Mark Mann is all about the classics.
And the most important decision of his young life—to play basketball or join the cast of Arsenic and Old Lace—was decided by classic factors.
“All other things being equal, drama club won out, simply because there were girls in the green room but none in the locker room,” Mann laughed.
His hormone-fueled decision has taken him on a journey through several decades of playing iconic and coveted roles for Columbus audiences in shows including Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, Dr. Faustus, The Lion in Winter, Death of a Salesman, The Seafarer, and A Man for All Seasons.
A creative writing major in college, Mann published some of his work in various literary journals but eventually rekindled his interest in theater when he learned that speaking poetry (as opposed to writing it) would earn him recognition and applause … and dates.
“I realized that if I took theater more seriously, I might get pretty good,” he said. “I began to see it as an art form, as a craft to be studied and developed.” After appearing in a number of onstage roles, Mann began to direct productions as well.
Because of his practical, learning-by-doing approach, Mann has never used a formal process to create his characters. Still, the pressure is on to keep classic roles different and interesting.
“As a young Shakespearean, I worried too much about trying to make a character like Richard III entirely distinctive, entirely new,” Mann reflected. “I think the best way is to approach the character as if it’s a brand-new character in a brand-new play, and trust that your imagination and experience will make him unique to you.”
Although performing over 70 intense roles has given Mann a kit of multiple personalities through the years, a few roles have still escaped him—particularly Macbeth and Cyrano de Bergerac. As compensation, (614) allowed Mann to reincarnate some of his favorite roles and find their themes still working in our lives today.
Lord Byron, Childe Byron
Forgetting all of that, “She walks in beauty like the night,” sentimentalism, you—George Gordon Byron—are a poet, a sexual flamboyant, a poseur, a clubfoot, an alcoholic, a negligent parent, and yes, our first modern celebrity. Do you have any advice for people seeking fame via YouTube or reality TV? I understand one of my daughters was partly responsible for creating the first computer, which she called “the thinking machine.” Is this to be celebrated, an invention that created an endless torrent of cat videos? I think not. As far as reality TV—an oxymoron if there ever was one—my suggestion to contestants is to develop a talent or skill that is useful to the world. I understand how radical this suggestion is to the participants of Celebrity Apprentice.
Richard III, Richard III
Richard, 630 years after your demise on Bosworth Field, physical and DNA analysis has confirmed that your remains lie under a parking lot in Leicester, that you did indeed have scoliosis, and there was infidelity in your bloodline. Care to speculate on any of these? Given my infirmities and number of gashes, I’m pretty sure I was found under a handicapped space.
Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Mr. Finch, although it may be difficult after your unsuccessful defense of Tom Robinson, can you comment on America’s next steps in our fight for justice and racial equality following the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri? America, as an idea, as an aspiration, has always been better than the reality of America. If you look back over its history, America improves upward and forward—sometimes the pace is imperceptible. Sometimes the changes are quick and shocking—but always we seem to be a self-improving society. There is a sense of inevitability in our reach for justice, but only when you look at it from the mockingbird’s eye, from up there just under the clouds. When you see it from ground level, in the moment, it can seem pretty dismal at times.
King Lear, King Lear
King Lear, as a sovereign and the father of several daughters with claim to your property, do you think you could straighten up that inheritance mess on Downton Abbey? It seems to have gotten awfully complicated. Sadly no. When I divided my kingdom, Regan got the part with the cable.
Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady
Professor Higgins, I keep seeing a Grammarly meme pop up on social media, condemning the common use of “supposebly.” Obviously people are upset. With your expertise in phonetics, can you help remedy this problem?
I suppose the only true remedy for such crimes is death. I would include in that tumbrel those people who say “unchartered waters” when they mean “uncharted,” and people who don’t believe such things matter. Grammar is power, precision is power, and those steaming herds of social animals who believe otherwise can “G’wan!”
Mr. Iago, you’ve fought alongside Othello the Moor for many years. Yet with all your skill, Othello was promoted above you. Perhaps you have advice for Vice President Biden, who has recently polled as having 2 percent of his party’s support in a primary. Has he been unfairly upstaged by the nation’s first black president? Would you suggest any image-building techniques? It isn’t important to develop such things—it’s only important to reduce the favorable impression of your opponents—to get their negatives up. With just a handkerchief and a gullible audience, I was able to create the first attack ad…a thing of which I am deeply proud.