Performer Logan McArthur

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How many of us dream of moving to the city and pursuing a career in the arts? Wauchopian Logan McArthur has done just that … recently performing the role of Paris in Sydney Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Not afraid to work hard, Logan has some great advice for young actors.

Hi Logan. Describe your background … where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in Wauchope and I went to Wauchope Primary and then St. Columba Anglican School.

What initially sparked your interest in acting – and can you remember your first ever acting role?

I definitely remember doing “performances” for family and friends as I grew up, with whoever happened to be over at the time. It began to spark near the end of primary school and really launched once I hit high school.

Performances in Tournament of Minds as Humpty Dumpty spring to mind, but I think my first role in a play was Tom in Stories from Suburban Road. I’ll never forget a dear friend of mine always grabbing my arm very dramatically at the end of the scene, pointing off stage and yelling CHICKEN HAWK at the top of her lungs!

What led you to leave the area and move to the “big smoke” – Sydney?

I moved here mainly for university. I went to Macquarie University to study a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies/Science (Mathematics) … Though, it must be said I did also audition and apply for the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) straight out of school, and I would have taken it over everything else!

You recently performed the role of Paris in Sydney Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Describe this experience for us …

I had a brilliant time with the Sydney Shakespeare Company. Their artistic director, Steven Hopley, has literary knowledge and insight you wouldn’t believe and put together an incredible cast that I was very blessed to be included in.

What surprised me about the experience is how few rehearsals I attended before we were running the show and then putting it on! I think it was perhaps three rehearsals (one just a fight rehearsal!), then we were 10 days out and just did full show runs, and then on we went!

Obviously other performers (like Romeo and Juliet) had significantly more rehearsals, but I was terrified of being really underprepared. But that was when I realised I had really stepped up into a new level, as my fellow actors were incredible. Romeo was a NIDA graduate, Nurse was a WAAPA graduate and Juliet was a real force, just to name a few. They were intimidating and inspiring, and it really forced me to lift my game, which was fantastic. And again our director Steven, who also played Mercutio, made it seem so easy.

What do you feel were the most valuable things you learned from this particular production?

That I had gotten quite lazy! Ha ha. It had definitely been too long since I’d done a course, or studied acting, or really had a role that pushed me in multiple ways as an actor. I had to remember all I had learned and put it back into practice: analyse the lines, relationships, why is your character saying this, what does he want, what is he afraid of etc.

It also brought me back to my favourite thing about acting: great onstage truth … When you and a fellow performer are connected by your scene and your characters, when the lines are natural and powerful and diverse and very human. So thankful for that!

More functionally, I saw a lot about putting on a large independent production, experienced a bunch of cheap and effective rehearsal spaces and how to maximise rehearsal time effectiveness. Oh, and got a crash course in knife fighting!

My understanding is you’ve performed in several Shakespeare productions now … How difficult is it, as an actor, to learn dialogue as complex as the Bard’s? What tips/tricks do you use to help you memorise the lines?

I’m a bit of an odd ball, because I almost find Shakespearean dialogue more comfortable than modern pieces! Many of my first acting steps were with Shakespearean monologues and scenes.

But my advice to actors struggling with it is never be afraid to ask what a word means/look it up yourself, practice speaking the words and grammar naturally and above all, don’t think of it as “Shakespeare”! If you approach it as modern English and treat it that way, you can actually end up with a wonderfully comfortable base in the text. You can always add the specific rhythms and add oomph to the poetry later in the rehearsal process.

I’ll bombard myself with multiple learning processes. Reading over them, speaking them aloud, running the scenes. One tip for locking them in is to record the surrounding dialogue, and then play through the scene with your recording, performing the scene with yourself!

Out of all the characters you’ve played in any play, who would be your favourite (and why)?

Another Shakespeare, I fear! Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. He’s terrific, because he’s so clever and so daft at the same time. It’s also a bit special, as it was my final show at high school and my romantic opposite (Beatrice) was my high school sweetheart and still one of my closest friends. They have these great arguments and battles of wit, then end up pathetically in love with each other, and the audience gets to laugh at every step along the way!

What are your acting aspirations … any role/s you’d like to one day play?

Hamlet, because I’m hopeless and boring like that, but mainly since it’s just the most incredible and terrifyingly complex role. More modern ones would be Konstantin from Chekhov’s The Seagull (beautifully heartbreaking) and Christopher Boone (maths and acting, my perfect combination!) in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time if it finally makes it over to Australia!

What advice would you have for any up and coming youth from our area who may be considering pursuing acting in a big city like Sydney?

Firstly, have a backup option. It’s a very overcrowded industry, and the more cuts that come through, the worse that situation is going to get.

But, definitely dream big and have a crack at it. There are some great schools if you get a full-time course, and they can give you the training as well as a badge and connections to get you into audition environments.

But with or without that, expect to have to work hard. Nobody is going to find you in your little apartment and drag you into the limelight. You need to be creating your own work, performing at multiple places, building up a network of fellow creatives that you can bounce off and work with. Learn to sing, learn to dance, write if you can.

Everyone I know who is on their way up worked incredibly hard to get there, as well as built and maintained friendships and collaborative partnerships. I really do believe if you have the talent and ability and you work hard enough, you can carve out a career.

Thanks Logan.

Interview by Jo Robinson.

Photo by Shakira Wilson.

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