“People told me I look like I play guitar, so now I play guitar,” Heathcliff Saunders said, who goes by Heath for short, about his origins as a guitarist. While most think that he is mainly a guitarist, he actually started with the cello at only three years old. Today he sees himself as more of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to playing instruments.
“Music is what led me to acting,” Saunders said.
Saunders comes to DC after being in the cast of Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway, to appear as Feste in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Twelfth Night. Audiences can see how his guitar – and cello – skills add a unique aspect to the world of Illyria until December 20.
Lindsay Jones, Twelfth Night’s Original Music and Sound Designer, said, “Director Ethan McSweeny mentioned to me that he noticed on Heath’s resume that he could play the cello. Heath was such a trouper that he began practicing the cello every day, and really came up with an incredible performance at the end.”
“Ethan wanted Feste to be an enigma,” Saunders said in reference his character playing the music in the show. “The only original song is the opening number, but the rest of the music uses Shakespeare’s words.”
While Saunders did not help write the music composed by Jones, he did contribute to how the music would affect the creation of his character.
“We were so lucky to find Heath for this role, because he brings so much to the table in terms of creating something really special,” Jones said. “He’s got this beautiful tenor voice and can play multiple instruments, plus he has this wonderfully unique personality and spirit that is so warm and engaging.”
In addition to being a multifaceted actor/musician in Twelfth Night, Saunders is also a singer/songwriter. He has a single called One Way Ticket and projects a goal to release his own EP in 2018, (Stay updated via his SoundCloud page!).
While he spends time composing and playing, Saunders said chuckling, “As a kid, I didn’t listen to music while driving, which is strange! I don’t really listen to music because I am working on it all the time.”
Saunders said genre bending and unusual sounds are what most interests him, citing Gabriel Kahane’s album Where Are the Arms as something that inspires him, but also credits classic musicals like West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof as part of his musical roots.
McSweeney, Jones, and Saunders are excited to share the results of their collaboration with audiences this winter.
“I think the songs have a great emotional depth that make this production of Twelfth Night really special,” Jones said, so be sure to purchase your tickets to get the best seat to see – and hear – this unique production before it sells out!