drunken debauch that they're just singing, carousing and Maria comes in and says, "Please, shut up." They won't and Malvolio shows up and says, "What's wrong with you? Are you crazy?" Toby won't stop and then finally he goes up to him and says, "Art anymore than a steward? Dost thou think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" In other words, he's saying what right have you to tell me what to do? You have absolutely no right, you're a servant. That's a prevalent through, of course, a lot of societies all over the world, especially who sides with aristocracy. So from Toby's perspective, that's justification enough to escalate the jokes to the degree that he does? Yes, absolutely. There's a fair amount of cruelty in this play, especially for a comedy. Yes, that's true. Can you talk about that a bit. Again, there are many different levels. Well, I mean they take this jest, they fool Malvolio into thinking that the Countess Olivia is in love with him by forging this letter and he comes in, I'm sure you already talked about this, but dressed crazily and smiling and acting really weird. So they think he's insane. Now in those days, what they did with crazy people is they lock them up and they tie them up and beat them with a whip. There's actually a line in As You Like It about lovers deserve, was it a dark house and a whip as much as mad men do or something like that. Yeah, so Toby says, "Hey, let's do this. This sounds like a lot of fun." It does go too far and he can be played as penitent and I think he is to a degree. But what he actually says, he says, "I am now so far in offense with my niece that I cannot pursue with any safety this sport to the upshot." So he doesn't really have pity on Malvolio. He doesn't care, he hates that guy. He still hates that guy. Right, you just don't want to get kicked out. Don't want to get kicked out. He's already made a lot of errors and he's living there by the grace of his niece. Again, you don't have to play it that way, I'm not playing it that way because I like happier endings. That perhaps he rejects the foolishness and the drunkenness and tries to straighten himself out. He gets married at the end. Yeah, that's a great segue. You mentioned, he seems to have taken a shine to Maria. He's deferential to her throughout the play, would appear, and then marries her at the end. She's really smart. She sees through a lot of the crap. Yeah, it's interesting that we're talking about class because she's not of the nobility, I don't think. But I guess you can fudge it, especially, well, I hate to say say if you're a man, you can probably lift up a woman easier than a woman lifting up a man. At that time, certainly. Well, although Malvolio does say that there is example for it, "the lady of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe," whatever that means. To get back to your observation about Sir Toby as a veteran, Shakespeare puts a lot of veterans in his plays and not just in the war plays. Have you had the opportunity, there are Shakespeare with veterans groups popping up all over the country and I think it's really fascinating. I've had conversations with veterans about these plays and I'm excited for you to work on Much Ado About Nothing when you do, because that's another example of a comedy that has veterans in it and thinking about it from that perspective illuminates a lot about the play it seems to me. Well, absolutely, and in Shakespeare's time there were wars going on all the time. There was the war in Flanders, the Dutch wars and succession from the Spanish that would go on for 80 years. I think the Eighty Years' War and always got to fight against the French, one time or another. So there were a lot of people in Shakespeare's time, that military experience. Who were then trying to reintegrate into civilian life. Yeah, there's Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. It's not said specifically that he was a soldier, but he had a lot of military references as well. Mercutio's Queen Mab speech has many times been played as almost a manifestation of PTSD, which of course didn't really exist back in those days. I mean, it did exist, of course. Of course, it did. Sure. We just didn't call it that. Yeah, and there are other examples of things like that, of war having damaged people. This is a total tangent, but I just did a stage reading with some veterans of Coriolanus. Coriolanus is a character who many have said is difficult to like, but if you understand that he is dealing with trying to reintegrate into civilian life after having been in a war, a soldier at peacetime, it's everything you said about Toby Belch. Yeah, Coriolanus is a very interesting play. He cannot integrate himself back into society and do what people expect him to do. That sheds so much light on Toby Belch, that is such an interesting observation. Yeah, I came to that later. I think the first time I played it in [inaudible] the rapscallion, fun-loving night. Although we did play even in high school, we played the darker edges of the thing. I think they're hard to miss, it's hard to avoid them. Yeah, exactly. But my thinking is actually quite developed in the years of thinking of that underlying aspect of him, of a veteran and disappointed in the world. I mean, the idea of melancholy in Shakespeare's time, of course is a huge one, Hamlet, Jaques and As You Like It. Really starting right around these plays. Right around these plays. Again, who knows what was going on in Shakespeare's life? Right, exactly.