Theater student takes roles to next level


Shelby Akin

When Sam Hardy felt the hatred rising within him as he spoke his last line as Iago in Shakespeare’s “Othello” last February, he was overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotion . He loved it.

“Perhaps one of the things I enjoy most is something we consider most dangerous as an actor: really living at the far extent of [the character’s] emotional life,” said Hardy, a junior majoring in theater. “It’s a safe place to explore emotions and impulses that you usually can’t discuss or express anywhere else.”

Hardy has performed in nine productions with The University of Alabama’s theater department, including the upcoming performance of “Urinetown.” He said his favorite role was Iago, because he loves Shakespeare and the role allowed him to explore vast emotions.

“If you happen upon a character that feels one of those negative impulses, you can funnel it into that character and you can put it out, see what happens to them.When the production closes, you can close it up and release that emotion out into the character,” Hardy said. “It’s a way to do that where no one gets hurt, because, at the end of the day, it’s just a play.”

Hardy started acting on a whim in seventh grade and never stopped. He said although he can technically sing and dance, acting is definitely his strongest ability. Hardy leans towards classical texts and text-heavy plays because he said he likes playing with vocals to convey a character.

“My strongest trait is probably my voice and the way that, vocally, I can lend lyricism and melody to pieces of text that people otherwise find boring,” Hardy said. “A lot of people look at Shakespeare on the page and see this big block of verse, and it’s sort of incomprehensible. But I like to think that when you add voice to it, and with the range of expression that you can use for those words, that I can help people understand it.”

Hardy said he researches before performances to deepen his acting. John Nara, an MFA candidate director, has worked with Hardy in three productions and seen him in others. He said Hardy’s interest in learning is an asset, and watching Hardy’s growth as an actor within a single production is fun and rewarding.

“Sam’s a thorough actor,” Nara said. “He has a process for approaching his characters and sticks with it. In rehearsals, it is always fun to watch him continue to grow into his character as we get closer to opening night.”

Hardy knows how to separate his work from his rest, which helps him prevent his characters from inhibiting his personality. Being professional is also something Hardy takes to heart; as he doesn’t settle for merely getting the job done, but puts everything he has into the performance.

Seth Panitch, head of MFA and BA acting programs and associate professor of acting, has directed and taught Hardy in the classroom. Panitch said Hardy came in a smart actor and is working at an advanced rate, being cast as a freshman then getting a leading role as a sophomore, which isn’t common.

“Ultimately, acting is about reflecting the person you already are, not about growing the individual,” Panitch said. “You grow the individual outside of acting classes, outside of rehearsal. The students that are successful like Sam come in already having grown themselves into interesting people that are multidimensional as supposed to people that lock themselves up into a theater program and keep reflecting the same human being.”

Hardy hopes to participate in Shakespearean festivals throughout the nation in the future. Although he understands that succeeding is rough and takes time, Hardy said he couldn’t be happy doing anything else.

“Perhaps one of the greatest pieces of acting advice I ever got was from a teacher in ninth grade who said, ‘The most important thing an actor can know is always accept free food,’” Hardy said. “It gives that idea that sometimes it gets difficult to support yourself doing this as an art form, but if you’re truly passionate about this, you’ll continue going even when things get rough., And I think that’s something that’s stuck with me.”