William Vaughan ('13) talks to us about his homecoming, the production, and being a working actor in Washington, D.C.
Fighting off villains, playing with swords, and swashbuckling in daredevil encounters fills every young boy’s backyard activities, but for 2013 South Carolina Theatre graduate, William Vaughan, make-believe has become a reality. Returning home to the USC stage, Vaughan is to play young hero D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, April 17-25 at Drayton Hall. Vaughan recently sat down to discuss his homecoming, excitement for the production, and his experience as a working actor for the past two years in Washington D.C.
Starting with graduation, what have you done? Where have you been?
“I left school to go do Twelfth Night with Robert Richmond in D.C. and then after that I did a Capital Fringe show with the Fringe festival and we did Romeo and Juliet. And then I came back to Columbia for two months and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. Then the Folger Shakespeare Theatre contacted me to understudy Romeo, so I took that as the universe telling me where to go. During that time I was really lucky and was able to sign with an agent. In the spring of 2014, I understudied a show at Signature Theater and then after that I did an original show at the Hub Theater out in Fairfax, Virginia. Fall of this year I worked at the Folger again and did Julius Caesar with Robert. For the past two months I have been auditioning and I now have four shows lined up.”
Do you feel like you’ve got the golden goose?
“I feel like I could stay in D.C for the rest of my life and be a working actor, but then again I’m 23 and I feel like I should be pounding the pavement of being poor and not having to work. So do I say OK, regional theater is great or do I go to the next level and attempt the Off-Broadway, Broadway route? Right now though, D.C. is a fantastic place to build a resume.”
Have you made any contacts that have been really significant to you since moving to DC?
“I have met so many amazing artists and been fortunate to work with great people. My agent, Fred Shiffman, has been really helpful with just giving me career advice and helping me get auditions, he really wants the best for me. D.C is so great because it is a small community; I always run into people that I know at auditions. But it’s not super competitive, it’s like, ‘Oh, if you get this role, I will get the other role we both auditioned for last week.’ There’s a really good community there.”
It all sounds really great to have been acting professionally so much, but has it also been sort of a struggle?
“Yeah, it’s always a struggle, you know paying rent and the sort of uncertainty. There has also been a lot of rejection, dealing with that can be discouraging, but I have been really fortunate.
“You can totally see how some people get out in the world and realize that acting is really only a tenth of being an actor. There’s a lot of negotiating and auditioning, putting yourself out there, as well as finding a day job and figuring out how you are going to eat. But, I enjoy the hustle of it. I’ve only been at it for two years so it could become exhausting; however, I love it now.”
Are you an opportunity seeker in D.C.?
“Yeah, you have to be! I use Actor’s Access website and my agent says to email him if there is a part I want to audition for. But, I’m constantly out there searching as if I didn’t have an agent. This year I went to all of the EPAs (Equity Principal Auditions). But, if you are non-equity like me, you go and sit in line and wait for someone to not show up or hope the auditions are ahead of schedule. My idea this year was to go to all of the EPAs and it was definitely worth it. I’m there standing in line, but you have to be proactive.”
Do you think this has made you a more efficient actor?
“Yes, I think some people run the risk of phoning it in a little bit, and when you get into a rhythm, booking the gig becomes more important than the gig. I’m trying my best not to do this, but I’m still learning and figuring it out! It’s difficult prepping for what you are doing now and also giving attention to your auditions.”
…apart from the classes and learning different techniques, I have found that the production aspect here at USC, whether it’s a lab show or a main stage show, really does a fantastic job of simulating exactly what the professional theatre is like.
Is there anything you took from USC that you have carried with you into the professional world?
“You know, apart from the classes and learning different techniques, I have found that the production aspect here at USC, whether it’s a lab show or a main stage show, really does a fantastic job of simulating exactly what the professional theatre is like. I didn’t go into my first professional show surprised in the way of etiquette, scheduling, or the entire experience as a whole. I think the BA experience was really useful for me because I didn’t go into the real world expecting everything to be handed to me. I know what it is like to fight for a part. A lot of times you go into an audition room and it’s your job to change the director’s mind about whom they are going to cast. The BA experience and learning to create opportunities for yourself, is just really helpful. Whether it’s getting a bunch of friends together and doing a show and learning how to make work happen on your own, is something I think I really learned at USC.”
How is it being back at USC?
“It’s cool, it’s been a little surreal seeing some of the undergrads that were freshmen and sophomores when I was a senior take on leadership roles. As well as just seeing completely different faces in the building. It’s been really good though.”
What’s your take on D’Artagnan? What’s fun about him for you?
“He’s very naive about the world. He’s very much full of pride and not afraid of death. Robert Richmond [Three Musketeers' director] has had us look at what ‘honor’ means because D’Artagnan is always talking about what is to be honorable. I have also been thinking about the differences between honor and pride.”
Knowing the story growing up, do you find that Ludwig’s version of the story matches how you imagined it?
“Yes, and I have started reading some his other books, and everything is so black and white, hero versus villain. It reads a bit like a comic book. And Robert has taken this style to the next level and made it even more like a storybook.”
What’s your take on Robert’s approach?
“The difference between Ludwig’s version and Dumas’ is the introduction of the character Sabine, D’Artagnan’s sister that goes to Paris with him. Ludwig’s idea for that is he wanted a female character to swashbuckle and save the day, which is great, but what Robert has done is ask, ‘why?’ How do we justify this character that didn’t originally exist, because obviously she’s what this story is really about.
Robert’s idea is that the whole production takes place in the mind of a 7-year-old, and is her fantasy of one day being a Musketeer. Sabine says, ‘Do I want to be the Queen? Do I want to be Milady? No! I want to be a Musketeer.’ The opening scene is this little girl that comes out with a stuffed animal in her hands, and a nun comes and takes it away, giving her the Three Musketeers book. So now, the story is this little girl reading it, imagining a future version of her in the story, and fighting next to the Musketeers. Everything is larger than life and I think it works perfectly with Ludwig’s style. It’s a great way of justifying that character. And, why wouldn’t there be characters roller-skating in a 7-year-old’s mind?”