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Study Guide | Theater

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance


Paterson Joseph was born in England to parents who had emigrated from St. Lucia. After attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, he has gone on to tremendous success as an actor in both England and the US. In the theater, he has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company in plays like Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet, Othello and King Lear, for which he won the prestigious Ian Charleson Award for his performance as Oswald. His most prominent stage role in the US was as Brutus in the RSC’s brilliant South African-set production of Julius Caesar, which was seen at BAM in 2014. Other prominent stage roles were in Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. Sancho: An Act of Remembrance, the one-man show he wrote and performed, toured in both England and the US (including several performances at BAM) in 2015. On television, he has been featured in several important British series, including Doctor Who and Law and Order UK; he also has a prominent recurring role in HBO’s series The Leftovers. His film work includes In the Name of the Father, Aeon Flux, and The Beach.

In Sancho, Paterson Joseph is the only person we see on stage. In an interview for BAM, Joseph said that he chose the monologue format because it left the stage uncluttered and allowed him to present Sancho’s story and ideas as directly and forcefully as possible. If you think about it, however, all theater originates from one person telling a story to an audience. Before history and myths were written, storytellers transmitted them from generation to generation in the form of monologues. While the monologue format has been a part of theatrical history from classical antiquity to the present day, the format truly achieved prominence in the second half of the 20th century and into our own. Monologue plays generally fall into one of four categories:

A. Plays where one actor plays all the characters in a story written for many. Patrick Stewart did a legendary stage version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol playing 28 characters; more recently, Alan Cumming performed a one-man adaptation of Macbeth on Broadway.

B. Monologues where the creator shares his or her observations on their own life and the world around them. This version reached its high point in the late 1980s and early 1990s with works like Lily Tomlin’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Anna Deveare Smith’s Fires in the Mirror, Spaulding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box, and Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio and Suburbia. Today, monologists like Sarah Jones and Danny Hoch are continuing to expand the boundaries of this tradition.

C. Plays specifically written as monologues. The mid-20th century Irish playwright Samuel Beckett was the master of this form. More recent examples include Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson currently appearing on Broadway in Becky Mode’s comedy Fully Committed; Anne Hathaway’s turn as a fighter pilot in George Brant’s Grounded; and Jefferson Mays in Doug Wright’s award-winning I Am My Own Wife.

D. Monologues that bring an historical figure to life for an audience. Among the best known of these are Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!, about Harry Truman; Mark Twain Tonight; and The Belle of Amherst, about the poet Emily Dickinson. Paterson Joseph’s Sancho clearly falls into this last category.

Click here to listen to actor Paterson Joseph talk about rediscovering Sancho.

Click here to listen to actor Paterson Joseph talk about Untold Stories.