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‘Henry IV’ gives Modica chance to rule
Photos and Story by James Hill
Lauren Modica doesn’t look like Jack Falstaff, the notorious and rotund leader of hapless thieves in William Shakespeare’s "Henry IV, Part One."
But that’s the point. It’s supposed to be a challenge.
"I’m studying a lot of my guy friends so I can get into the ‘dude’ frame of mind," Modica said. "It’s a great part. I’ve had so much fun with it."
Like her fellow actors, she won’t be able to use any crutch to get into character, as director Gretchen Icenogle will have no costumes or fancy set designs reminiscent of the King Henry IV era. Actors will wear just plain black shirts and pants, and the set involves very simple curtains and lighting. To do Falstaff justice, Modica will have to rely on her imagination to come up with her version of this iconic character.
"It’s one of the most hilarious yet sobering plays I’ve read in a long time," she said. "There are so many themes that can pertain to anybody’s life. It’s sharp, quick-witted and has a lot of action. It’s a pretty darn good production that Gretchen put together. Everyone working on this has been awesome, either behind the scenes or on stage."
Modica is used to a challenge. Being classified as a dwarf (achondroplasia), roles have been hard to come by in her theater career. She’s taken classes at PCC off-and-on since 2004 and returned last fall to complete her requirements in her sociology and theater arts majors. She plans to transfer on to Portland State University when she’s done in the spring. If her career in theater doesn’t work out she says she would love to use her sociology skills to go into marketing and advertising.
"I love theater and I would love to continue to do it," Modica said. "But as a 4-foot, 8-inch, half-black dwarf I don’t get a lot of opportunities. I’ve had people who have told me you should continue to do it and others have been very frank (about my physical challenges)."
Modica caught the acting bug when she watched her uncle perform in the high school production of, "Charlotte’s Web," in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
"I was 9 or 10 at the time and I remember putting the link together that I could do it, too," she said. "The fact I knew somebody related to me who was doing theater was great."
Her path to landing the Falstaff role began when Modica took a class from theater art instructor Julie Akers, who was so impressed she even cast her in an outside production.
"It was the biggest compliment I’ve ever received," Modica said. "Julie was one of the most outstanding mentors I’ve had in my life."
Back in early October, when she sat in as producer on the first read-through of "The Importance of Being Earnest," Icenogle and Akers were struck by the energy, intelligence, and comic flair of Modica and Akers immediately cast her as Miss Prism. She said that Oscar Wilde’s heightened language and the plain absurdity of his play world wasn’t a problem for Modica.
"It’s rare to find an actor who can play comedy so honestly, and I knew I’d need just such an actor to tackle the monumental role of Falstaff in ‘Henry IV,’" said Icenogle. "I didn’t know until we held auditions whether the idea of casting Lauren would prove folly or inspiration, but as soon as she got her teeth into all those ripe insults and shamelessly elaborate lies, any remaining doubts disappeared. Lauren understands the pathos of Falstaff, which heightens the comedy and gives it a welcome edge. I think her performance will illuminate this well-loved character in unexpected ways."
Modica credits PCC’s atmosphere for bringing her back to the college. She had been told plenty of times that once you leave community college you’ll never go back. She is proof that the saying isn’t true.
"The college is such a great open resource," Modica said. "There are always classes being offered and you meet a lot of people; experience a lot of things."
For more information on PCC’s production of "King Henry IV, part One," visit the Theater Arts website.
- Tickets are available at the PCC Sylvania Bookstore, or a half hour before performances at the box office.
- For more information, call (503) 977-4949.