Bailey Edwards ’16 can’t recall a precise moment when he discovered his love of acting. “There was never really a genesis point for me,” he said. “It was always in my life.” Theater was a big part of his family, and a big part of his early education. Edwards, who was born in Los Angeles and moved to New York City when he was eight, attended Waldorf schools in both cities. Waldorf schools “are kind of like Montessori schools, but they’re more German, so they’re more hardcore,” he explained. “They’re all about your imagination. It’s this total creative atmosphere.”
But if art was always a part of Edwards’s world – he describes his young self as “just this sort of amorphous creative being” – he began to particularly focus on acting during his sophomore year of high school. “I had this incredible moment that most actors can relate to,” he said. “It’s this moment when everything clicks, and it wasn’t just about the fun of being on stage or the attention or the applause. I got a touch of what the exhilarating magic of completely getting lost in the play can be like.”
During his time at the College, Edwards has appeared in a number of productions – roughly one or two per semester, often in starring roles. He was Reverend Hale in The Crucible, Cliff in Cabaret, Peter in The Cherry Orchard, Prince Phillip in Princess Ivona, the Neighbor and a Woodcutter in Blood Wedding and he is currently preparing to play Hamm in Endgame. When asked if he has a favorite role, he shook his head. “It’s tough,” he said, “because each role did something important for me in my growth as an actor. I can’t really compare them.”
One of the most formative experiences in Edwards’s acting career was the semester he spent abroad at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) in England – it was where Edwards solidified his love of acting and particularly solidified his love of Shakespearean drama. “People often think of Shakespeare’s work as this paramount, almost untouchable thing,” Edwards said. “There’s this fear when approaching [it].” But Edwards personally finds Shakespeare incredibly inspiring and invigorating to perform. It enlivens him, activates something within him. “I love the history plays,” he said. “They hold all the founding relationships of contemporary drama.” Even modern shows on HBO, he said, depict the same basic relationships that you find in Shakespeare.
Edwards thinks that conservatory training is incredibly important for an actor, and he’s grateful to have had the chance to experience it. But he’s also glad that he decided to attend a liberal arts college rather than a conservatory for his undergraduate education and career. “If you’re going to perform and act a truth about life, you need to live it outside of the acting studio,” he said.
And indeed, outside of the theater and the studio, Edwards has been busy. An art history and practice major, Edwards has become increasingly interested in video and performance art over his time at the College. For one project, he shot a video from the bottom of a pool during a thunderstorm, while throwing used books upon the water’s surface. For another, he knit a fifteen-foot wig and sat, continuing to knit, in Spencer Art Building during an exhibition.
Edwards is also in the campus dance group NBC, which he describes as an attempt to see if “the skinny lanky boy” can do hip-hop, and he was a WOOLF leader in his sophomore year, something which, he admitted, people often find surprising. “I was from New York City, but I was also learning weird survival skills in the middle of Central Park. If you’re just seeing [me as] a New York City kid or an artsy kid, that’s not totally me.”
So Edwards is not only an actor. But he is wholly an actor, with a deep love for it, one that was perhaps most obvious when he described the process of putting on an independent, student-run, highly secretive production of Julius Caesar in Perry Goat Room last semester, in which he played the part of Brutus. He started several times to explain why that play was so important to him, started and, a few times, stopped. Finally, he shook his head. “I can’t really explain it. [Putting on Julius Caesar] just meant that we could really create something meaningful for ourselves. We could really, really work hard and do it for ourselves. It reaffirmed my belief in the work and the purpose with which, I guess, I’m living my life.”
Edwards laughed when he said those last words, but you could tell: He’s not really guessing.