Artist Spotlight

Andrew LaCombe

(Oren Jakobson)

Nate Peterson has been involved in several theater productions throughout his life, but one role was particularly memorable. When he was a sophomore at Lawrence, Peterson played the role of Michal in “The Pillowman.” Michal gruesomely murders several children throughout the play, so the role added a new challenge for Peterson.
“I learned a lot from that show about the kind of work you can do in preparing for a role,” he recalled. “It just required a different level of focus and a different kind of preparation than what I had done before. It’s probably the only time I am going to play a character that kills little kids, so it really stands out in my mind.”
Peterson, a senior pursuing degrees in English and theater arts, is currently involved in two productions on campus. He is playing the lead role of Callimaco in “The Mandrake,” which is the theater department’s Winter Term production. Peterson is also playing George in a staged reading of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”
“The Mandrake” is a satirical play by Italian Renaissance writer Niccol• Machiavelli. The play is loaded with sexual humor, as we find Callimaco traveling to Italy to try to trick a woman’s husband into letting him sleep with her.
Conversely, “All My Sons” takes place shortly after World War II and criticizes the possibility of the American dream.
In these two shows, Peterson noted that he relates with the audience in contrasting ways.
“As an actor in ‘The Mandrake,’ I’m making choices with the aim to entertain my audience, while my choices in ‘All My Sons’ are focused on creating a realistic, poignant character,” he said.
Peterson feels that dramas like “All My Sons” are much more realistic than comedies, so the character development is very different.
“For ‘All My Sons,’ even though it’s a staged reading, it’s a lot less of developing physicality,” he noted. “It’s a lot more of developing the character internally – thinking more about what a character is thinking in a given scene.”
Despite the drastic differences between comedies and dramas, Peterson doesn’t prefer one to the other.
“Comedy is a lot more physical, so it kind of gives you a chance to develop a larger-than-life physicality with your character, which is a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s fun working with a script like this because you don’t have to worry about offending anyone because it’s all over the top.”
Peterson’s first appearance on stage came in a play that was directed by his older sister. The script came with her American Girl doll. He was eight years old at the time, but after that performance, Peterson was hooked on acting. He was involved in many productions in his hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and has appeared in several shows at Lawrence, including “Into The Woods” last fall.
As for the future, Peterson is considering many possibilities. Right now he is contemplating graduate school or an internship in the field of arts management, but he plans to take a break from acting to figure out if he wants to continue doing theater in future.
Although Peterson is a little biased because he has been through the audition process several times, he wanted to encourage more Lawrentians to try out for the theater department’s shows.
“I understand that it is intimidating, but it really is a worthwhile experience,” Peterson said. “And if you don’t want to be involved in an entire production, sign up for a 24-hour play festival – which happen once a term – because those are informal and it’s not hard to memorize your lines.”
“The Mandrake” runs March 3-5 in Cloak Theatre, and “All My Sons” will be performed March 8.