24 March 2015
We feel like this is something Benvolio would do- individually contact a group of 8 actors (many of whom are scattered across the country) and facilitate a mass Best Ensemble interview so each and every member of their pretty large cast can be featured in the Nominee Interview Series alongside individual nominees Leslie McBay (Romeo) and Melanie Hrymak (Tybalt). We’re pretty sure it’s something her benevolent character would do but, either way, it’s something the amazing Clare Blackwood did. Because of her, here’s your chance to hear from (in alphabetical order) Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski (Paris), Clare Blackwood (Benvolio), Geoff Whynot (Mr. Capulet), Krystina Bojanowski (Juliet), Lisa Karen Cox (Laurence), Max Tepper (Mercutio), Shawn Ahmed (Nurse/Prince) and Siobhan Richardson (Mrs. Capulet) on the topic of Urban Bard/Headstrong Collective’s smart and bold contemporary Romeo & (her) Juliet.
Had any of you ever worked on Romeo & Juliet before? How traditional or non-traditional was that production?
Adrian: I was an R&J virgin, although I did once play Romeo in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), and I looked terrific in the cross-dressing scene.
Clare: I have not! It’s always been a dream of mine, however, so mission accomplished.
Geoff: No. I’ve taught, using the text before, but never been in a production.
Krystina: I’d never worked on Romeo & Juliet before, barring my first time onstage in a production of West Side Story. I played Big Deal, one of the Jets – we got to dance, climb fences, fight, AND have lines, so no real contest there with the Sharks. This is maybe where cross-gender casting began with me?
Lisa: Nope :(
Max: It was my first time performing R&J! Hopefully, the first of many, but this one will be a hard one to top.
Siobhan: One of my first performances after I graduated from school was Romeo & Juliet, wherein I played Juliet. It was set in feudal Japan (the setting worked quite well). Not a lot of changes in the text or in casting, though. I’ve also done West Side Story as Maria. Pretty much set as the script calls for on that one.
As fight director I’ve done two other productions, one for The Grand Theatre in London for their High School Project, and the other for Humber River Shakespeare Company’s recent production, during the summer immediately before ours. Those two were set here and now, but the gender roles were generally as written. As you probably already know, a lot of Shakespeare in smaller companies gets set modern, in part so that they can save money and time on the fight work.
How did you get involved with Romeo & (her) Juliet?
Adrian: I saw the project on the Equity e-drive and sent an e-mail laying it on real thick about how I was a queer artist hungry for a queer role. They said OK, you can read for the straight guy.
Clare: I’ve been friends with Melanie, Scott and Leslie for years, and listened intently to their plans early on in the process. When the time for auditions finally came, it was difficult for me to not explode with poorly contained excitement and enthusiasm all over the room.
Geoff: I saw an audition posting for it, was intrigued by the premise and submitted myself for consideration. I got an audition, and the rest … well, you know!
Krystina: I had worked on a production of The Two Noble Kinsmen with Mel, and we clicked. She came to see me the year after in a gender-swapped Othello (directed by Tanya Rintoul, the same director as Kinsmen). I believe she brought Leslie, and they approached me to play a girl not long afterwards. Mel and I would joke that this is probably one of the first productions where Juliet and Tybalt actually look as though they are related.
Lisa: I had the joy and privilege of auditioning for Scott, Leslie and Melanie. I pretend auditions are rehearsals; the director and I are seeing if we are a good fit. I move lots of furniture and try the material in a variety of ways based on what I am receiving from the director.
Max: I was working as an photographer for Shakespeare In the Ruff’s 2014 Ruffing It fundraiser and season launch. My friend Stephen Joffe was performing with Scott Emerson Moyle in that evening’s production of Cymbeline. After the show, Shephen and I spoke and caught up, and he introduced me to Scott. Scott was holding auditions for Mercutio at 10:00am the very next morning and said that if I was up to audition at such short notice then he’d be happy to see me. Less than 11 hours later I auditioned and by the next week the lovely people at Headstrong and Urban Bard informed me that I’d booked the role.
Shawn: I was contacted by the producers on a Wednesday saying that they lost an actor and would like to see me. I auditioned the following Saturday morning for Mel, Leslie and Scott. I went home and started getting ready for a day at the beach. Before I walked out the door, Scott called and asked if I would do it. Rehearsals began that Monday. It was a bit of a shit show.
Siobhan: The usual way: saw the notice on the e-drive, submitted my info, and auditioned.
With regards to fight direction, I hear from Mel that, when they saw I had submitted, they were hoping I might be a good fit in the cast so that they could have me fulfill both a role in the cast and as FD.
Sidebar: playing Lady Capulet while fight directing was great! So often one of the fighters will do that kind of double-duty, which can be tricky during rehearsals and fight calls because there’s no outside eye. As Lady Capulet, I could keep and eye on the fights without having to think about my own track at the same time.
For those of you who played a role originally written for someone of the opposite sex, what new elements did you find in the character because of the gender swap that aren’t necessarily there in most incarnations?
Clare: I was initially attracted to Benvolio specifically because he/she has always been, for me, a very ambiguous character- not one usually remembered or recognized with any sort of enthusiasm. However, what I liked about that ambiguity was that it created a window of opportunity to explore the character in a somewhat gender-neutral way. I pictured Ben as a female who really didn’t care about gender whatsoever, which really influenced my relationships with Romeo and Mercutio. I feel like it brought new, but certainly not straightforward, elements to those relationships that I hadn’t seen before in previous productions. It allowed her relationship with Mercutio to be very ambiguous- indeed, it allowed it to be whatever anyone wanted to see it as, which is something Max and I wanted from the start.
Lisa: The joy and agony of being a youngish Black woman playing Friar Laurence is that there were absolutely no incarnations of the part that I could relate to or steal from. The gender swapping didn’t impact my playing of the role (especially because Romeo was swapped as well) as much as the difference in age. My friar was a rebel in her own right who saw herself in the young Romeo; a bit of a shit disturber who is flying by the seat of her pants trying to find common ground for the community members and then trying to resolve a situation that has gone south.
Shawn: The nurse at his/her core is a nurturer. We all kind of have an idea of what that looks like from the female perspective. But as a male that’s not nearly as clear. We found that it began to resemble a big brother like relationship with Juliet. Because Kristina (Juliet) and I are only a few years apart, I wouldn’t have raised her the way the nurse traditionally would. So the trust she puts in me is not necessarily because she doesn’t know who else she can turn to, rather, she chooses to bring me in on her secret and ask for my help. I am not her confidant by default, but because we have built a special bond. That really begins to inform the end of the play (especially with Romeo being female). I am now telling my little sister to repress her true self for the sake of her family’s image. The guilt that comes along with this is huge. By the end of the show, it’s almost entirely my fault. In many ways Romeo and Juliet’s death are on my hands.
Come to think of it, everyone who played a character who WAS originally written for their sex- what new elements did you find that aren’t always played?
Adrian: Paris wound up being a much funnier character than I expected, which I chalk up half to my irrepressible comic genius and half to Mel and Leslie’s complex and carefully considered adaptation. Even in Shakespeare’s original, Paris is totally unable to comprehend why anyone would reject him—he’s a lot like me that way—but when his romantic rival is recast as a woman, he comes off as even more clueless, which I love.
Geoff: I haven’t seen many Capulets who have acted clearly from a place of love. Yes, he’s a lot of other things – commanding, overbearing, angry at times, very alpha male, BUT he seems to be, clearly to me and especially in this adaptation, acting out of love, deep love for his only daughter. I also was surprised to find how tender he could be to Lady Capulet, which is not something I think I’ve often seen in other productions.
Krystina: With Juliet as a girl and the Nurse (Shawn Ahmed) as a man, I found a coltishness emerged – the kind that comes between a teenage girl and a man who isn’t that far removed in age from her. It was more a play between equals than the usual old-nanny/mother surrogate that the relationship can so often be.
Max: Scott had the great prescience of mind to keep Mercutio gender-fluid and to not play any heavy-handed gender choices in either direction with the character. This allowed for an incredible amount of play and discovery with Benvolio and Tybalt. It felt more true to life that Mercutio could follow his passions wherever they led him, regardless of gender or sexuality, which led to an incredible bond of intense friendship with Benvolio and Romeo (both women), and an incredibly intense love-turned-folly with Tybalt (also a woman), all without inherently sexualizing these relationships.
Shawn: I always felt the Prince was very straight forward. However, Scott made him into more of a beat cop. That strips a bit of his power away. When the prince tells Romeo to run and hide after Tybalt and Mercutio’s death, it’s not an official exile but an officer turning the other way to help a kid out. Because we cut the Prince’s final speech, we can assume that after he got back to his precinct, his superiors probably fired him immediately for letting a murder suspect run away. A new question I had to ask was “why does he put his job on the line for this kid?
Siobhan: Having the Nurse as an executive assistant meant that I felt free to address him as closer to an equal part of the time, but could “pull rank” on him. If we had set it traditionally, I would have wanted to behave towards the Nurse as service staff. With regard to specific characters, I didn’t have much contact with the cross-cast characters. The social background I got to play though was something that I suspect is more familiar to today’s audience. I think we have less in the way of family feuds these days. By drawing homophobia to the fore, I think we help the audience connect to the theme of Unfounded Hatred and its fallout, which is one of the key concepts in the original piece. In that way, I didn’t necessarily play something new, but the director and producers’ choices — setting this piece with a same-sex couple at its core — allowed me to play elements that the audience has, in some way, come across in their own lives.
How did the modernization affect your character’s role in the story?
Adrian: Although he arguably serves as the villain of the play, I didn’t want Paris to enter twirling his moustache with a sack of bills, demanding a bride. The contemporary setting really lent itself to finding a kind-hearted, conservative boy at the centre of the character.
Clare: Modernizing the story gave, I feel, Benvolio room to expand upon his/her generally agreed-upon role of “the peacekeeper” in the show. From the beginning I spent a long time figuring out what the modern equivalent was to the peaceful diplomat he is often portrayed as in more classical renderings. From there came the idea of her as the activist, the protester, who realizes that sometimes, in order to achieve peace, you gotta get dirty and fight for what you love. I think that juxtaposition and embracing of war and peace helped to serve her purpose in the story we were telling with our production.
Geoff: I don’t think it really did. The writers and the director worked very hard to maintain the personal stakes of the story, and though the play involves a whole community, the whole thing turns on a series of very personal relationships.
Krystina: Well, Juliet suddenly had a cellphone – to which, in reality, she would have been more married than we saw in the production. There would have been no verse, only texting – except when Romeo was actually in the room. That’s the facile answer. I found that the modernization increased our Juliet’s frustration: she had the expectation of – and feeling of entitlement to – more freedom than plays in an historical or period interpretation. As a young woman, I was told that I had every right to pursue what I wanted; for Juliet to be pushed into the restrictive role of Paris’s wife in our context chafed in an even bigger way, and meant that she was less willing to hide her resistance.
Lisa: The modernization made the friar very forward thinking – a friar marrying a same sex couple?!? What?!? Awesome! It also placed her in the thick of things and doesn’t allow her to be naive on any front. Her awareness and street savvy require her to think on her feet.
Dish on each other a little bit- Who’s your favourite? Who’s the hottest? Who’s the goofball? Who couldn’t remember their lines? (okay, maybe not those specific questions, but tell us about working together and specifically with your biggest scene partners).
Adrian: OK, the cool thing about me is that I’m the hottest and the goofiest, so it’s like a very perfect-package kind of situation going on over here.
Siobhan was the scariest because I spent every one of her fight rehearsals trying to conceal how useless I am at stage combat. I sort of wanted to hide from her but also to be her.
One day during tech week, Clare said of my outfit, “Wow, you’re wearing…a lot of clothes,” and maybe you had to be there, but it was one of the most withering sartorial assessments I’ve ever endured. In fairness, though, my look that day was indeed misjudged, and I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of honesty within a harmonious ensemble. Thank you, Clare.
My mother was so taken with Shawn as the Nurse that after the show she flatly expressed a wish that he and I should date. Like, cool, Mom, he’s got a girlfriend I think but you never know.
Geoff kept improvising chit-chat with me during the party scene while I was trying to play light jazz on the piano. I’m not a pianist, so the very simple piece I memorized required every ounce of my focus to execute. Geoff would drift over during the scene and be like “What’s this song called? Do you need another drink? Dinner should be soon!” And I’d be like “Ennnnnnngghhhrraahh” as I tried to act and play at the same time.
I confessed to Leslie that my goal in every performance was to make the audience like Paris better than Romeo, and I guess it’s a testament to her professionalism that she didn’t just like punch me in the face.
I had so much fun being icily rebuffed by Krystina while I chatted her up in the party scene that I’m sure I made her miss her cue on more than one occasion. Worth it!
Lisa and I had this fun little thing where every night before our scene she would say “I hate you” and I’m like 50-50 on whether she was talking about the character or me personally.
Mel once told me I looked like an R&W model, so Mel’s got a lifetime pass as far as I’m concerned.
I remember when I met Max for the first time after a photoshoot for the show he offhandedly identified “You’re So Vain” as a Madonna song. I was like, buddy you’ve got a long way to go before you’re fit to appear in a gay Romeo & Juliet.
Clare: I don’t think two people have ever had as much fun finding the relationship between two characters as Max Tepper and I did. I couldn’t have asked for a scene partner with whom I clicked more, and right from the beginning we found a way to discover our characters effortlessly by working off of each other. He was the Troy to my Abed; who else would have created a promotional Shakespearean rap video with me? On a completely unrelated note, I think we’re both lucky the rest of the cast still regards us as reasonably sane individuals.
The entire cast was a blessing- a group of individuals who all brought their own ways of playing with the text and the characters, and who all cared so damn much about bringing the play’s vision to life. However, I think we’ll all agree that Adrian’s the hottest. I can almost guarantee you he didn’t pay me to say that.
Geoff: It was a blast for me. I’m not just blowing smoke here, either. I fully expected to be tired of the grind of it all well before we were finished, but to be completely honest I could have played it longer. The commitment of my fellow actors was unwavering, and at the same time everyone seemed ready to play live. I think when you have to change clothes together, crammed into a stairway in a United Church, you either become very close or bitter enemies. Happily, we became the former! Oh, and I loved watching Lisa Cox in rehearsal – so spontaneous!
Krystina: One of the highest compliments that I received about the production was that it was a real ensemble. I had someone ask whether we all knew each prior to casting; my agent even commented on how tight we were. I never felt as though I had a “big scene” coming up as Juliet: it felt very much stepping mid-stream into the life of the story, and playing out what happened to be going on in another room of the house.
As for my castmates: it wasn’t difficult to be a giddy teenager around Leslie (Romeo). Geoff Whynot (Capulet) is a remarkable listener: acting with him was always simply a conversation. He is very skilled with the text, but in that wonderful way that makes the mechanics disappear. Paris? Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski did such a beautiful job that this Juliet COULD’T. EVEN. He had such an earnest, popped-collar conviction that I couldn’t bring myself to be mean in some scenes. No-one could. Although apparently, if you were paying attention, he made the memorial at the end of the show all about him. Come on, Paris.
Lisa: Well I was the last one to memorize my lines… But I did that on purpose. I didn’t want to set the prologue or final scene until the arc and tone of the play were in place. For me the prologue and the final scene are actually one scene and everything in the middle was a flashback.
Max: Clare Blackwood and I become very close friends over the course of the show. We wrote and filmed a rap together, and there were just so so so many dick jokes already in the script that Clare helped flesh out into Mercutio’s physicality. She become the Laurel to my Hardy, and/or the Key to my Peele. Clare and I also developed a “drinking game” where a shot would be downed every time Krystina Bojanowski had a costume change. We could never actually play this game because Krystina had more costume changes than we could count and would have rendered Clare and myself unconscious.
I DO wish Mercutio and Capulet had more scene-time together in R&(h)J. Geoff Whynot was incredibly deft in transitioning from a powerhouse of a performer to being a lovable goof to work with, and the only scene I had with him was where I ran off-stage from Capulet’s party with my pants down.
Shawn: Most of my scenes were with Krystina. I think she’s a terrific actress. She has a great instrument (it’s so impressive it makes me a little jealous) and she is incredibly focused. I’m starting to do shows now where I’m not one of the youngest actors in the cast. It really affects the dynamic. Like so many young actors, I used to want to be perfect from day 1. Seeing a bit of that in the rest of the cast was very interesting. I remember having to say to cast mates “don’t worry, we’ll get there”. We did!
Goofball and Favorite: It’s a tough one, but I have to say Adrian Shepherd (Paris). The guy is so much fun to watch. He didn’t have a huge role, so watching him fill out his character was a real treat. He’s got a clown background and that really shines through. I told him after the run that he has the same disease that Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves have, he’s a character actor trapped in a leading man’s body!
Hottest: Siobhan Richardson is a very sexy woman.
Siobhan: I spent most of my time with Geoff Whynot, which was an absolute pleasure. Very giving scene partner, so present, happy to play and try new things (as was everyone, really), and such a pro. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.
I knew Lisa from before-hand, we’d worked together ages ago, and it was such a delight to spend lots of time with her (we were offstage together a bit). Funny lady, mostly because she tells it like it is. I felt like my mood was lifted and I became more grounded just by being in her company. Again, someone “I would give my eye teeth” to have the chance to work with her again.
It’s wonderful to watch Krystina’s process. Tirelessly seeking more detail to bring truth to all aspects of her role.
Finally, I can’t say enough good things about Mel. Passionate, Intelligent, Committed, Present. And as a fight director, I would recommend her to everyone. She knew her choreography and performed it with absolute clarity, detail and emotional commitment. In rehearsal she improved with every repetition. She had an open dialogue with her partners which brought clarity to their work together, while respecting their process and her own. She was a leader in her method of working. I wish every cast I worked with had actors as dedicated to their craft as she is.
Your director Scott Moyle is nominated for Best Director. What would you say is the most important conversation you had with him in developing your interpretation of your character?
Adrian: Scott was very patient with me as I wrapped my head around Paris’s expanded role in this adaptation. There were a few conversations with Scott and Geoff about how to sell a modern audience on Capulet forcing Juliet to marry Paris. I needed to be someone who Capulet truly believed would make his beloved Juliet happy: not just well-born, well-bred and well-off, but also handsome, charismatic and sensitive. Fortunately I myself happen to be all these things in real life, so it was simply a matter of bringing as much of myself to the role as possible.
Clare: What I appreciated most about Scott was that he gave you complete and utter freedom to do pretty much whatever you wanted with your character as long as your choices were totally informed. I came to him early on with my thoughts about Ben, and he basically let me play as much as I wanted and gave guidance whenever it was required or asked for. He has an incredibly open mind about how to interpret the text in a truthful but modern way, which was exactly what the show needed.
Geoff: Tough question! I had a number of, to me, very valuable conversations with Scott. I think the thing about Scott’s direction I most appreciated was his willingness to let us (me!) play, and I think that comes from his habit of actually questioning what is happening in a scene and not just accepting the same old approach we’ve seen so often before – he treated the text and the story as new.
Krystina: It’s difficult to remember a specific conversation. Scott encouraged – and allowed – Juliet to be as awkward as I was at that age. Scott allowed me to be all limb, panic, and play – and from that came those moments of grace and maturity that Juliet embodies so beautifully.
Lisa: Oh dear, how do I narrow it down to a single conversation? The brilliance of Scott’s direction is that he trusts you as an actor and an artist to make decisions and choices. He asks super smart questions that force you to think and shape your character into a whole person. His direction is a gentle, guiding hand that brings everyone to the same destination.
Max: I was always amazed by Scott’s dual ability to pull Shakespeare’s text out of the ether to better fit or edit the script we were working with, but he was also very open to his cast’s suggestions. I always felt very comfortable talking to him about interpretations of key lines, knowing that he would either have the answer directly, or we’d have a great time delving into the text together.
Shawn: A lot the things I mentioned about the big brother relationship are things Scott and I talked about extensively throughout. None of it was clear from the on-set. There was a lot of me coming into rehearsals saying “Scott I have a thought” and him asking me a series of questions to think about.
Siobhan: For Lady Capulet, I think it was more of an ongoing dialogue. I felt free to play, which was met with encouragement and enthusiasm. The whole piece had a sense of “let’s discover together”. I think we were on the same page from the get-go, which made me feel like we could just run with it. Couple that with scene partners who are present and ready to try new things, and you’ve got a great recipe for discovery.
From the FD angle, Scott was very clear about the kinds of fights he was looking for: short, surprising and brutal. He wanted most of them to be over before we even realized they were beginning. With that in mind, I could give him what he wanted pretty quickly. That said, he also gave me the time I needed to set the fights and the cast was also willing to meet for extra time, which was a bit of a luxury. Oftentimes, the fight scenes need a bit more rehearsal. Scott himself is a “fight-guy” too, so we were speaking the same language when it came to discussing the progression of the fights.
Tell us a bit about the site-specific location. What challenges and opportunities did it present compared to a conventional theatre? [Editor’s Note: they’re all about to tell the exact same story, just a warning]
Adrian: Look, the space was obviously very challenging and rewarding for many different reasons, but I have to tell you the story about Krystina’s dad. Poor Mr. Bojanowski got caught in traffic and missed the top of the show. When he arrived, a helpful but ill-briefed custodian tried to minimize disturbance by ushering him to the balcony—which was serving as our set for Juliet’s bedroom—just in time to walk in on his daughter in a post-coital embrace at the top of the morning-after-the-wedding scene. Good sport that he is, he dove to hide behind the closest pew, where he remained trapped for the length of the ten-minute scene. Although I wasn’t onstage when it all went down, I had the great pleasure of seeing my castmates descend the stairs in bewilderment one by one as they exited the scene, each saying something to the effect of, “There is a strange man lying on the floor of Juliet’s bedroom.”
Clare: The space itself was such a great choice for the show, and what challenges it did put in front of us, I believe, only helped to serve the show better. For the majority of the first half of the production, most of us spent all our time running from one side of the church to the other in between our scenes (exercise, am I right?). But because we were gifted with a space that had so many little nooks and crannies to appear out of, from all sides, we were able to fully realize the imagined spaces of the play. It was also great to have a location that at times forced the audiences to move in order to see the entire scene.
Geoff: For me, the playing of the scenes was a treat – it’s so freeing to play “in the round”, which is essentially what we were doing. The big challenges for me were hearing a cue through a closed door far from the action, and covering some large distances on an entrance here and there. Oh, and playing Juliet’s bedroom among pews in the balcony. In fact – a highlight (?) was the night one of the audience chose to sit in the balcony, found himself suddenly in the action, and opted to simply lie down between pews to “be out of the way”. We ended up playing the scene around the poor guy.
Krystina: I was running from one side of the church to the other for most of the show – up and down stairs, through the tunnel that goes under the sanctuary. It meant that I was never overthinking an entrance, and that the scene never played out exactly the same way twice. Also, the well-meaning custodial staff, on closing, sent a latecomer up to the balcony so as not to disturb. Unfortunately, it was just as we were setting up for the morning-after scene up there; we played the scene as the audience member crawled away behind the pews…
Lisa: As the friar, most of my scenes were played at the front of the church, much like a traditional theatre. The friar’s first and final speeches were joyous to play as they took place in church, speaking to the congregation – no acting required! No special lighting, so you could see everyone in the audience; everyone was implicated. It was particularly fantastic when the audience would get up and move to have a better view. Running in the vomitoriums under the church to get from scene to scene was great too
Max: What an amazing location for an actor to work with! So many back-stage passages. Some of the most fun working on that show was running the width of the church to get from one exit to another entrance, whilst changing costume. Kudos to our SM Christina Abes and her precision pre-sets!
Shawn: Originally, I didn’t care for it. I was worried so many things we had worked so hard to craft would be lost if people weren’t following the action correctly. Eventually, I realized so many technical things an actor thinks about on stage were thrown out the window. I found the work became a lot more honest from all of us once we got in the space.
Siobhan: Quick changes and entering from a different location than the one from which you exited takes more planning! It also means that different locations in the script have very different locations in the room, so the setting is viscerally different and the relationship to the audience is different. Speaking of whom, audience members are in different places every night! It keeps you on your toes, and in some ways forces you to focus intensely on your scene partner, and keep awareness of surroundings at the same time. You never know what you’ll have to react to and negotiate next.
Did you have a favourite moment in the production?
Adrian: Around the time I felt I was really cracking Paris by embracing how much I’m like him in real life, Scott remarked aloud in rehearsal, “I would never want to hang out with Paris,” and everyone else was like, “Yeah! He’s such a douche!” So I guess that’s less my favourite moment than, say, my most significant moment of personal reflection.
Clare: There are too many, but I’d say the first fight between the Capulet and Montague families. We had a great time working on that fight, and it helped to establish the relationships between both Tybalt and Paris, and Benvolio and Mercutio. It started the show off on a slightly lighter, more playful note, which worked well considering how dark it gets later on. Also, when else am I going to be able to attack someone with a socket wrench?
Max and I would take numerous selfies on stage with Leslie’s phone. I’m pretty sure she still has a folder full of them. They are all completely and wonderfully ridiculous.
Krystina: The moment where I played the guitar and sang, during the party in I.v. was my favourite. I hadn’t picked up a guitar in years, so it was a live, surprising moment in the room: both Juliet and actor trying to play this song (written by Stephen Joffe) as best she could, for a room full of strangers. I would meet Romeo during that song at a different time each night; once, it was a true thunderbolt, and I dried on the words.
Lisa: Scenes with county Paris made me howl – probably because Adrian is so damn funny. He would purposefully piss me off before our scene in the church together, just to get us both in the spirit of things! It took everything in my power not to corpse every night. Love that guy.
Max: Literally too many to count.
Shawn: When I (as the nurse) visit the Friar and Romeo, I was asked to knock aggressively on the doors while yelling things like “Open the door” and “Let me [in] and you shall know my reason”. The hallway I stood in had several other doors. One night there was a class in the room next to me. While I’m yelling, the teacher from the class is screaming back at me “stop knocking so hard and just come in”. Right as I made my entrance I hear her whip open the door behind me and yell “what the fuck is your problem?”. I had a good laugh with the cast about that.
Siobhan: I always loved the moment right after Tybalt’s death when I’m trying to tear a strip off the Prince, but Lord Capulet grabs me by the face and gives me a look that says “hold yourself together”.
And as FD, the killing blow when Romeo slams Tybalt’s head on the pew. Great knap (the sound of the strike) on the wood, and Mel’s reaction sold it so well. The stunned silence or gasps from the audience in that moment tells me we achieved what the director was looking for in that moment.
If you could play any role in Shakespeare’s canon (regardless of age, race, gender or any other label), who would you pick and why?
Adrian: There’s a minor character in Richard III named James Blunt. I trust no further explanation is necessary.
Clare: As of right now, I think I would say Demetrius, from Titus Andronicus. He is such a violent, sexually aggressive character, and I would love to explore that role from a female perspective- as a loyal daughter instead of a son- and the subsequent motivations behind his/her actions.
Geoff: There are so many. If I have to choose, even though I’ve done it before, I’d have to say Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Krystina: I’m very fortunate in that I’ve already played my dream – Iago. I would love to play either Beatrice or Benedick; they have such pride built up (because of their past injuries to one another) to protect themselves, and that’s why it’s so satisfying to see them finally become vulnerable and embrace it.
Lisa: I’m dying to play Lady M or Oberon; really any of Shakespeare’s characters that are powerful and sexy with questionable ethics totally turn my crank.
Max: Probably Queen Margaret in the Henry VI plays and Richard III. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty in war, and she also has these amazing moments of clarity and humanity as she watches her family’s reign approach a horrible end in Henry VI Part 3 and Richard III. I’ve always admired her.
Shawn: Richard III. He’s a bad ass. He chooses to be a villain. He’s the protagonist and antagonist all wrapped into one. He decides he wants to do something and is willing to topple an empire to get there. What an amazing challenge it would be. One of these days…
Siobhan: What a question. So many choices!
What are you doing now/ what’s your next project?
Adrian: My rec volleyball team is displaying great improvement and may be a dark horse in the upcoming playoffs. Also, I’ll appear in the fu-GEN/Theatre Smash co-production of Durango at Buddies in Bad Times, beginning its run mid-May.
Clare: I am currently focusing on several writing projects- a one-woman show and a delightfully morbid, satirical web series about the zombie apocalypse.
Geoff: I am currently in Banff, as a member of the Citadel/Banff Centre Conservatory, and next week we move to Edmonton to rehearse and perform Arcadia. And after that I will be playing Amos in Chicago.
Krystina: I’m currently in film class, getting those on-camera skills up to speed for the summer season. However, I just returned from working with Patsy Rodenburg in New York, where my Shakespeare fire was re-lit. (If you ever have the chance to work with her, run – don’t walk.) I have concrete voice skills I’ll be working on, as I listen for what the next project is going to be.
Lisa: Right now I’m playing mommy to a new baby!
Max: The past six months I’ve focused more on film and television projects, but I will be returning to theatre for some Shakespeare-inspired comedy at The Stratford SpringWorks Festival.
Shawn: A mini-series that I co-wrote and co-starred in, Touring T.O., is doing the festival circuit right now. I’m off to LA at the end of the month to represent our show. I just got off set from a show with Smoke Bomb Entertainment (Shaftbury’s digital arm) called Ms Labeled. It’s about the cut throat fashion world (very much like The Devil Wears Prada). We’re releasing the first 20 episodes by the end of March. I also have an awesome role, Darpan, in Ubisoft’s newest video game, Far Cry 4. I continue to write and create with my production company, Crazy Shirt Productions.
Siobhan: Currently at Stage West Calgary until April 12, playing Lucy DeBrie in And Then The Lights Went Out, by Andy Garland, originally of Edmonton (now in Vancouver). Lots of teaching stage combat when I get back after this contract. This summer, 2 weeks teaching at the Nordic Stage Fight Society summer workshop in Finland.
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Clare: This show was a gift. I miss it very much.
Shawn: I’m sorry I am going to have to miss the party. I was really looking forward to it.