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Posts tagged ‘Kelly Penner’

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

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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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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