The Actor’s Craft

Bringing a Character to Life

Named one of the Best of 2020 by the Boston Globe!

Hosted by CSC Founding Artistic Director Steven Maler

How does an actor take words on a page and bring a character to life on stage? It’s a complex and little-understood bit of alchemy. that requires training, experimentation, and just a bit of magic. The Actor’s Craft series explores this process with accomplished guest actors who have developed their own uniquely personal relationships with the works of Shakespeare, facing and conquering the complexity of some of his most towering characters.

Each event in the series includes performances of passages from a play, interspersed with lively and provocative discussion of how each actor brings his or her own personality and world view to the interpretation of the character.

Events are free of charge, but advance registration is required and a donation of $10 per event is suggested. A virtual VIP post-show reception and Q&A with the artist(s) is available with a donation of $100.  Reception is limited to the first 25 participants to sign up.  Dates, topics, and speakers subject to change.  

Past Events in this Series:

Seth Gilliam on Macbeth, October 29, 7:00PM

The series opened with Seth Gilliam, who performed the title role in CSC’s production of Othello in 2010 and returned for our Theater in the Rough performance of Yasmina Reza’s Art in 2015. He is well known to audiences everywhere from his work on HBO’s “The Wire” and the AMC drama “The Walking Dead,” among a long list of film and TV credits. He will be sharing his view of Macbeth, both the play and the man, and the challenges he faces in preparing to inhabit the character on stage.



Amy Ryan and Jason Butler Harner on Beatrice and Benedick, December 3, 7:00 pm 

Acclaimed actors Amy Ryan and Jason Butler Harner explore the roles of Beatrice and Benedick, the couple at the center of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  The two fiery and independent adversaries gradually come to realize what the audience knows from the beginning, as the couple’s turbulent relationship turns into love. It’s very much a modern love story, as the characters attempt to navigate issues of strength vs. vulnerability, independence vs. connection.

Amy Ryan began her professional stage career in 1987 and is a two-time Tony Award nominee. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck and filmed in Boston. The role also earned her a Golden Globe nomination and won her a Critics’ Choice Award. On television, she had recurring roles in NBC’s The Office, and HBO’s The Wire and In Treatment

Jason Butler Harner also has an extensive stage career in both the US and the UK, and has appeared with CSC on several occasions in the past, including the leading role in our 1997 production of Romeo and Juliet.  He is currently appearing in the Fox TV series NEXT with John Slattery and the Netflix series Ozark.

Denis O’Hare on King Lear, RESCHEDULED: February 6, 4:00 pm 

Denis O’Hare joins us on February 6 to explore the character of King Lear. The play is a complex family drama, centered on a father, his relationships to his three daughters, and his overwhelming need to be praised and flattered. But it’s also taking place at a time of political transition and upheaval, with issues of loyalty and betrayal in the public realm as well as the personal. It makes for a very rich character, one of the most compelling in all of Shakespeare.

Denis will be joined by three accomplished actresses taking the parts of his daughters:  Melinda Lopez, an award-winning actress and playwright, in the role of Goneril; Zuzanna Szadkowski, perhaps best known for her role in the TV show Gossip Girl, as Regan; and Kaci Hamilton, who appeared in CSC’s 2017 production of Romeo and Juliet, as Cordelia.

Denis O’Hare has had a long career on stage and in film and TV. He won a Tony Award for his performance in Take Me Out and a Drama Desk Award for his role in Sweet Charity. He is perhaps best known now for his recurring roles on the HBO series True Blood and Fox’s American Horror Story. He has appeared in such films as Milk, J. Edgar, and Dallas Buyers Club, and in TV series including HBO’s Big Little Lies and CBS’s The Good Wife.



Seth Gilliam

Seth Gilliam is best recognized for the role of Sergeant Carver on HBO’s critically acclaimed series, “The Wire,” and for his work as Father Gabriel Stokes on AMC’s cultural phenomenon, “The Walking Dead.” Other notable feature credits include the beloved Starship Troopers with Neil Patrick Harris and Casper Van Dien; Courage Under Fire with Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan and Matt Damon; as well as Did You Hear About the Morgans?; Punks, Jefferson in Paris, and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film, Personal Velocity: Three Portraits.

Gilliam landed his first recurring television role portraying Aaron Dexter on the classic hit series “The Cosby Show.” Additional television credits include a break-out performance on HBO’s “Oz,” “Teen Wolf,” “Assault On West Point,” “Bronx Is Burning,” “The People vs. Leo Frank;” and guest starring roles on “Homeland,” ”Damages,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “CSI: Miami,” “Person of Interest,” “Criminal Minds” and “The Good Wife.”

No stranger to theatre, Gilliam has also appeared in numerous stage productions including King Lear, Othello, Father Comes Home From the Wars, Topdog/Underdog, Romeo and Juliet, Girl Gone, and Richard III, to name a few.

Gilliam is a graduate of S.U.N.Y. Purchase.

Amy Ryan
Amy Ryan

Amy Ryan is an American actress of stage and screen. A graduate of New York’s High School of Performing Arts, she is an Academy Award nominee and two-time Tony Award nominee.

Ryan began her professional stage career in 1987 and made her Broadway debut in 1993 as a replacement in the original production of The Sisters Rosensweig. She went on to receive Tony Award nominations for Best Featured Actress in a Play for the 2000 revival of Uncle Vanya and the 2005 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Helene McCready in the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck and filmed in Boston. The role also earned her a Golden Globe nomination and won her a Critics’ Choice Award. Her other films include Changeling (2008), Win Win (2011) and Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014). On television, she played Beadie Russell in HBO’s The Wire (2002–2008), Holly Flax in NBC’s The Office (2008–2011) and Adele Brousse in HBO’s In Treatment (2010).

Jason Butler Harner

Jason Butler Harner recently starred as Agent Roy Petty on the breakout Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning Ozark.  Previous television work includes memorable arcs on Ray Donovan, Scandal, Homeland, and The Blacklist, as well as a series regular role on FOX’s Alcatraz and a recent guest-star on High Maintenance.  Harner debuted on screen in Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award-nominated Changeling.  Other films of note include The Family Fang, The Taking of Pelham 123, Non-Stop, Blackhat, and independent films Letters from the Big Man, The Green, (for which he garnered a number of film festival awards), as well as the recently completed The Big Bend.  

Harner has appeared with CSC on several occasions in the past, beginning with the leading role in our 1997 production of Romeo and Juliet.  Harner was last seen on Broadway, starring opposite Janet McTeer, in the world premiere of Bernhardt/Hamlet, as well as in the multi-Tony Award winning The Coast of Utopia and the recent revival of The Crucible, with Saoirse Ronan, Ben Whishaw and Sophie Okenedo.  He starred at London’s Donmar Warehouse in Serenading Louie.  A frequent actor in American premieres of English plays, some Off-Broadway appearances include Cock, The Village Bike, Through a Glass Darkly, The Paris Letter, Orange Flower Water, Hedda Gabler and many others. He has two Drama Desk nominations and an Obie Award.  

Harner holds a M.F.A. from the esteemed Graduate Acting Program at New York University, as well as a B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University.



Denis O’Hare
King Lear

Denis O’Hare is an actor, writer and activist who lives in Paris, France. Mr. O’Hare has appeared extensively on Broadway and Off-Broadway. He won a Tony Award for his performance in Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out, a Drama Desk Award for his role in Sweet Charity as well as an OBIE Award for An Iliad. Denis has appeared in such films as Late NightThe GoldfinchSwallowThe Day Shall ComeMilkA Mighty HeartMichael ClaytonDuplicity21 GramsGarden StateHalf NelsonDallas Buyers ClubLizzie BordenThe Proposal and The Changeling. His television appearances include five seasons on “American Horror Story,” two seasons on “True Blood,” one season on “Big Little Lies,” appearances on “American Gods” (Season 3), “The Good Wife,” “The Comedians,” “This Is Us,” “Broad City,” and the upcoming HBO series “The Nevers.” As a writer, Denis recently had his first screenplay produced. His movie, The Parting Glass, is available on iTunes and other platforms. With his writing partner, Lisa Peterson, he is the co-author of the play An Iliad, which has been performed throughout the world—most recently in Shanghai and Paris. Denis and Lisa also wrote The Good Book, which premiered at The Court Theatre in Chicago in 2015 and enjoyed a critically acclaimed run at Berkeley Rep in the spring of 2019. Currently, Lisa and Denis are working on a new commission: a piece about the fall of the Roman Empire. In addition, Mr. O’Hare is writing a novel. He and his husband, Hugo Redwood have one son, Declan

Creative Team

Steven Maler

Steven Maler is the Founding Artistic Director of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC). At CSC he has been directing Free Shakespeare on the Boston Common productions since 1996, including Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, King Lear, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Coriolanus, All’s Well That Ends Well, Othello, The Comedy Of Errors, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Henry V, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, and Romeo & Juliet. Other CSC works include his critically acclaimed production of Naomi Wallace’s adaptation of William Wharton’s novel Birdy, Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, the world premiere of Jake Broder’s Our American Hamlet, and the world premiere of Robert Brustein’s The Last Will.  In collaboration with Boston Landmarks Orchestra, he directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring the Overture and Incidental Music of Felix Mendelssohn, as well as concert stagings of The Boys from Syracuse and Kiss Me Kate at Boston’s iconic Hatch Shell.  For CSC he has also directed one-night-only readings of iconic plays featuring Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Paul Rudd, Anthony Mackie, Blair Brown, Tony Shalhoub, Brooke Adams, Leslie Uggams, David Morse, and Jeffrey Donovan among others.  He conceived and directed Shakespeare at Fenway, an evening of Shakespeare scenes performed at Boston’s iconic Fenway Park, featuring Mike O’Malley, Neal McDonough, Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, Kerry O’Malley, Seth Gilliam, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Max Von Essen, Christian Coulson, Jason Butler Harner, and many others.

In collaboration with Google, he adapted and directed a first of its kind sixty minute virtual reality film of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, entitled Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit, starring Jack Cutmore-Scott, Jay O. Sanders, Brooke Adams, and Faran Tahir.  It is currently available for viewing on Boston public media producer GBH’s YouTube channel; for more information, visit

Outside of CSC, he directed Maria, Regina D’Inghilterra for Odyssey Opera, Péter Eötvös’ operatic treatment of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (U.S. Premiere) and Thomas Adès’ Powder Her Face for Opera Boston, The Turn of the Screw at New Repertory Theatre, Santaland Diaries and Chay Yew’s Porcelain at SpeakEasy Stage Company, Top Girls and Weldon Rising at Coyote Theatre, and The L.A. Plays by Han Ong at A.R.T. His New York City credits include the New York Musical Theatre Festival production of Without You, written by and starring Anthony Rapp. The production has been seen in Boston, Edinburgh, Toronto, London, and Seoul.

He received the prestigious Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence, as well as for Best Production for Twelfth Night and All’s Well That Ends Well; Outstanding Director, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Best Production, SubUrbia; Best Solo Performance, John Kuntz’s Starf***ers (which also won Best Solo Performance Award at New York International Fringe Festival). His feature film “The Autumn Heart,” starring Tyne Daly and Ally Sheedy was in the Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

Jenna Worden
Production Manager
Jenna Worden
Production Manager

Jenna Worden is a producer, director, and stage manager with a passion for storytelling, education, and access to the arts. Favorite CSC credits include Birdy, Universe Rushing Apart, and Our American Hamlet. Additional regional credits include New Rep Theatre, Gloucester Stage Company, Phoenix Theatre, and Childsplay AZ. She collaborates often with Brian O’Donovan and is the director and producer of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn. She earned both her BA in Theatre Studies and BSEd in History from Northern Arizona University and is constantly looking for new ways to teach and be in conversation with the past. Proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Events in this series are held on Zoom and speech-to-text captioning will be available.

As with all of our programming, we encourage you to let us know about any disability-related accommodations that you need in order to participate. Please reach out to us at with your requests, or to let us know how we’re doing in our efforts to make all of our work engaging and accessible to all audiences.


Featured Photo: Left: Jeanine Kane, Will Lyman, Libby McKnight and Deb Martin in King Lear 2015, Photo by Brilliantpictures; Right: Denis O'Hare

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