From Sergeant to Earnest

Gilberto Galvez/Culture editor

Freshman Murphy Jackson has been acting ever since middle school. His first two major plays at Linfield involved two very different characters. One of them was a sergeant turned rapist. The other was a lighter, comedic character: Jack from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Both of them proved to be starkly contrasting roles.

Q: Why did you decide to try out for the two plays this year?

A: Well, when it comes to trying out for plays that is an easy answer. You have to try out for everything when you’re an actor. Jobs are hard things to come by, and I think it might be good experience to dive into whatever project presents itself as an opportunity for me. Also, it is just ridiculously fun. I know the people who will be at these auditions and consider them all my friends (hopefully I’m not overstepping myself with that one). But in college, trying out for a play is just like getting kids together for a play date. Yes, it is all maybe a competition for a role in said play, but that is never an issue when it comes to working and enjoying the company of these people.

Q: How would you describe the two characters you played?

A: Heaven and hell, which isn’t the right way to put it, but it is sort of close to it. Sergeant is one of those horrible experiences you go through, but have so much to learn from that you can’t really blame him. That role became a sort of civil service, with a story to tell about what people within our armed forces might be dealing with without our knowing. Of course, the experience was fun overall because that is the reason why I act, but when I was sergeant on stage there was anger and the need to take back what control he felt like he was losing. So that was a deep role with a lot of meaning and message to give out. Earnest on the other hand was, “art for art’s sake.” There you’ve got motive, purpose, and the green light to enjoy yourself. Wilde just hands out this script to everyone and says, “Don’t mess it up to badly, which is really impossible because it really is just that good.” So for Earnest there really isn’t a lot to think about except for how does some one conduct comedy through them. Hopefully the answer is to just enjoy acting it yourself, because if you’re having fun the audience should also be having fun.

Q: You played two very different characters in the two plays. How was preparing for Ajax in Iraq different from preparing for The Importance of Being Earnest?

A: Five words. Boot camp and tea time. To prepare for Earnest there is just a lot that has to happen with the mind. You have to get it into your head that this is how you should walk and talk. Which we had the amazing Janet to do the watching on our walking, and her ridiculously talented husband, Ted, to teach us the language part. Otherwise, it was drilling on comedic timing, how to discover which ideas, and what one would expect from a play. In Ajax the drilling was actual drilling. We had cross fit trainers come in and give us a taste of what it was like to be a soldier and even then it doesn’t compare to the real thing. Then, it was watching movies on why we were in Iraq, what the effects of war were on our society, and interviews with veterans and others who had ties to the war. This whole process just gave us a sense of what it was that we were trying to play. I know that for me the subject of war, it wasn’t a distant problem anymore; it was something that needed to be discussed and faced by all people on all fronts. Something that just needs to be ended so we can all get back to the issue. of healing.

Q: How do these two characters compare to characters you have played before in high school or otherwise?

A: Since high school there has been a recent trend to the roles I’ve been getting. Out of the last four major shows I’ve been in I’ve been the villain for three of them. Callahan in Legally Blonde, King Claudius in Hamlet, and Sergeant in Ajax in Iraq, so Earnest was a bit of a refresher. It is never a bad thing to be a villain, and the truth is that it is sort of freeing to just be awful letting out your anger in your acting. But for those last couple of shows there has been this darker sexual spin (especially with Ajax where it was just sexual violence at its peak) so it’s been pretty interesting.

Q: What characters would you like to play in the future?

A: If I continue with the villain thing, then I’d like to do either the in-control evil villain, or out of his mind killer. Like Vic Vega from Reservoir Dogs where he dances to a hippie song then cuts off some guy’s ear. If I got to choose then easily it would have to be an omnipotent narrator character like the Athenai in Ajax or the Rooster minstrel from the animated disney Robin Hood. That guy was my hero.

Gilberto Galvez can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com