Over the last three months, Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare Collective’s ensemble has been touring Shakespeare to places where theatre can’t usually be found. As part of the Shakespeare-in-Hospitals program, six performers have brought an original showcase to hospitals, hospices, shelters and senior residences across the GTA and now they’re capping off their season with a Pay-What-You-Can gala complete with red carpet photos, performances, stories from the tour and more. We caught up with Artistic Director Victoria Urquhart for an update on this year’s program and what we can expect at their Homecoming Gala.
Remind us what the Shakespeare in Hospitals program is and what it brings to the community.
The Shakespeare-In-Hospitals Program is a lot of what it sounds like: We bring the theatre to those who can’t leave their beds or homes to see it in the form of scenes and monologues from Shakespeare’s canon (and sometimes material outside of his canon!).
People see theatre for a lot of different reasons. Those reasons don’t necessarily change because someone has been hospitalized (we often get the question, “So, do you do mainly happy material?”) We see theatre to be distracted, for entertainment, sure. But we also see theatre for catharsis, for a sense of control, for reflection, for a feeling of connection with another human being…so we make sure that our shows have a little bit of all of those reasons, because not everyone is going to be having a good day in there, and not everyone is going to just want distraction from that.
…Wow, that sounds so angsty! It’s really not. A lot of the time we get the most meaningful connections from people telling us how they haven’t had an interaction like this in months. It feels good to know you’re doing something really positive and helpful with your art.
Tell us about this year’s show and the team that’s working on it.
So the challenge each year is to create a narrative using different scenes from as much of Shakespeare’s Canon as possible. Also, it has to fit into a bunch of different hospital facilities and be easily chopped up into bite-sized pieces for bedside visits.
This year I wore the playwright (er, dramaturgy/playwright hat) to create a narrative off of the discussion of deciding on where Home is. Because where we live is one thing, but what we call home is very different. It can be a person, a place, a feeling… it’s different for different people.
The story itself explores how a young woman rebuilds after losing her home.
We use a lot of material from the histories, with a little bit of the comedies tragedies and sonnets sprinkled in. We also used lines from modern poems, songs and even baseball quotes.
Featuring some amazing Torontonians who call many places Home:
The incomparable Cora Matheson
The vivacious Andrea Cabeza
The unshakeable Katerina Hatzinakos
The dynamic Mark Kreder
The indomitable Sharmila Dey
The steadfast Tim Ng (who will be heading home for the holidays and will be understudied by the astute Chanakya Mukherjee, fresh off of a run in Factory Theatre’s The Men In White!)
The show has been curated and pieced together by myself as well as directed by some equally amazing humans:
The mighty Ara Glenn-Johannsen
The insightful Richard Beaune
The inventive Alexander Franks
What are you most excited for audiences to see?
I am most excited to have people see what we do when the actor’s can’t leave the stage! (Because in a hospital there is no stage- well, there is often a playing space- so there is no offstage. So everything you do as an actor, everything you interact with tells a story.)
What was your favourite memory from last year’s tour?
My favourite memory from last year’s tour…I have a few.
The end of the tour we were in a venue where the lights wouldn’t go up, and we had all of this work with the actors ‘breathing life’s into scenes. We managed to get the lights fixed 30 seconds into the piece, right when the actor’s breathed this life into the first scene. That’s one of those happy accidents you can’t recreate.
And visiting Sick Kids…that is always a treat. One girl saw us on her tv (it’s projected into kids’ rooms) and made her way all the way down just to see us, then did our shake-down with us after the show. She loved it so much, she left doing a shake down. Afterwards one of the parents in the audience came up to me and apologized his son didn’t stay for the whole thing (Patients are always coming and going for so many different reasons, we don’t take it personally; we have no idea what kind of day they are having.) But afterwards he said that what we were doing was so important, and that this was different from what any of the kids usually saw. It meant a lot to him for us to be there.
Why should everyone come out to the gala?
The gala is a great opportunity to see the full show as well as hear stories from this year’s cast about the tour. This year is extra special because it is our HOMECOMING, so basically I get to wear my prom dress again, and there’s gonna be prom photos and punch and a prom-leige and all the things that make prom, well, prom. There’s also some free hors d’oeuvres and cheap yet classy drinks graciously brought into being by Amsterdam Brewery. Also it is at a fully accessible venue!
How much are tickets? Where/when is the show?
Tickets are on a sliding scale from $20-$200.
It runs for two nights only, Thursday December 13 and Friday December 14 at Citadel + Compagnie (304 Parliament St) reception starts at 7 with our show at 8pm.
Also, for people who do #givingtuesdays, from now to the show, every Tuesday there will be an option to buy a ticket for a client of Fred Victor shelters to share in the evening. Last year we had a small handful come to see the show and they loved it. We are hoping to bring more folks out again.