ARTIST PROFILE: Josh Saleh Returns to Play Claudio and Angus

Meet Josh Saleh, Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing and Angus in Macbeth in the 2015 Santa Cruz Shakespeare Summer Festival.

Josh Saleh

Where are you from originally? Where do you call home now?

Originally I am from Lafayette, California, a small town in the East Bay near Berkeley. As of now, I don’t have a place to call home yet. I have been living in Los Angeles for the past three years, and now I am in the process of moving to New York. This summer season is the midway point between Los Angeles and New York.

How did you come to be a part of Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s 2015 festival? Do you have a history with us, or is this your first time?

It began when I attended UC Santa Cruz in 2008. At that time, the festival was called Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC). As my college years went on I learned more about the beauty of SSC and my dream to act in The Glen increased. Each summer I witnessed breathtaking theater on the most gorgeous stage. I desired to be a part of that magic, the “Glen” magic. When I graduated in 2012, I finally gained the confidence to audition for the Acting Internship. With unspeakable joy, I was chosen, and it was the most challenging and fulfilling summers I have ever had. To have the opportunity to work with professionals at such a young age was a gift. I was so invested in the work that I rarely had the time to talk with my family or friends. My days off were spent doing laundry and sleeping. After the summer ended my next goal was to be a Company Member. Three years later that dream has been fulfilled. This festival has not only improved who I am as an actor but also my life.

Josh Saleh in Santa Cruz Shakespeare's 2012 production of The Mandrake.

Josh Saleh in Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s 2012 production of The Mandrake.

What has your experience been like working with Santa Cruz Shakespeare this season?

Well, when fulfilling a dream seven years in the making, most of my experience has been unstoppable giddiness and uncontrollable smiling. Firstly, I am so proud to work with a company that believes in Gender Equality. To be a part of a forward thinking season is an honor. Secondly, everyone that is associated with this festival, have it be volunteering or working, has that special spark in their eyes. That desire and need to help those around them. To work in a festival with so much love is incredibly inspiring. As an actor, vulnerability leads to the best work. This festival is so good in helping you feel safe and at home. Which in turn leads to fantastic work from everyone. To put it simply, my experience has been nothing short of amazing. To be on stage with professional actors who value their work, I can’t put it into words.

Tell us about the character(s) you’re playing. How did you approach the role(s)? Was there anything you discovered about your characters and/or the play during the rehearsals and performances? What was it like to work on multiple roles at once?

Josh Saleh and Mike Ryan in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: rr jones

Josh Saleh and Mike Ryan in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: rr jones

I must say that Claudio proved to be quite a challenging role. Here is a character who believes in his honor and reputation more so than the feelings of others. He does not learn from his mistakes very easily. He falls for multiple lies within the show and instead of trying to find the truth he reacts impulsively. He changes emotion as quick as the blink of an eye. He falls in love with someone he barely knows and all this barely

scratches the surface of who he is. To try and incorporate all of these qualities into a character without representing him as dumb and one dimensional wracked my brain. On top of that having to rip out my heart, mend it, rip it out again, and then mend it a second time was not a walk in Messina. Thankfully, I had an amazing director, Laura Gordon, to guide me in finding to be a more complex and truthful character. Being truthful and opening myself up to the vulnerability of Claudio’s journey was what helped me.

What have been some of your favorite things to do in the Santa Cruz area when you weren’t rehearsing/working?

I love going to Zoccolis and getting a sandwich, one of the best places in Santa Cruz to get one. Betty’s Burgers and Jack’s are great for a great burger. I used to work at the Del Mar movie theater, being back and seeing movies there keeps my heart warm. Walking on West Cliff never gets old. Walnut Cafe and Cafe Brasil for breakfast. Hiking through the woods and gardens help keep me from going insane. I love this town, and I am so happy to be back in Santa Cruz.

What is your favorite Shakespeare play? Why?

I love King Henry the Fourth pt 1 and 2. Falstaff, Hal, and Hotspur are some of my favorite characters in the Canon. It wrestles with family, honor, identity and war. To have comedic scenes intertwined with war entraps my emotions. Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night are some of my favorites as well.

What is your favorite Shakespearean insult?

Good question. Hard to decide! Here are two of my favorites from Henry 4 Pt 1.

“You are as a candle, the better burnt out.”

“Thou art as fat as butter.”

Why should people come to see Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s plays this summer?

For the obvious reason: It’s Santa Cruz Shakespeare, you know you are getting a great show!  Sadly, this is the last year we are in The Glen, come help us bid farewell to this amazing stage. The shows this season are so diverse and versatile. The amount of work everyone has put into this festival is groundbreaking. I promise, you are in for a roller coaster of a ride this season. These are not shows you want to miss! This is not a season you want to miss! One of the best parts about this festival is that it is outdoors. You can picnic in the audience an hour before the show! Bring food, wine, and cheese and come laugh with us!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself? Or about anything?

I want to give a huge shout out to Mike Ryan and all of the Board Members of this festival. We would not be here this summer if it wasn’t for you. Thank you!

Tickets on sale now for the 2015 season, which features three outdoor productions, starting with the wickedly romantic Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, opening July 3; followed by David Ives’s modern adaptation of the wickedly hilarious 17th century farce, The Liar, opening July 24; and Shakespeare’s wicked tragedy, Macbeth, opening August 7. Plus, SCS continues the tradition of its intern-showcasing Fringe production with four performances of the wickedly festive comedy The Rover, starting August 18.


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