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One More Time With Feeling… And A Beer, Of Course! The Cast of “The Comedy of Errors” on the final Fringe hurrah for Shakespeare BASH’d

by Bailey Green

One of my first articles for In the Greenroom was an interview about the Shakespeare BASHd production of Loves Labours Lost. I remember the amazing atmosphere of the rehearsal room and how much everyone laughed. Two years later, I could not be more thrilled to be making my Toronto Fringe debut with this incredible cast, crew and company. Here are some glimpses into our process. We cant wait to share it with you. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Comedy of Errors 2 - Tim Welham and Kelly Penner (as Dromio and Antipholus), photo by Kyle Purcell

Tim Welham and Kelly Penner Twinning. Photo by Kyle Purcell.

Tim Welham, who plays Dromio of Syracuse and of Ephesus, on acting Shakespearean text:

As an actor living in Canada in 2016, my world view is considerably different from someone living in Elizabethan England in 1594. Four hundred years of cultural shifts makes working within the images and references of the text feel like a herculean task. Sometimes when read, the grammar seems awkward, the sentence structure appears backwards and the words sound archaic. So I well understand why confusion and frustration is a common reaction when first reading Shakespeare.

But Shakespeare’s words were never originally intended to be read. They were meant to be spoken aloud and performed; designed for a stage, and intended for ears. This is why the language comes alive in a listener’s ear; crackling and popping into being.

While it sometimes takes serious academic work to comprehend Shakespearean textual meaning, the work of embodying how a character thinks, speaks, feels and imagines is a simpler, more practical process of allowing the language to inspire your imagination and alter your mind, body, heart and soul.

This is how an onstage Shakespearean character is created: through the sounds of the words, and how they affect the imagination of both the actor and audience. This is, of course, more difficult than it sounds, but the brilliance of Shakespeare’s writing makes it possible. By allowing the words to affect an actor’s mind, body, heart, and soul, the character is birthed into being, and a unique imaginative sonic world is created in turn for the audience.

The language, and the images the words conjure, must always be the starting point when working on Shakespeare’s texts. A Shakespearean character is just like any other human being: they have a wide vocabulary to articulate their incredible humanity – and that is a gift for any actor.

Comedy of Errors 1 - Kelly Penner as Antipholus, photo by Kyle Purcell

Kelly Penner as Antipholous of Syracuse and Ephesus. Photo by Kyle Purcell.

Kelly Penner, who plays Antipholous of Syracuse and of Ephesus, on playing double:

I was pretty excited by the idea of playing these two guys. I GET the idea of two actors playing two parts, and I’m sure I could get into it, but I dislike the idea. At least I find it far less interesting, because who are you fooling, really? Not us (the audience) but you would expect us (the audience) to believe this. “Oh, those two guys are wearing the same clothes. They must be TWINS!” So when I was asked to do this I was excited by the idea and the challenge.

Continuing from the idea of the clothes I would also dislike the idea of Antipholous of Syracuse having a limp or glasses or a mustache etc, while Antiphous of Ephesus has a hump or monocle or beard. Again, you expect [the audience] to believe this? When I finally started to build my twins, I wanted things to be simpler. My cast mate/friend/part-time lover Dave Gingerich said to me after the first read that one Antipholous was country and the other Antipholous was city. Once I had those general headings to build under, it happened pretty quickly.

Now, I had an idea where they came from, how they might speak and ideas of how they would have grown up. From there, I tried to find a simple physical and vocal cue that would help give a clear switch for myself. That’s really it. After that I just tried to learn all the lines and be open to ideas and impulses.

Oh, and breathe, listen, and trust. Those old gems.

Comedy of Errors 3 - Suzette McCanny as Adriana, photo by Kyle Purcell

Suzette McCanny as Adriana. Photo by Kyle Purcell.

Suzette McCanny, who plays Adriana, on returning to the Victory Cafe, one last time:

There is nowhere in the world I would rather be July 1st than on the deep carpeted stage of the Victory Cafe. Before I was involved as an actor with Shakespeare BASH’d, I was a dedicated fan! Lining up in the sticky Fringe heat to get a spot and a beer. The energy from the upstairs bar/theatre overflowed down the stairs and drew me in.

I have been privileged to be involved in the Shakespeare BASH’d Fringe show for the last three years and in that time I have been so lucky to work on some of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays. To the Shakespeare geeks out there perhaps Love’s Labours Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Comedy of Errors would not be considered obscure but I had not seen any of them in production before I was cast in the shows. What freedom and what a treat to pour myself into a brand new work from an old friend.

The women in these shows are mature and feisty. Fireballs who are full of love and justice. Even when the 400 year old text is complicated politically or sociologically, in the hands of Julia [Nish-Lapidus] and James [Wallis], I find that Shakespeare’s love for and understanding of humanity bubbles up from the depths and cannot go unnoticed. No character is shallow or incomplete.

When I first graduated from theatre school, that first year felt impossibly long and lonely but then summer came around and that first Fringe erupted. I was overwhelmed by the tent, the community, the celebration of one another’s accomplishments! I had lived through the dreary winter and had discovered manna from heaven! All my long lost friends, all the people I admired crowded into these two weeks of joy. I didn’t know then that it was cyclical and that this feeling would be back next year and that it is a part of the Toronto Theatre ecosystem, there to sustain us and give us energy to get through the dank months of February and March.

So this year, as Shakespeare BASH’d gets ready for the most exciting party of the year and says farewell to the space that has housed their overflowing energy for years, I am comforted because I know this feeling is not going anywhere. This energy is ours forever. Thank you to the community for your talent, your energy and your enthusiasm. Merry Fringemas to all and to all a good tent! See you at the Vic!

The Comedy of Errors

Presented by Shakespeare BASH’d as part of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival

comedy_group

Photo by Kyle Purcell

Who:
Written By: William Shakespeare
Company: Shakespeare BASH’d
Director: Julia Nish-Lapidus
Cast: Bailey Green, David Mackett, Suzette McCanny, Brenhan McKibben, Julia Nish-Lapidus, Drew O’Hara, Kelly Penner, David Ross, James Wallis
Creative team:
Megan Miles – Associate Director
James Walllis, Julia Nish-Lapidus – Producers
Jade Douris – Associate Producer
Kyle Purcell – Director of Marketing
Nate Bitton – Fight Director

What:
It’s the biggest party of the year and you’re invited! Join Shakespeare BASH’d in bidding a fond farewell to the Toronto Fringe the only way they know how…by having a huge party with the best audience in the city. Don’t miss their final Fringe performance: The Comedy of Errors, the Bard’s hilarious tale of shipwrecks, mistaken identity, and all out madness!

Where:
Victory Café, 581 Markham Street

When:
July 1st at 7:00 PM
July 2nd at 5:00 PM
July 2nd at 9:00 PM
July 3rd at 5:00 PM
July 5th at 7:00 PM
July 6th at 7:00 PM
July 7th at 7:00 PM
July 8th at 7:00 PM
July 9th at 7:00 PM
July 10th at 5:00 PM

Tickets: fringetoronto.com

Connect:
Web: shakespearebashd.com
Twitter: @ShakesBASHd

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Diane #

    I have thoroughly enjoyed every Shakespeare Bash’d show at the Fringe (and elsewhere). Without a doubt, The Comedy of Errors is my favourite! The timing, the physicality, the method of distinguishing the characters, the lack of pretentious costumes and overbearing props – shear brilliance! Kudos to Julia Nish-Lapidus for her marvelous direction.

    July 9, 2016

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