Artist Profile: Something Wicked This Way Comes… Q&A with the Macbeths – Amelia Sargisson & David Ross
Interview by Bailey Green
I interviewed actors Amelia Sargisson and David Ross who play the Macbeths in Shakespeare Bash’d upcoming production of the Scottish play. We discuss working with Bash’d, focusing on storytelling and taking on the title roles.
About the actors:
Amelia was born and raised in Montreal, she moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson Theatre School under the direction Perry Schniederman. Post graduation she decided to stay in Toronto to pursue her career. Her love of the city was a “slow burn” and she finds the city’s openness to new, and international, ideas and methodologies inspirational.
David is originally from New Hamburg, a menonnite town, and didn’t start out as an actor. He actually left a career as an engineer to attend the University of Windsor’s Acting program. Both actors share a healthy list of theatre credits to their name with companies across the province and the country.
Bash’d does Macbeth, how will it be different from other productions?
AMELIA: There isn’t a concept per-se. Bash’d built their reputation on a bare bones approach to the text which highlights the characters with their relationships and scenes above all. The action isn’t transposed, it’s just letting the words do the storytelling.
DAVID: I get questions from people all the time, what’s your concept? Are you doing Elizabethan? But our goal is just to be clear with the storytelling. For example, we fight with Bowie knives and there are garments that distinguish people as military or non-military, but there’s no time period. The story telling is clear and our main focus.
On the challenges of these well-known roles:
AMELIA: Director James Wallis has insisted several times in rehearsal that there is no “Lady Macbeth,” there is only you. In some ways I agree with him, I only have myself to bring to the part. I can only trust that the words and language of this character will be the gateway into her soul, heart and thoughts. Her ambition is fierce in a way that is kind of frightening. I would call myself fierce, but I would never consider murder to achieve my objective, thankfully, so trying to make that leap is where I have to fill in the blanks.
DAVID: The expectations of people are astounding and if I think that for a second I get a little panicked. People love this show. When people say they can’t wait, the outside part of me smiles and the inside says what the bleep. I am what I am. I draw on my life experience; I’ve had a scrap at a hockey game but I’ve never dissected humans on the battlefield and been lauded and given medals for it. I’m an urban dweller that grew up in the country. Growing up, I knew men that were honourable and noble, warriors and athletes. It’s been wonderful getting him [Macbeth] to walk when I wanted him to run. I lost a lot of sleep, but even that gave me insight into the show.
On building the marriage of the Macbeths:
DAVID: When I first found out about Amelia’s casting I was thrilled. But then I laughed a lot because the woman playing the love of my life is actually the wife of my mortal enemy onstage (Macduff, played by Kyle Purcell) and they got married during the rehearsal process! Amelia is amazing, as attested I think by how busy she’s been in the theatre world. It’s such a terrifying relationship, and she plays a character that convinces me that one of the worst sins in the world is a-okay. It’s exciting for me to be convinced by her and it’s tough to put up obstacles. The relationship, for me, is the crux of the play. When it starts to fall apart, the plays goes to hell.
AMELIA: James [Wallis] identified that we have good chemistry onstage and we didn’t have to work for that. The privilege of working with Dave is that he’s game to try it every way, preposterous or silly or wrong and in doing that we’ve discovered textures and layers in all forms. There’s only so much you can learn by talking about it [which we did] but sometimes you just have to get in the muck of it. It’s important for me to have esteem and love and admiration for this man, for his courage and nobleness. I have found that easy to access because he is all of those things, lovable with a true heart.
On working with Bash’d:
Amelia met Artistic Director James Wallis at Ryerson, and Amelia and David met when they were cast as the Capulets in Wallis’ staged reading of Romeo and Juliet, which was Bash’d first theatrical endeavor.
AMELIA: Beyond the first two staged readings, this is only the second full production I’ve done with Bash’d but it’s the first time James has directed me. It’s a privilege for me to work with him. His ability to illuminate the text is unmatched. The company is less practiced in doing tragedies, focusing on lighter content in the Fringe Festival. But last year they did R & J, and [Macbeth] is one of Shakespeare’s more mature tragedies. The company is continuing to grow and taking on more ambitious projects.
DAVID: Many things are different and the same. The same is James’ knowledge of Shakespeare. Before the show he has mined every source for context, meaning, double meaning, triple meaning, historical basis and he’s done that for every word of the play. What is different is I have never been a part of the rehearsal process this much. It’s my first crack at a title character. James and I have discussed things over drinks, through text and email, in moments passing each other in the hall. I have to say the process of building my character hasn’t been much different, but the journey is just a bit longer.
AMELIA: And the result will surely be different.
AMELIA: I believe in the power of a well-told story to affect people in different ways […] and to inspire them to make changes in their own lives. I love and appreciate the opportunity theatre creates for communion, to be in a room of sentient beings with a shared life and away from the solipsism of our glowing screens. The power of live theatre is very unique.
One week only, Macbeth runs at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton Street, just south of College) until Sunday November 23rd.
Tickets: $17 http://www.shakespearebashd.com/tickets.html