My Theatre

04 March 2020

Nominee Interview Series: Marcel Stewart

By // Theatre (Toronto)

Before we announce the winners of the 2019 MyEntWorld Critics’ Pick Awards, we’re proud to present our annual Nominee Interview Series.

Nominated this year for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play for his powerful performance in Soulpepper’s brilliant production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size, the dynamic and thoughtful Marcel Stewart is a mainstay of our awards season having appeared in many nominated productions over the years.

Can you remember your first experience with theatre?
The first play I ever saw was Dracula. I think I was 9 or 10. That memory is kind of weak though. I have stronger memories of my next theatre experience: seeing the Toronto Truck Theatre’s The Mousetrap in grade 8. The company billed themselves as “The longest running show in North America”. I don’t think they’re operating anymore.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Mr. Lee’s grade 10 drama class.

What’s your favourite role you’ve ever performed?
Richard Pierpoint in Lisa Coddrington’s Up the Garden Path.

Do you have a dream role you’d still like to play one day?
If the MCU ever adds Code of Honor to its lineup then I would love to play Jeff Piper.

You’ve been part of several award-winning productions over the years, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Father Comes Home from the Wars, Incident at Vichy, and We Are Proud to Present… What stands out in your memory from those experiences?
Honestly, the people. Those productions were a result of incredible rooms. Big belly laughs. Cookouts. Real conversations. Those rooms were like a calling from the ancestors. That’s the mastery of director’s like Weyni Mengesha, Ravi Jain, or Mumbi Tindyebwa, their rooms are challenging, inclusive, and safe enough to go there.

How did you get involved with The Brothers Size?
I was in Stratford. My agent called me with the The Brothers Size audition. Ran through that script like my grandad used to run through fried dumplins on Sunday morning! Because of my schedule I couldn’t make it in for an audition, so submitted a recording. Mumbi emailed me the next day.

What drew you to the character of Elegba?
Elegba reminds me of guys I grew up with. Brampton mans.

Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s work rose to international fame when Moonlight won the Oscar. What is it about his style that you think is so effective?
I mean he’s a genius first of all. And he’s gone through some trauma. Lena Waithe says as artists our trauma is our fodder. On top of that, Tarell’s writing is nuanced – like one dense spoken word piece. His knack for dialogue is music to the ear, and leaves a lot to unpack.

photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Tell us about working with Mazin Elsadig and Daren Herbert in a three-hander.
The day before closing I found out my cousin killed himself. I was messed up the entire day. When I got to the dressing room, I let each of them know where my head was at, and they both dropped everything to give me a hug. I didn’t grow up with brothers but in that moment, it felt like I had two. That’s what it was like working with them two.

What were some of the most interesting conversations you remember having with director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu in developing your interpretation of the role?
The Brothers Size simultaneously lives in three worlds: the world of the play; the world of the artists performing it (we speak stage directions); and the world of Yoruba gods. The most interesting conversations I had with Mumbi dealt with which world Elegba was in from scene to scene.

Did you have a favourite moment in the production?
The transition from Act 2:2 to Act 2:3. Mazin and I beat boxing around the audience while Kobena beats up those drums. That moment was pure joy.

The show made headlines when Drake showed up in the audience. Did you get to speak with him about his reactions to the play at all?
Nah we didn’t speak much. He showed love to all of us, but was there to connect with Mazin.

What are you working on now/next?
Writing. Doing some outreach as well. I’m involved in something next year that I’m really excited for.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?
A month prior to auditioning for The Brothers Size, I closed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. A friend of mine, after I told her I was auditioning, told me that Tarell Alvin used to be August Wilson’s assistant. Ancestors calling again.

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