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3. Because at 2 p.m. Mark Rylance Is Channeling Judi Dench and By Eight He’s Playing a Bloodthirsty King

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“I like to listen to Judi Dench speaking before I play Olivia,” says Mark Rylance, who since October has six times per week taken on the Twelfth Night role. “I sometimes think of Maggie Smith and her delivery. I’ll notice my mother’s behavior in me as Olivia.” What’s more impressive than the veteran actor convincingly playing one of Shakespeare’s most complex heroines is that twice a week, just a few hours after washing off his makeup, he puts on a crown and transforms into one of his most challenging leading men: Richard III, the deformed tyrant who dominates ­Shakespeare’s longest history so thoroughly that “no other role matters much,” according to critic Harold Bloom. While his Olivia has the presence of the great British dames, he plays Richard with levity and is yet somehow more terrifying for it. “I didn’t want the other characters to have to play stupid. I didn’t want to be so apparently evil—wear black, scowl, or be full of rage. I think he considers himself a victim,” he says. Of his current double duty, which will continue into February, he remains sanguine. “It is hard work, but if you’re lucky enough to play Hamlet 400 times, as I was, or Rooster Byron 400 times,” he says, “those are a little bit more strenuous.”


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