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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

2010 Birmingham Conservatory participants

Aside from the casting listed earlier this week, the following actors are likely to have roles in the 2010 season by virtue of the fact that they are participating in the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training this fall and winter:

Bruce Godfree
Amanda Lisman
Paul Nolan
Andrea Runge
Anand Rajaram
Quincy Armorer
Skye Brandon
Jennifer Paterson
Christopher Prentice
Suzanne Roberts Smith


Chilina Kennedy (above left) and Cara Ricketts (above right) are also in the Conservatory this year, and have already been cast in Kiss Me, Kate and Evita, and As You Like It and A Winter's Tale, respectively.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Casting released by Festival

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival announced some key casting in a press release last week (sorry for the delay - I was on vacation). So who is back?

In no particular order, these faces will be seen on our stages again next year: Bruce Dow, James Blendick (right), Sarah Topham, Lucy Peacock, Seana McKenna, Tom McCamus, Dion Johnstone, Yanna McIntosh, Ben Carlson, Michael Therriault, Juan Chioan, Trish Lindstrom and a whole host of other favorites. Not all the roles have been announced yet, but here's who you can see in what (so far)...

Joining Christopher Plummer in The Tempest is Nikki M. James (Ariel), Trish Lindstrom (Miranda), Bruce Dow (Trinculo), Dion Johnstone (Caliban), John Vickery (Antonio), Geraint Wyn Davies (Stephano), Gareth Potter (Ferdinand), Peter Hutt (Alonso), Timothy D. Stickney (Sebastian) and James Blendick (right) as Gonzalo.

Brent Carver will be joined in As You Like It by Ben Carlson (Touchstone), Andrea Runge (Rosalind), Lucy Peacock (Audrey), Cara Rickets (Celia), Tom Rooney (both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior).

As previosly announced in the Toronto Star, Kiss Me, Kate will feature Juan Chioran and Monica Lund as the leads, joined by Chilina Kennedy as Lois Lane.

However, contrary to previous rumours, it will be Chilina Kennedy playing the lead in Evita, with Juan Chioran as Juan Peron. Vince Staltari joins the cast as Magaldi.

Dangerous Liasons will feature Seana McKenna as La Marquise de Merteuil, opposite Tom McCamus as Le Vicomte de Valmont. Joining them are Sarah Topham (La Presidente de Tourvel), Bethany Jillard (Cecile Volanges), Yanna McIntosh (Mme de Volanges) (right) and Martha Henry (Mme de Rosemonde).

Back at the Festival for the first time since 2005 is Michael Therriault (left), taking the lead in Peter Pan, opposite Tom McCamus as Captain Hook. Rounding out the cast are Paul Dunn (John) and Sarah Topham (Wendy).

The Winter's Tale will feature Ben Carlson as Leontes and Yanna McIntosh as Hermione, with Seana McKenna (Paulina), Cara Ricketts (Perdita), and Tom Rooney (Autolycus).

Mike Nadajewski is joining Brent Carver in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Lucy Peacock and Tom Rooney will play Nana nad the Narrator in Tremblay's For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again.

Over at the Studio Theatre, The Two Gentlemen of Verona will be played by Dion Johnstone and Gareth Potter. Other roles will be filled by Nikki M. James (Julia), Claire Lautier (Silvia), Bruce Dow (Speed) and Robert Persichini (Launce).

Evan Buliung (left) returns to play Mac in George F. Walker's King of Thieves, with Laura Condlln playing Polly. Jennifer Tarver directs.

As previously announced, Geraint Wyn Davies will also be at the Studio, presenting Do Not Go Gentle.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Actor and Festival alumni Douglas Campbell passes away

Actor Douglas Campbell (left, as Falstaff in 2001) has passed away at age 87. Mr. Campbell was a founding member of the Stratford Festival company, and contributed greatly to establishing professional theatre in this country.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival issued a press release expressing their sadness, with this note from fellow thespian Christopher Plummer:

“Douglas, that proud and warlike Campbell who fought so valiantly in defense of theatrical integrity, is gone. And with his passing, gone too is a great part of my youth when he showed me what discipline meant and gave me the moral support I needed so desperately. A rebellious fugitive from the venerable Glasgow Citizens Company, he was brought to this country by Tyrone Guthrie in the early fifties and like a true pioneer Douglas did more for the growing up of professional theatre in Canada coast to coast than almost anyone I can think of. As a lover of the night he always managed to outlast any overzealous drinking competitor that dared challenge his capacity. He had a gregarious soul and a great heart so it is no small wonder that he was the best Falstaff I have ever seen. Douglas sprang from those Babylon days when the stage was revered and respected and his own devotion to his art, which he carried with him to the end, shone like a beacon of hope to anyone eager and wise enough to follow in his path.”

(Below is an image of Mr. Campbell as King Lear (front) with Nicholas Pennel as Fool, in 1985.)

Further articles about Douglas Campbell's distinguished career on the stage can be viewed at CBC, Playbill and the Toronto Star.

Monday, 5 October 2009

2010 Casting Rumours

In his column today, Toronto Star critic Richard Ouzounian suggested that it will be Monique Lund (left) and Juan Chioran (right) playing the leads in next season's Kiss Me, Kate. Ms. Lund was here in 2008 playing Max in Cabaret, and Juan Chioran graced the Stratford stages this year in Three Sisters and Bartholomew Fair. Mr. Ouzounian also hints that Chilina Kennedy and Paul Nolan (this year's Maria and Tony in West Side Story) will play the other couple.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Trespassers, where the Truth is Relative; Phedre, where the truth hurts

The Trespassers, written and directed by Morris Panych
Featuring Kelli Fox, Lucy Peacock, Robert King, Noah Reid and Joseph Ziegler (above)

The Story: In a dying rural town young Lowell is giving a statement to a police officer about recent events in his family’s history. Since Lowell may or may not be bipolar, and recent events may or may not have been criminally related, the police officer and the audience are left to decide.

The Trespassers is a beautifully written play. One can literally feel the bones of its construction, see the layering of story and its characters, and hear magic in some of the lines. Told in a non-linear fashion, with intriguing silences built into the dialogue, it is the type of story-telling that the similarly constructed Rice Boy aspires to be.

At the heart of the story is 14-year-old Lowell, remarkably played by Noah Reid, who both narrates and relives events for the police officer, a very stoic Robert King. The officer never interacts with the other characters on the stage – to him, they are just parts of Lowell’s statement. This means the audience is never sure if what they see and hear is the truth, or just a story, which is what Lowell’s grandfather Hardy describes as the part between the truth and a lie.

Joseph Ziegler’s journey as Hardy is inspiring – one wants to debate with and later weep for a man so physically changed. This task falls to daughter Cash (Kelli Fox, right), who manages to show tender love for and overwhelmed bewilderment for both her father and son. Understanding them all better than they themselves do is Roxy, a jaded ex-stripper who still has some dreams, portrayed here by Lucy Peacock (left), who provides a heart-as-big-as-the-stage core for the piece.

The Trespassers closes October 3 at the Studio Theatre, although it has all the hallmarks of an audience favourite, so if you miss it, it is sure to be remounted soon at a different theatre near you.

Phedre, by Jean Racine, adapted by Timberlake Wertenbaker
Directed by Carey Perloff
Featuring Jonathan Goad, Roberta Maxwell, Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna (above)

The story: Phedre is Theseus’ second wife and has a terrible secret – she is in love with her son-in-law, Hippolytus, who is secretly in love with Aracie, the sworn enemy of his father. When Theseus is reported to be dead, Phedre follows her nurse’s bad advice again and again, leading to fateful consequences for all concerned when the truth is revealed.

Written in the 17th century about events from Greek mythology, Phedre is a melodrama filled with passion, lust and revenge. With actors like Seana McKenna, Tom McCamus (right), Roberta Maxwell (left) and Jonathan Goad in the cast, this production should have been stunning, showcasing the best of what Stratford can do.

Instead – and it hurts greatly to say this – this production of Phedre was boring. Stiff, actually. And it was not due to the actors efforts.

Starting with the costumes, which were made of heavy, rich brocades and silks, cut to resemble 17th century fashions, this was certainly meant to imply Racine’s own time period. Instead, they weighed down the actors, confining them, nearly tripping them on more than one occasion.

Contrast this with the elemental set designs – a well of water at one end and an enormous, shimmering, textured wave of material that suggests either water or a rocky outcropping, or wind – take your pick as it is very abstract and overflows one corner of the stage. It is wild, and dangerous-looking and evokes exactly the kind of mood one expects from this play, which is very much absent otherwise.

The director, Carey Perloff, is a well-respected director in other areas, but here, it felt like she did not trust her cast. For instance, in the scenes of most passion, while one actor delivers lines meant to enrage, enrapture or horrify, the other actor stands unmoving, not reacting, just waiting for his or her turn to speak. Their movements seemed reigned in, and as stiff and formal as their costumes. There was one shyly romantic moment shared by Jonathan Goad as Hippolytus and Claire Lautier as Aracie (right), but the emotion was all too brief in an otherwise bereft play.

There were further problems with the direction, but for all their efforts, the most heartbreaking thing about this production of Phedre is knowing how much better it could have been. It continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson theatre until October 3.

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