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Posts tagged ‘James Wallis’

In Conversation with actor Jeff Yung on MEASURE FOR MEASURE with Shakespeare BASH’d

Interview by Bailey Green

Jeff Yung is an actor, poet, tricker and martial artist. We met in the Fall of 2015 when we performed in the Shakespeare BASH’d production of King John. This week, BASH’d returns to the Junction City Music Hall with Measure for Measure, directed by Associate Artistic Director Catherine Rainville. With Jeff taking on the role of Claudio, it was the perfect opportunity to speak with my partner about his experience working on Measure for Measure, his history with BASH’d, and why he loves performing Shakespeare for contemporary audiences.

Bailey Green: So, how are rehearsals going? How are you feeling about Opening?

Jeff Yung: Rehearsals have been going well! We’re doing runs of the show so it’s really nice to have the whole cast in the room. I feel like we’ve just gotten to the place where the whole room feels that sense of ‘there’s the show’ with all of the pieces coming together. Now it’s just about repetition, and as Catherine said, connecting the dots we’ve laid out for ourselves. I’m feeling good about opening, I think we’re in a great place and we’re ready to move into the venue and feel that shift of bringing the whole show to the next level.

BG: What did you know about Measure for Measure beforehand?

JY: Funnily enough, Measure for Measure was one of the main stage shows my graduating class did at Ryerson University. Many BASH’d alum, including Co-Artistic Director James Wallis, were in that production, so I knew the plot pretty well and how topical it would be. What’s been surprising is how I view many of the characters and circumstances so differently in light of how the world has changed since we did that school production.

BG: So for those who may not know the plot as well (myself included), whats the story and how does your character fit in?

JY: Catherine has this great way of describing Measure for Measure as a weird Shakespearean version of Undercover Boss, which is a pretty apt description. A Duke in Vienna goes away and temporarily suspends his power to Angelo, a man known to be noble, honest and good. Though it is “strewn in the common ear” that the Duke is far away he is, in fact, disguised as a Friar and moves about his city engaging with the citizens to see if giving power to a man with such a great reputation will corrupt him and bring plight upon the city. My character Claudio’s actions are the ones that call the conflict into the play. In world of Measure for Measure, pre-marital sex is illegal and punishable by death, despite the fact that nearly everyone does it. Under the Duke’s rule, no one has been charged nor punished for such an act, and in fact, brothels are common both in the city and the suburbs. Claudio has had sex with a woman named Juliet who is basically his wife, only they haven’t yet done an official marriage ceremony, so technically, they’ve committed a crime. With the Duke gone, Angelo brings back enforcement of these old laws and arrests Claudio and sentences him to death. It is at this point that Claudio asks his sister Isabella, a novice nun about to enter into the sisterhood, to make a case for Claudio’s life.

BG: What has it been like working with Catherine as a director, as most (if not all) of the BASH’d shows you’ve been in were directed by James Wallis?

JY: Yes, every BASH’d show I’ve done has been directed by James prior to this one! It has been wonderful to work with Catherine. She has a very strong vision and knows how to bring it into the room, while still being very open and flexible to trying different things. This play is complex and messy in many places and Catherine has done an outstanding job leaning into the messiness and finding ways to make it work well with the story we are trying to tell. I also feel like there are so many different energies and personalities in a cast as big as ours, each individual actor has their own unique process and needs and Catherine has been really open and patient with all of us.

Bailey Green (left), Jeff Yung (centre) in KING JOHN. Photo Credit: Kyle Purcell

BG: The last time you performed in this space was when we were in King John. How has your life changed since that show?

JY: Haha good question…My life has changed a lot since King John. I’ve moved into a new neighbourhood, become the co-caregiver of a trouble-making, loveable cat named Puck, done some pretty cool acting gigs and tried to take steps towards growing into the best (or at least better) version of myself. Through it all, the greatest privilege, honour and joy has been to have you in my life as a partner (and yes I can hear the collective groan of your readers), but truly through all of the triumphs and defeats that have come my way since that show, I am so beyond grateful that I had you to share it with. Is this too much?

BG: Im gonna keep it. So, why do you love Shakespeare?

JY: As an actor I find the challenge of making Shakespeare’s text comprehensible to a contemporary audience is one of the things I love. Every time I approach a Shakespeare show it is like having to assemble a complex piece of IKEA furniture before you can actually play around with it.

BG: Youve known BASH’d Co-Artistic Directors James [Wallis], Julia Nish-Lapidus and Associate Artistic Director Catherine [Rainville] for years now. How has working with BASH’d changed over time? What do you enjoy the most about working with them?

JY: I think one of the greatest things about BASH’d is how the heart of every show has been the same. They’ve moved to different bars and enlist the talents of many other talented individuals in the company, but at the core it’s a group of committed artists, telling their clearest and most connected version of Shakespeare’s story, in a bar. There’s something about the simplicity of that that’s immensely difficult. You really have to use the tools given to you, which is your text and your body. And then you’re in a bar, so you have to contend with the space and its limits. But I think the combination of the space and tools is what makes BASH’d shows so deep in the work, and ultimately what makes the shows really stand out and come together so well. I honestly love watching the work of the other actors. Every actor brings something different to the characters they play, and it’s incredible to see someone’s journey to craft those characters. I am very grateful to have been in a BASH’d room so many times to witness the coming together of some really great shows.

BG: Three Shakespeare roles you’d like to tackle?

JY: I’d love to play Iago, Henry V, and also maybe Coriolanus? Those are the ones for now at least, I’m sure that will change with age and experience.

Measure for Measure

Who:
Directed by Catherine Rainville
Featuring: Geoffrey Armour, Olivia Croft, Sochi Fried, Melanie Leon, Tim MacLean, Michael Man, Megan Miles, Drew O’Hara, Cara Pantalone, Lesley Robertson, David Ross, Jeff Yung
Associate Director: Drew O’Hara
Stage Manager: Darcy Haywood Stoop
Producers: Julia Nish-Lapidus, James Wallis
Marketing Design: Kyle Purcell

What:
“To whom should I complain? Did I tell this/Who would believe me?”
Shakespeare’s story of sexual politics, consent, power, and corruption is given a barroom staging at Junction City Music Hall.

Where:
Junction City Music Hall
2907 Dundas St. West, Toronto

When:
ONE WEEK ONLY
May 1-6, 2018
Tuesday, May 1 – 7:30pm
Wednesday, May 2 – 7:30pm
Thursday, May 3 – 7:30pm
Friday, May 4 – 7:30pm
Saturday, May 5 – 2:00pm
Saturday, May 5 – 7:30pm
Sunday, May 6 – 2:00pm

Tickets:
www.shakespearebashd.com
$20 online
$25 at the door (pending availability)

 

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“Collaboration, Character-Driven Plays & 90s Pop Culture” A Chat with David Mackett, James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus on DUBLIN CAROL by Conor McPherson, November 14-26

Interview by Hallie Seline.

We had the pleasure of connecting with David Mackett, James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus to discuss their latest collaboration on Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol presented by Fly on the Wall Theatre. We spoke about what drew them to explore McPherson’s plays, working with director Rod Ceballos, and riffing off the play’s setting in the 90s, we do a little 90s Rapid Fire Question session on bands, trends, and catchphrases, because… how could you not?!

HS: Tell me a bit about the show and what it’s like working on it.

James Wallis: Dublin Carol is set in the back room of a funeral home in Dublin on Christmas Eve. John is running the funeral home because his boss, the mortician Noel, is in the hospital; John’s showing the ropes to young Mark, Noel’s nephew (played by moi!), on a day when his estranged daughter tells him that his ex-wife is dying from cancer. The play deals with John confronting his past, present, and future – the choices he is making and those he will make. John is a realist but also full of fantasy. McPherson is a master at understanding the grief underneath the common man. John is broken and tries to confront his former demons but he’s also unwilling to see his complacency and hypocrisy in his life. It’s been a great pleasure to work on such a deeply sad play, and amazing to work on a play about intimate conversations and emotions. Since the majority of the work I do is Shakespeare, the sparse, yet detailed text is a joyful challenge.

HS: Tell me about working with director Rod Ceballos on this.

JW: I’ve known Rod for years but never worked for him. He’s a diligent director, always thinking about what is being said and done in the moment. He’s challenging to his actors: What’s going on right now? What do you need out of this moment?

It’s been a great lesson to watch him and David Mackett working together. They’ve spent a lot of time working together and it shows. Their professionalism and creativity is evident. They work carefully and with constant focus on John’s inner world.

Rod has a great deal of experience to offer an actor, and it’s been a great pleasure to learn and work with him. Plus, he’s a good guy. The room is full of friends working on a play with passion and hard work. That’s all I care about.

HS: David, what is it about Conor McPherson’s work that draws you to it and excites you?

David Mackett: I was first introduced to McPherson’s work when I was approached to do a site-specific production of The Weir, produced by MackenzieRo as part of the 2004 Toronto Fringe. What immediately struck me about his plays is how character-driven they are – McPherson has said in interviews that not much happens in his plays (i.e. there’s not a lot of “action”, as it were), but as the play progresses, you are gradually drawn into the inner lives of the characters you are observing – their feelings of grief, loneliness, and regret. And that’s what really excites me about his work – exploring the inner emotional lives of these characters through what is said, and perhaps more importantly, what is not said. In each of the McPherson plays I’ve worked on, something happens that forces the characters to re-examine their lives – the choices they’ve made – often leaving them with a suspicion that they’ve let life pass them by. I think that’s what we all wonder about: whether we are, in fact, seizing every opportunity that comes our way, and living our own lives to the fullest.

HS: If your audience could listen to one song/band/album before coming to see the show, what would it be?

DM: Dante’s Prayer by Loreena McKennitt

HS: I heard this show is set in the 90s, which I am ALWAYS into. Let’s do some…

90s Rapid Fire Questions

JW & DM: Julia Nish-Lapidus is a huge 90s pop culture fan/enthusiast, so we leave it to her to handle this rapid fire round:

Favourite 90s band:
Julia Nish-Lapidus: All Saints! Deborah Cox! Mariah! Jimmy Ray?

Favourite 90s fashion:
JNL: Platform shoes. I even had platform flip-flops, which were not comfortable. Though I always wanted to dress like Angela from My So-Called Life, and she would never wear those.

Favourite 90s movie:
JNL: Clueless… Empire Records.

Favourite 90s trend:
JNL: Inflatable housewares. I had a chair, an ottoman, a garbage can, and a Kleenex box holder.

What would be your 90s sitcom catchphrase?
JNL: Hop to it!

If you could give your 90s self one piece of advice, what would it be?
JNL: Stop pretending you’re too cool to like boy bands. We all know you went to an O-Town concert.

Describe the show in 5-10 words.
David:
Dublin. Christmas Eve. A visit. A man’s own ghosts. Whiskey. A chance.
James: An intimate Christmas sorrowful story time
Julia: Loss, loneliness, regret, and a chance at redemption.

Dublin Carol

Who:
Written by Conor McPherson
Presented by Fly on the Wall Theatre
Directed by Fly on the Wall’s Co-Artistic Producer, Rod Ceballos
Featuring: David Mackett, James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus
Production Design by Patrick Brennan
Stage Manager: Cora Matheson

What:
Dublin undertaker, John Plunkett, is a man haunted by his past – a past he would sooner forget. It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and he’s back in his office with his new assistant, after overseeing an early morning funeral. Then an unexpected visit from his estranged daughter throws his daily routine into turmoil. It’s a visit that forces him to confront the ghosts of his past…but one that offers him a final opportunity to make things right.

Where:
Artscape Youngplace
180 Shaw Street, Toronto

When:
November 14 – 26, 2017

Tickets:
$15-$25
Preview (Tuesday, November 14): $15
Tuesday – Saturday: $25
Sunday Matinee: $20
flyonthewalltheatre.ca

O, What a Noble Mind is Here O’erthrown – In Conversation with Julia Nish-Lapidus, Ophelia in Shakespeare BASH’d Hamlet

by Bailey Green

If you’ve ever seen a Shakespeare BASH’d show, then you’ve seen Julia Nish-Lapidus work her magic. Behind the scenes, Julia has an eye for aesthetics and design. As Artistic Producer of the company she handles everything from ticket sales to social media. As an actor, Julia brings intelligence, wit and energy to her text—whether as the fierce Kate in The Taming of the Shrew or the clever Mistress Page in Merry Wives of Windsor. This February Julia is taking on a new challenge, the role of Ophelia in Hamlet (presented by Shakespeare BASH’d.) “She doesn’t have to be a victim,” Julia says of the doomed Ophelia. “She’s actively choosing what she wants, it’s not a blind obedience. And yet she does want the people around her to be happy. And I think that’s in the text, but I do think it will be a different Ophelia than most people are used to.”

In the title role of Hamlet is BASH’d Artistic Director James Wallis. James and Julia have been married since 2012 and Julia discusses how their shared history translates to a powerful connection onstage. “Hamlet and Ophelia don’t have much time together on stage to create this very intense relationship,” Julia says. “So working with James offers me a way in to that world, not to mention the trust and freedom we have in rehearsal.”

Photo of James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus by Kyle Purcell.

Photo of James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus by Kyle Purcell.

Catherine Rainville is taking the helm as director of this production. Catherine—who has acted in several BASH’d shows and co-directed Merry Wives during their Fringe 2015 run—leads a gender balanced cast that includes a female Laertes (played by Jennifer Dzialoszynski) as well as female Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (played by Jade Douris and Megan Miles.) “Catherine is such an actor’s director. She knows how to get you to solidify what you’re thinking.” Julia says of working with Catherine. “She just lets her actors’ impulses come out naturally, and then she helps shape them.” Julia also mentions how interesting it is to watch Hamlet surrounded by women that he mistrusts and how that new element affects the story.

Photo of Jennifer Dzialoszynski by Kyle Purcell

Photo of Jennifer Dzialoszynski by Kyle Purcell

Ophelia’s family dynamic has also been key to Julia’s exploration of Ophelia. Laertes’ (Jennifer Dzialoszynski) apprehension of Hamlet takes on a different tone coming from a sister as opposed to the older brother dynamic that audiences are used to. And Daniel Briere, who plays Polonius, is “such a giving scene partner who knows his text like no one’s business and has really embraced the idea of having two daughters,” says Julia.

Photo of Daniel Briere by Kyle Purcell

Photo of Daniel Briere by Kyle Purcell

Exploring the sister dynamic between Ophelia and Laertes has been a joy for Julia, “I couldn’t ask for better actors to be in a fake family with. And I think Catherine was right on the nose with her casting, especially with Jen. Wait until you see her fight,” Julia says. “The fights for this production, created by Nate Bitton, are incredible, and Jen performing them is amazing. It’s great to see a badass woman at the end of the show taking on the protagonist in a fight. Laertes being a woman brings a whole different quality to the fight at the end because now we’re seeing the rage and heart of a women whose entire family is dead.”

BASH’d shows have a reputation for selling out, so get your tickets early to avoid disappointment (plus when you buy online in advance, you save a dollar!)

Hamlet

Presented by Shakespeare BASH’d

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Who:
Directed by Catherine Rainville
Featuring: Daniel Briere, Jade Douris, Jennifer Dzialoszynski, Tim MacLean, Megan Miles, Jesse Nerenberg, Julia Nish-Lapidus, Drew O’Hara, David Ross, Jane Spence, James Wallis
Production Team: Dorea Beaudoin, Nathan Bitton, Darcy Haywood Stoop, Chloe Purcell, Kyle Purcell, Simon Rainville

What:
Shakespeare BASH’d caps off their biggest season yet with one of the Bard’s most beloved plays: Hamlet. Artistic Director James Wallis takes the stage in the title role, alongside a company of Shakespearean powerhouses in this energetic, compelling production. Returning to the Monarch Tavern, Hamlet will mark the fourth and final show of the company’s hitherto sold-out season. Don’t miss this new, fresh, and bold staging of a Shakespearean classic.

When: One week only! February 2-7, 2016

Where:  Monarch Tavern

Tickets$19 online, at shakespearebashd.com, $20 at the door (cash only)

Connect:

@shakesBASHd

@_BaileyGreen

@intheGreenRoom_

One More Time with Feeling! Shakespeare BASH’d on remounting past hit “The Taming of the Shrew”

Interview by Hallie Seline

Hallie: Can you speak to me a little about remounting a show? 

James: It’s a really crazy experience! There’s a lot from the original production that has transferred over for us, but a lot of it is changing too. We’re three years older, with three years more experience (and marriage), so our approach to the show, the characters, and the relationship has evolved.

Julia: It’s kind of wonderful to have a full rehearsal period to revisit something you already know so well. You have an opportunity to try more and really dig deeper. Plus, we have some new people joining us for this production, so they’re bringing a new energy and perspective to the show that wasn’t there before.

Hallie: Why this show?

Julia: This show holds a special place in our hearts. It was our first full Shakespeare BASH’d production and we did it only months before our wedding. It was one of the most exciting summers of my life and the show was a huge part of it, so it’s amazing to get to revisit it and play opposite my husband again – that’s always fun.

Hallie: Anything new and exciting in this version? 

James: Lots of new and lots of old. The cast is a mix of returning and new, which is fantastic. The feel and energy of the original production is definitely still there, but the cast members are taking time to explore these characters with fresh eyes and Julia and I are discovering more and more about the controversial relationship between Kate and Petrucio. There’s definitely a lot of new stuff coming out. Plus, it’s in a new bar. The Monarch Tavern is a fantastic space and it’s allowing us to stage the show in a very different way than we did at the Victory Cafe.

Hallie: What can audiences hope to expect for this performance? 

Julia: Exciting, silly, heartwarming Shakespeare that keeps you laughing but also has a lot under the surface.

James: We’re really excited to talk with audience members after the show and see how it affected them.

Hallie: James, what’s it like to step away from the director’s role and back into acting? 

James: Of course, it’s a little tough. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the director’s position with Shakespeare’s plays. I really like shaping the story – it’s one of my favourite things. I think with acting, you have to let things be. You can’t control as much, if at all, at times, and therefore you have to take a breath and just be. Which is liberating as a storyteller. Surprises abound! Regardless, I have a great team on stage and off so I trust that the show will be fantastic!

Hallie: Describe the show to me in 5-10 words.

Julia: Hilarious, action-packed, beer-filled (and fueled), and full of love.

Hallie: What’s your favourite beer at the Monarch Tavern?

James: Great Lakes Karma Citra IPA

Julia: Oast House Barn Raiser Country Ale

Hallie: Favourite line from Taming of the Shrew:

Julia: “Ye are a baggage.” Shakespeare really knew how to hit where it hurts.

James: “Is not this well?” that’s what everyone wants to know.

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When: April 9th – 12th, 2015

Where: Monarch Tavern, 12 Clinton Street

Tickets: $18 shakespearebashd.com/tickets

Connect: @ShakesBashd

Connect with ITGR Hallie: @HallieSeline

2014 Fringe Preview – Love’s Labour’s Lost – Shakespeare BASH’d

Interview by Bailey Green

As I entered the rehearsal hall for Love’s Labour’s Lost (presented by Shakespeare BASH’d) I was struck by the amount of people in the room. With no role double cast, the cast of 16 generated such an exuberant atmosphere that I couldn’t believe they had just finished a run. Their attitude as an ensemble reflected the youthful energy of the play.

In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the King of Navarre and his three men swear an oath to remain celibate so that they can focus on academic pursuits. Unfortunately the day after the men swear this oath, the Princess of France and her three ladies—a group of fierce, grounded, intelligent women—arrive on a political mission. Passion, poetry and chaos ensue. I sat down with the four—that’s right, four—pairs of lovers to chat about their character’s relationships, their own quirks and the upcoming Fringe production.

Love's Labour's Lost - Hallie Seline & Jesse Nerenburg - Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Hallie Seline & Jesse Nerenberg – Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Princess of France (Hallie Seline) and the King of Navarre (Jesse Nerenberg)

Hallie’s Pet Peeve: Slow walkers.
Jesse’s Fave Rehearsal Snack: The vietnamese steamed buns from Banh Mi Boyz
Post-Show Drink of Choice: “Wine wine wine” (Hallie), Hawaiian Pale Ale (Jesse).
Describe your characters’ relationship:
Hallie: We’re both people in power. We like to outwit each other, top each other. We don’t want to admit that we’re into each other but we are. We totally are.
Jesse: We’re both the leaders of our kingdoms so that definitely plays a part. But why I’m attracted to her is because she’s not afraid to push back. I don’t see her for many pages after the first meeting, but when I do, I am really in love with her. I’ve written all of these poems about her. Once you’re in, you’re in.

Love's Labour's Lost - Suzette McCanny and Jeff Hanson - Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Suzette McCanny and Jeff Hanson – Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Rosaline (Suzette McCanny) and Berowne (Jeff Hanson)

Suzette’s Pet Peeve: Bus windshield wipers.
Jeff’s Favourite Rehearsal Snack: Chocolate chip cookies.
Post show drink of choice: Apricot beer (Suzette), “Any drink anyone will buy for me” (Jeff)
Describe your character’s relationship:
Suzette: They have such a love/hate relationship, as in they love to get the best of one another. Rosaline would like to pretend she doesn’t love him or that she’s better than that. But she’s very intrigued by his wit. She thinks he’s smart and he can hold his own next to her. She also sees his cons and can be open about that. She can be herself with him.
Jeff: They had met before at the same party [as Longaville and Maria] and for Berowne he doubts the oath the men all swear to right from the beginning. He doesn’t really think it is going to work. Berowne’s always had control over his emotions and has never fallen madly in love. When they first meet, what Rosaline says to him, how she uses her wit and beats him at his own game, it really intrigues him. He doesn’t really get it, being in love, he’s taken aback. He almost goes through the seven stages of grief, but more like the seven stages of love. He doesn’t understand why but he does truly love her.

Love's Labour's Lost - Catherine Rainville & Joshua Browne - Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Catherine Rainville & Joshua Browne – Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Katherine (Catherine Rainville) and Dumaine (Joshua Browne)

Catherine’s Pet Peeve: People chatting in the background while she’s rehearsing a scene
Josh’s Rehearsal Snack: Cigarettes. If he could eat ’em, he would.
Post show drink of choice: A glass of Scotch (both).
Describe your character’s relationship:
Catherine: It’s so instantaneous for everyone, but Dumaine and Katherine have moments of looking at each other and trying to figure each other out. It’s really playful. I get to be aggressive which is fun. We all tease the boys, which for Katherine is her way of playing hard to get. But she’s so obvious when she’s around him.
Joshua: We don’t have a lot of text together, or any really. But we have built this aspect of Katherine being the aggressor. I catch her checking me out at the beginning and I’m a bit more timid. I’m sort of shocked she likes me. Similarly [to the Princess and the King] we have many pages where we don’t see each other at all yet I’m madly in love and have written horrible poetry about her. She’s also pretty sassy. I like that.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost – Andrew Gaboury & Sheelagh Darling – Photo Credit: Jesse Griffiths & Kyle Purcell

Maria (Sheelagh Darling) and Longaville (Andrew Gaboury)

Sheelagh’s Pet Peeve: People who stand really close to you for no reason. Also, toe shoes.
Andrew’s Favourite Rehearsal Snack: Nuts, specifically almonds.
Post show drink of choice: Oatmeal Stout (Andrew), St. Ambroise Apricot Beer (Sheelagh)
Describe your character’s relationship:
Sheelagh: We really like each other right from the beginning. There’s no qualms, we know we’re going to get together. I play along with the Princess but whenever Longaville’s around I’m just making googly eyes and waving. Even when the rest of the girls are berating and chiding the boys, I’m just still waving at Longaville.
Andrew: We kind of met before, it seems we were at the same party. I’m the most serious in terms of the oath the men swear [to stay away from women]. And then I see Maria and I throw it all away. It’s funny watching how I try to logically get around the oath in my poetry.

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Bailey: What makes this production stand out? What will an audience member experience coming to see your show at the Fringe?

Jesse (King): Love’s Labour’s Lost is a very youthful play, it’s one of Shakespeare’s earlier work and it has a rhyming structure which is really unique. The women hold their own. And it’s not a play that is done very often. People are going to be coming out to see a show where they can have a beer and experience a classic that they may have never seen on stage before.

Josh (Dumaine): It’s zany. The men are writing really bad poetry and dressing up as “Russians”. The show is going to be fast, snappy, fun and silly, but it also has vulnerable moments. It’s really relatable.

Hallie (Princess): James [Wallis], our director, said at the beginning that the best way into this story is through yourself. These characters come alive through the energy of the people doing them. And in this cast you have a bunch of really interesting, funny, weird and smart people who come out through the words of these characters. That’s what makes it fun. I hope that will stand out to our audiences.

Suzette (Rosaline): The characters play the whole time! Let’s play this game, let’s play that game. Whenever I see a BASH’d show I feel like I’m part of the team as an audience member, that I’m part of how the story unfolds. Each time we run the show there’s new surprises. And it’s so refreshing to be in a play where my character doesn’t have to be a lost puppy who only cares about being in love. It’s a love story, for sure, but there’s an edge. My goal in life is not just “to be loved by another person.” I still feel that’s very rare.

Jeff (Berowne): People will get a sense of [director] James’ respect for the text, but there’s also a joy and a sense of ensemble and the fun that this rehearsal room has been that I feel will be evident for anyone watching. The audience hopefully should go through the journey with us.

Andrew (Longaville): There’s a real sense of great respect for the text, but also using it as a blueprint. There’s a balance of not bulldozing the words, but really using them and at the same time using yourself in the text.

Hallie (Princess): All pomp is taken out of it with a BASH’d show. It has that “Fringe” energy. You go to the Victory Cafe just a step away from the tents and everything that’s going on in the Mirvish alley. You can sit down and have a beer and listen to a classic tale that is so clear and fresh and fun and full of energy. It’s enjoyable, which is sometimes exactly how you want to spend your time. There’s also wonderful dance that happens that I cannot WAIT for each audience to experience.

Bailey: Well I for one can’t wait for the dance number.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

by William Shakespeare, presented by Shakespeare BASH’d

Love's Labour's Lost - Photo by Jesse Griffiths and Kyle Purcell

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Photo by Jesse Griffiths and Kyle Purcell

Directed by James Wallis

Where? The Victory Cafe, 581 Markham St.
When? Thursday, July 3 @7:00pm
Friday, July 4 @ 7:00pm
Saturday, July 5 @9:00pm
Sunday, July 6 @5:00pm
Tuesday, July 8 @7:00pm
Thursday, July 10 @7:00pm
Friday July, 11 @7:00pm
Saturday, July 12 @7:00pm
Sunday, July 13 @5:00pm
Tickets are $12 and can be purchased via the Toronto Fringe website: https://www.fringetix.ca/

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Follow this wild bunch on Twitter:

Shakespeare Bash’d@ShakesBASHd
Hallie Seline (Princess) – @HallieSeline
Joshua Browne@joshu_ashua
Andrew Gaboury (Longaville) – @afieldofcrowns
Jeff Hanson (Berowne) – @The_Hanman
Suzette McCanny (Rosaline) – @suzettemccanny

In the Greenroom Writer Bailey Green: @_baileygreen

** Want In the Greenroom to catch your Fringe show or have an interesting idea for an interview? Email us at inthegreenroom.ca@gmail.com! **

Artist Profile: James Wallis & Julia Nish-Lapidus – The LaBute Cycle – This Week Only at Unit 102 Theatre – “We are who we are inside… The rest is unimportant.”

Interview by Hallie Seline

I had a chat with one of my favourite couples in Toronto Theatre, James Wallis and Julia Nish-Lapidus, to discuss their most recent project – The LaBute Cycle, going from Shakespeare (known most notably from Shakespeare BASH’d sold-out Toronto Fringe shows and their most recent production of Romeo and Juliet last fall) to LaBute, working professionally as a couple and their favourite places in Toronto. reasons to be pretty runs for one week only (April 8th-13th) with a special PWYC staged reading of Fat Pig on Sunday April 13th.

HS: Tell me a little about yourselves and about the show. 

JNL: We are doing reasons to be pretty, by Neil LaBute and a staged reading of his other play, Fat Pig. Originally we were presenting full productions of both plays in rep, but unfortunately, one of the actors was badly injured earlier this week, and is no longer able to do the show. James Wallis, our director, has stepped in to play his role in reasons to be pretty, but we are not going to be presenting a full production of Fat Pig at this time. We will be doing a staged reading of Fat Pig on Sunday, April 13 at 2pm, with another amazing actor, Jesse Griffiths, stepping into the role of Tom.

JW: Both of these shows examine how we value female beauty. We’ve worked with a lot of the team doing The LaBute Cycle while working with my other company, Shakespeare BASH’d, doing classical work. The LaBute Cycle is a passion project for myself and all those involved.

HS: Why LaBute?

JW: LaBute to me is a fantastic playwright, as he is very honest and focused with his characters’ worldviews. In reasons to be pretty, he tackles a very sensitive issue with the way we value beauty in the modern world. He doesn’t pull any punches and, in my opinion, writes with a great gusto about what he knows and doesn’t try to be politically correct. Also, I love his text; it’s extremely conversational and it’s a complete 180 from what I’m used to with Shakespeare’s work.

JNL: It’s a really interesting and sensitive subject matter to explore. And it’s fascinating to explore it so publicly. The issue of beauty and how we value it is pretty prominent in our world today and I think this play offers many different perspectives, and asks a lot of questions about the subject.

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Original Cast: Milan Malistic (TL), Elisabeth Lagerlöf (TR) Julia Nish-Lapidus (BL), Steve Boleantu (BR)

HS: What have you found interesting about working on something so different together. You normally work on Shakespeare together, this is quite a change. 

JW: It is! It’s been really great to get to explore these new characters, but bring a lot of the basics we use with our Shakespeare work into approaching these roles. I like the role of Kent for sure, he’s a malicious person, a person who is very selfish, but I think that he’s his own person and fights for what he thinks is his, regardless of who he hurts along the way. It’s not pretty but it’s honest. He’s verbose and nasty at times, which isn’t such a stretch for me but it is not where I live most of the time when it comes to acting. I’m excited for the challenge.

JNL: It’s really great to get to work with James on something contemporary for a change, and now I get to work with him as both a director and fellow actor! Being a married couple who works together so often (yes, James is my husband) is really great and it’s interesting to be exploring this sort of subject matter together. For me to be doing a big fight scene with Steve, who plays my boyfriend in the show, and have James be directing it is really cool, because he knows me so well and for material like this that sits in such a natural world, he can really help me bring a lot of myself to it, since he obviously knows me so well.

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Power Couple: Julia Nish-Lapidus & James Wallis

HS:This is being performed in Unit 102 theatre. Tell me about working in the space.

JW: In my opinion, it’s one of the most amazing spaces in the city. It is a complete blank slate that I have seen transformed in so many ways. I really like the enthusiasm of the guys who run the place. They want to see great theatre come out of their space and I admire their tenacity for finding it.

JNL: It’s a really great space. There’s a lot of flexibility to use it however you want and the team of people who run it are awesome! It’s so important to have small, flexible spaces like that in the city.

HS: If you could entice people to come see the show in five to ten words, what would they be?

JW: We are who we are inside. The rest is unimportant.

JNL: Hilarious, heart breaking, and oozing with talent.

HS: What inspires you as artists?

JNL: James, my husband? Is that super cheesy? This is really a passion project for him, and he’s pushed me to take risks artistically that I don’t think I would have without that push from him.

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JW: The people I am fortunate to be surrounded by. The constant creativity that they exude is without equal. Also, my wife, Julia, whom I am completely enthralled by, her grace under pressure, her faculties with producing a play and her wonderful intelligence when it comes to any work she does.

JW: He just said that because of what I said. He felt like he had to…

HS: Best advice you’ve ever gotten.

JW: It’s just a play.

JNL: Act better.

HS: What are your favourite places in the city?

JW: Victory Café, my home, the Dank and any used book store.

JNL: Home! And Bar + Karaoke (the best karaoke place to drink your face off and sing 90’s pop songs)

reasons to be pretty

by Neil LaBute
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WhereUnit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
When: April 8th-13th *Special staged reading of LaBute’s Fat Pig will be presented at 2pm on Sunday April 13th
Tickets: $17 – Available at www.labute-cycle.com and at the door. The staged reading of Fat Pig on April 13th is PWYC at the door

Artist Profile: Kelly Penner and Hallie Seline – Reconnecting with the Classic Tale of Love-at-First-Sight as the Title Roles in Shakespeare BASH’d Romeo and Juliet, November 19th-23rd

Interview by: Brittany Kay

We sat down with the smart and sexy duet, Hallie Seline and Kelly Penner, who play the title roles inShakespeare BASH’d upcoming Romeo and Juliet, running this week, for one week only, November 19th-23rd. We discussed what it’s like approaching such iconic roles, working with BASH’d, on-stage chemistry and their thoughts on Canadian Theatre and its utilization of young artisits.

BK: Are you feeling the pressure of filling such iconic roles, in arguably one of the most timeless tragedies?

KP: Well yeah, you do feel the pressure. There’s the iconic movie versions… and Leonardo Di Caprio played Romeo, and they just did it at the Stratford Festival… So yeah. It’s there, it’s big. But the first thing to do, is to forget all of that and approach it like any other part. You try to figure it out for yourself.

HS: I’m trying to be like EVERYONE in one performance. Watch out! (she laughs) Sure, I would say there’s a pressure, however James Wallis, our director, was really great in advising us to approach the text with fresh eyes. There are definite ways in which we have heard these iconic words being performed. We are trying not to fall into those familiar patterns. Instead, we’ve been focusing on telling the story, what you’re saying and who you’re saying them to. I’m trying to make choices for myself and for the story.

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BK: Have you looked to any other actor’s portrayal for inspiration?

KP: Sure, I’m inspired by other Romeos I’ve seen, but I’m trying to figure Romeo out as myself like any other part that I’ve read for the first time, which is difficult because it is one of those plays that we think we know, and have so many other portrayals that have kind of defined the characters for us.

HS: And everyone will have an opinion on how it should be said or what they think Romeo and Juliet should be like. All you can do is stay true to yourself and your interpretation of the characters and the story that you and your cast are trying to tell.

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BK: Talk to me about your rehearsal process?

KP: Once a week for a month we’d get together by scene and we would literally just go through the lines to make sure we were all clear with interpretation and meaning. We didn’t work on intention at all during this text work. It was just strictly for clarity of meaning. James had done an enormous amount of background work on certain words and phrases as well, which was incredible to work with as a starting off point. It was good to have that table work behind us so we could go into our blocking rehearsals really knowing what we were saying, giving us more freedom to play.

HS: Afterwards we were all really prepared to focus on our arguments and our scene partners and the story as a whole. James thinks Shakespeare is best when it’s story based. No bells and whistles just clear storytelling, which was a great way to approach our rehearsal process.

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BK: You have to fall in love every night. How has it been working with each other?

HS: Look at him! I may throw up in my mouth every time I think of kissing him (she laughs) … but seriously, you can start with this one, Kelly.

KP: You don’t want to start? You started?

HS: Nope. You take the lead, Romeo.

KP: The chemistry is…. good! These two characters fall in love instantly. And they are intensely in love. I didn’t know Hallie at all before, other than a “hi, hello” in public. We just tried to get to know each other, become friends. It made the intimacy on stage a lot easier and helped it to develop a lot faster. Ultimately, the chemistry on stage comes from listening and playing off each other. The chemistry is also in the language, let alone in the heart and the body. Really listening and taking in what the other person is saying, using each other’s words, and creating poetry together is where it mainly stems from.

HS: Ditto.

KP: That’s all you’ve got? Ditto? (he laughs)

HS: Well, I’m into that answer! It all comes from trust and feeling comfortable in the scene and in rehearsal with your partner. It’s really about what Kelly said… becoming friends. We are completely playing off each other. You know basic scene principles are that you are trying to affect your partner and you are fighting for what you want from them. In our scenes, that is what it is. We have fun.

BK: How did you get involved with Shakespeare BASH’d?

HS: I had seen both of their past productions in the Toronto Fringe, which were hugely successful and just so enjoyable as a spectator. I took a liking to what the company looks for in Shakespeare, performance and theatre in general. It was fun and laid-back, and in a bar, so you could have a drink during it, which is always nice. It was great, thought-provoking, fun, quality work with so much young local talent. I contacted them when I found out they were auditioning for Juliet and it’s been an incredible experience working with them!

KP: When I was in second year at theatre school at Windsor, I was cast in a production of As You Like It in Brampton. In that production there were many of the cast members of this Romeo and Juliet.  Because of that production, I met James through this network of guys and gals. We’ve connected through our love of Shakespeare and I’ve been working with them ever since.

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Shakespeare BASH’d Mission Statement: To present Shakespeare’s plays as they were written: with simple staging, clear and specific language with an emphasis on the words and characters telling the story.

BK: So you’d say you connect with what the company represents and stands for?

KP: I do. James and Shakespeare BASH’d idea of the text and story being the primary point of focus is why we clicked in the first place. Staying true to it is so important. They always start with such an intense textual analysis of the words in these classic stories and this what I like about them the most. It is also a room that I love working in. It’s such a fun, playful, vibrant room filled with young talent. You get easy access to trying and experimenting and being wrong and trying something completely different.

HS: What’s interesting is our ages range from 20s to roughly 40s give or take. It’s not just a group of 24 year olds, which I feel makes a difference. The room is filled with an incredible group of giving and intelligent performers with a wealth of experience and such variety in process. We all learn from each other constantly. It’s a room where you have the ability to develop your own approach to the work. The cast and crew are incredibly supportive. I feel like I’m coming into my own as an artist in terms of my process because of influence of this group of people.

BK: You are both playing leading roles that are meant to be young in age, and for the Toronto standard, you could both be described as young performers. Going off of a recent article to surface in Toronto, from Holger Syme’s blog dispositio, do you think the Toronto theatre industry has a youth problem? From your experience, do you think there is enough opportunity being given to young performers?

HS: I think it depends on the production. If it’s a choice to utilize an actor that’s different than what is written in the text, then that’s a specific choice. Being in the rehearsal room with all these relatively young performers and theatre makers, and from what I’ve seen of the independent theatre community, I find that there’s a lot of strong, intelligent, bold, exciting, thought-provoking artists out there, who I think should be given the opportunity to show and share their work and who are just as valid in themselves as artists to be seen on the major Canadian theatre stages and in the spotlight, as many 30+ artists are. Beyond that, I think that when you are a young artist with an opportunity for a role of this scale, it is a huge learning opportunity for yourself as an artist and not at some cost to the production. Personally speaking, to have this role of this scale at this time, has been a huge benefit in my development as an artist. I think it’s doable and there should be more trust given to younger artists. Furthermore, I think there needs to be more opportunity for all ages to work together.

KP: I do wish for more of that. For some professional companies they want the sure-fire thing, and often times that means going with someone older that they know rather than take a chance on a more age-appropriate actor with a shorter resume. In terms of theatre and the story, if they have the right spirit or if you look younger than you are and it’s not noticeably distracting, then I don’t mind it. But sometimes I see productions and it dawns on me that this actor is a man, playing a boy but they’re doing things in a manly way which really just seems inappropriate for the character and it will draw me out. I do wish we could find a way to get more young people on stage.

HS: I’ve seen a 35 year old playing a 15 year old and if the essence is appropriate then power to you. Do it!

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BK: Is Shakespeare BASH’d production of Romeo and Juliet different in anyway? Any specific concepts or time periods?

HS: James has been really clear in not putting a time period or a concept to it. I mean… it’s already a tragedy being put on in a bar! There is definitely a lot of comedy to it, but that alone is quite unique and will be interesting. But mainly, he wanted to focus primarily on the story and the relationships of such a classic play.

KP: The costumes are neutral colours but there are jeans and running shoes, but then we have swords.

HS: … and the sword fights are awesome! They are sexy and exciting… Get excited for those!

KP: We really wanted it to be about the story and not have any kind of heavy concept distract from that. Just from the work I’ve seen in rehearsal, I think, and hope, people will really take to it.

Rapid-Fire Question Round

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BK: Favourite Movie:

KP: On the Waterfront
HS: Hook

BK: Favourite Play:

KP: Othello
HS: Vimy by Vern Thiessen

BK: Favourite Musical:

KP: Into the Woods
HS: Cats! Of course… (she laughs) or definitely Next to Normal

BK: Favourite Actor right now:

KP: Ben Whishaw
HS: Carey Mulligan

BK: Favourite food:

KP: Cannelloni
HS: Nachos

BK: Guilty Pleasure:

KP: My pink cardigan. I love it but I never wear it out!
HS: Candy, Real Housewives of Orange County or Beverly Hills… yup.

BK: Best advice you’ve ever gotten:

KP: BLT-Breathe, Listen, Trust
HS: Don’t take yourself out of the part. They hired you for a reason or they are seeing you for a reason. The more of yourself in the part, the better.

BK: Advice for other young artists:

KP: Let it go. There are so many factors out of your control. Leave it in the audition room. You’d go crazy if you try to figure out why you didn’t get cast. Have fun!
HS: Be true to yourself. Also, James said this to me in rehearsal when I was trying really hard to find the right arc to one of the scenes. He said “If you’re looking for perfection, it doesn’t exist, and if it does, it’s boring. It’s just a play… Put into it what you can and don’t beat yourself up over it. It will be interesting” I think that’s great, especially for younger artists to be reminded of coming out of theatre school training. And yes… like Kelly said, have fun!

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare, presented by Shakespeare BASH’d

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When: One week only, Tuesday, November 19th-Saturday, November 23rd, Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday (Closing) at 4pm
Thursday, November 21 includes an after-show dance party with Silent Shout’s DJ ARP 2600 – http://silentshout.ca/
Friday, November 22 includes an after-show dance party called “Much Ado About Mixing” with DJs Slamlet and Rockthello.

Where: 3030 Dundas West, in the Junction

Tickets: Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday – $16, Thursday & Friday – $21 (including after-show dance party admission) http://www.shakespearebashd.com/tickets.html