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“On Creative Process, Being Infatuated with All Things Theatre & Appreciating Being Brave in Different Ways” In Conversation with playwright Rosamund Small on the World Premiere of SISTERS at Soulpepper

Interview by Megan Robinson.

Playwright Rosamund Small spent much of her 2017 reading novels. One of her tasks as part of the Soulpepper Academy, under the guidance of Guillermo Verdecchia, was to find a story to adapt for the stage but it wasn’t until she read Edith Wharton’s novella, Bunner Sisters, that she knew she had the right project.

The long short story follows two sisters that run a shop together in 19th century New York City. They work together selling pieces at the front of the shop while sharing a living space in the confined quarters in the back of the shop. And when one sister is given a clock for her birthday, the story begins.

We spoke with Rosamund Small, covering everything from her creative process to her present infatuation with all things theatre-related, in light of the world premiere of her play Sisters at Soulpepper Theatre, on stage now until September 16th.


MR: What was it that you were most curious about with this story? What made you think definitely this one?

RS: It has twists and turns that were shocking to read. I mean really shocking. It’s a cliché to say things about it being a page-turner, but it really is. I think what grabbed me from the moment I opened it, is that the very first thing that happens is the older sister buys a birthday present for the younger sister, and it’s a clock. And their lives are made so beautiful by this clock. It’s the biggest deal to have a clock and to be able to know what time it is.

It brought me into it in the sense that, that’s a world; you have one counter and one bed and one clock, and that’s all you have. The stakes of that world are very high, right? The closeness to having nothing. And on the flip side, there is the joy when anything shifts for the better. It’s very extreme.

Sisters

MR: Adaptation seems like a natural fit for you, because you seem to have a history of working with things that already exist. Would you say that it felt natural?

RS: I would, and I think for some people an adaptation is ‘how do I put this book on stage’ and sometimes it’s more like an abbreviation. I thought of this as a collaboration with the material. I’d also say it’s a radical rewrite. It’s an interpretation. So I get to bring what I find curious about the story, what I find curious to add to the story, my own sense of rhythm and humour, and kind of blatantly transform things about it into what I think they should be, and what I think makes it the most dramatic. I don’t feel like I adhere to the limits of the material if I don’t want to.

MR: All of your projects seem very specific, what draws you in to a project?

RS: I was just thinking how I have the world’s weirdest resume. My resume has that I worked for the show Workin’ Moms on CBC, and worked with a ballet company. It’s just very all over the place. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way at all, I think in some ways it means I don’t know myself. But I get attracted to the most random things, and I’m very fortunate also to have support and collaboration to commit to a project for a long period of time. This play has taken a year, and it’s the shortest timeline I’ve ever worked on for a play. Vitals took two years, Tomorrowlove took over two years, so I have that time to look at source material or ideas and collaborate with people. But I need something to bounce off of. Whether I’m bouncing off realities, interviews, a novel, whatever it is, I need something to hit up against, that I can add to. That can be very helpful. Limitations are very useful.

MR: If every work you do is so different, how would you define your voice? There’s got to be something about you that makes it yours, and I’m curious if you have a definition or something you always come back to?

RS: I think it’s the search for companionship. A search for connection. Even Occupy [Performing Occupy Toronto], back in the day, I thought I was doing something about politics, and of course inherently I was, but actually, I was interested in people gathering and the impossibility and the hope that everyone will be able to connect and move forward and get along with each other. I think that brings me through all of my work.

This work is about two people who are in a way living their lives right next to each other and yet there’s a gap between them, there’s a distance between them, even though they’re physically close and they’re siblings. I find the complexities of human relationships pretty consistently compelling.

Sisters

MR: Now that you are seeing the project on its feet, how does it feel? Is it what you imagined, have they done things with it you could never have pictured?

RS: There are always things you can’t picture. I’d be really disappointed if it was exactly as I imagined it. That’s the theatre, right?

MR: What did you learn about yourself as a writer through this adaptation, something you uncovered or learned through the process?

RS: I think that less is more. I’m learning over and over again that the moments I’m going to script should not leap off the page in their completion because the actors are their completion. A play is not meant to be the full experience. Leaving those gaps and leaving those spaces for where an inhale, or a tilt of the head, or a self-conscious tug of a shirt that the actor will do without planning, is going to say more than a monologue, you know? Just reminding myself over and over that this is not for a reader, this is for someone to inhabit and observe and participate in. I mean this is Drama 101, I’m saying things that everyone learns in their first anything, but then you learn it again and again.

MR: What are you excited about with this production of Sisters?

RS: I’m excited about everything. One: that it will be beautiful. It sounds beautiful, looks beautiful. It’s also a celebration of beauty in lots of ways. These characters are interested in finding a more beautiful life and in a deeper sense of that word, in finding something glorious and celebratory and delicate about life, when they don’t have a lot of things in life that they can feel that way about. One of them goes to an orchestra and experiences that, and it’s such a profound moment for that character. I think theatre is beautiful, so there’s sort of a meta-theatrical element of seeing people engage with art on stage because the sisters are experiencing art, so we are watching them experience that.

I’m honestly really excited by the performances. It’s not a paint by numbers script, it’s a very challenging piece of work with a lot of complicated subtext, and the depth of the performances is amazing to watch. I feel like I learned so much just watching them.

While being nervous, there’s nothing I’m not excited for.

Sisters

MR: How do you feel when you look back on your work at this point in your career?

RS: I’ve obviously learned a lot, and there’s a lot of eye-rolling about bad writing habits, or self-indulgent writing habits. But there was also a time in my life where I was a certain kind of brave that I’m not now, and now I’m a certain kind of brave I didn’t use to be. I think you have to appreciate the fact that you change.

MR: What inspires you today?

RS: I’m always inspired by Anika and Britta (Johnson). They’ve got a show coming up, Dr. Silver. The word ‘immersive’ gets around a lot, but they’ve really pushed it so that it’s really a communal experience, it’s like a spiritual experience that I think speaks to their relationship with music, and I think the spiritual connection they have with music.

I’m inspired right now by a lot of books – I’m reading Miranda July’s book, The First Bad Man.

MR: Very, very crazy.

RS: It’s insane!

MR: It’s so brave

RS: It’s so brave, it’s so nice because you write something and you think ‘that’s bad, that’s insanity,’ but then you read someone else’s insanity and you think ‘that’s so great!’

I’m also in a really lovey-dove phase with art and with theatre. A friend of mine said I was a theatre mom. I’m like, ‘look at them up there just risking it all! Look at this volunteer handing out programs! The world is so beautiful, can you believe this?’

I’ve just been off the charts positive and excited for everyone and all of it, all of the time. So it’s a bit much, to be honest. I’ll probably crash soon.

MR: I love that you love theatre so much. I sometimes wonder if everyone is just going to leave for TV.

RS: I think it’s important to take breaks. I was working elsewhere, right? I was working on a television show, and while I loved that as well, and the break from that is going to bring me back to television, the grass is always greener. It was the same when I went traveling for six months. I came back and stuff I’ve been complaining about for years, I was now like, ‘this is an amazing theatre! I love this theatre. I love how cute and broken the seats are.’

But it’s nice. I’m hoping to cling to the feeling because it won’t last forever. You can’t love something that much every hour of the day. It’s just not possible and that’s all part of it.

Sisters

Sisters

Who:
Rosamund Small, Playwright
Cast:
KEVIN BUNDY, Mr. Ramy
LAURA CONDLLN, Ann
NICOLE POWER, Evelina
ELLORA PATNAIK, Puffed Sleeves Lady
RAQUEL DUFFY, Nun
KAREN ROBINSON, Mrs. Mellins

Production:
PETER PASYK, Director
MICHELLE TRACEY, Set Designer
ERIKA CONNOR, Costume Designer
KIMBERLY PURTELL, Lighting Designer
RICHARD FEREN, Composer & Sound Designer
MONICA DOTTOR, Choreographer
GUILLERMO VERDECCHIA, Dramaturg
DIANE PITBLADO, Dialect Coach
KELLY MCEVENUE, Alexander Coach
SARAH MILLER, Stage Manager
ANDREA BAGGS, Assistant Stage Manager
DAVID BEN, Magic Consultant
KATHLEEN JONES, Apprentice Stage Manager

What:
Ann and Evelina have created a little corner for themselves in New York at the turn of the century. When a handsome clockmaker comes to call, the powerful bonds of sisterhood are put to the test. Inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winner Edith Wharton’s pioneering novella, Sisters shows us hidden heroism in everyday life.

Where:
Soulpepper Theatre
50 Tank House Lane
Toronto

When:
On stage now until September 16th.

Tickets:
soulpeppertheatre.ca

Connect: 
@smallrosamund
@soulpepper

 

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On Our Radar TO: Fall in Love with Toronto Theatre this Month

 

Whether it’s with your family, friends, lover, significant-other or you’re treatin’ yo self, we’ve listed our different date suggestions for these lusted-after February shows plus some February events we’re swooning over! These shows are On Our Radar, Toronto, and we think you should Fall in Love With Theatre all over again this February! 

Genesis & Other Stories

Written by Rosamund Small, presented by Aim for the Tangent Theatre

Genesis 2014 Promo Photo #1

Did the nudie promo pictures convince you yet? If you didn’t catch Genesis & Other Stories in their sold-out run in last summer’s Fringe Festival, lucky for you they have brought it back for a February re-mount in the Red Sandcastle Theatre after a revised run in the Hamilton Fringe. If you did catch it, you know you’ll want to see it again! Laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking and feel-good family fun… well… It’ll get you talking!

This is our On the Laugh-track to Love date recommendation.

Check out our interview we did with playwright Rosamund Small to find out more about the show. https://inthegreenroom.ca/2013/06/25/we-chat-with-rosamund-small-writer-of-genesis-other-stories/

“After his father’s death, Christopher, a theology student, leads a misfit cast of amateur actors in a production of his late father’s play: a hyper-sexed version of Adam and Eve set in 1960’s USA.  Slapstick, satire, and meta-theatre frame a surprisingly complex story about lonely people trying to fill roles that do not suit us. Christopher tries to convince everyone including himself that he is committed to his religion and its strict views on sexuality, and capable of directing and producing his father’s bizarre script. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a break up, forgotten lines, and a crisis of faith conspire to sabotage the production. The primary focus of Genesis is on laughter, but the show is only funny because of the pain and struggle of Chris and the other characters. A hilarious romp that is sure to get you thinking, whether you’re religious, theatrical, or somewhere in between.”

Genesis Promo Photo #2

“Comically disastrous… very funny. Things could only go worse if the theatre collapsed.” – Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

Where: RED Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East)
When: February 5th-15th Wednesday-Friday 8pm, Saturdays 7pm & 9pm
Tickets: $15 at the Door, $10 in Advance at www.totix.ca or call (416) 845-9411
For more information, visit: www.aimforthetangent.com

Shrew

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, presented by Red One Theatre Collective

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Killer cast, intriguing promotional poster, “puppetry & Vaudeville charm” set in the Klondike? After being big fans of After Miss Julie, we’re excited to see what Red One Theatre brings us next and Shrew seems to be just the ticket.

This is our Rowdy Buddies at the Shakespeare Show date recommendation.

“The beautiful and gentle Bianca has no shortage of admirers, but her mother insists that she will not marry until her older sister, Katharina, is betrothed. The only problem is that Katharina is the wildest, loudest, maddest shrew in the Klondike. It’s a low-down showdown with honky-tonk, puppetry, slapstick, and Vaudeville charm, and one of these gunslingers will either go broke or strike gold.

In his directorial debut, rising Stratford Festival star and RedOne Theatre veteran Tyrone Savage gathers together Toronto’s premier emerging talents for the first time in this one-of-a-kind production.”

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 15th – March 2nd, 2014 8pm (Sunday PWYC Matinees – 2pm)
Tickets: $19.99 Advance tickets available @ www.secureaseat.com

The Way Back to Thursday

Written by Rob Kempson, presented by Theatre Passe Muraille

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Call your Grandma, call your mother… Hell, call EVERYONE and take them to the theatre this month. Rob Kempson has written a charming, funny and moving musical about unconditional love that will have you beaming one minute and reaching for a box of tissues the next.

This is our Reconnecting With Family date recommendation.

“Inspired by the traditional song cycle form, The Way Back to Thursday is a musical about unconditional love that crosses generations, genders and lifetimes.

Cameron and his Grandmother have a special tradition – movie nights every Thursday.  Together they escape into the glamour and romance of the Golden Age of film.  But as Cameron grows, so does the distance between them.”

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Where: Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson)
When: Now to February 8th
Tickets: Pwyc-$32.50. 416-504-7529

The Ugly One

Written by Marius von Mayenburg, translated by Maja Zade. Co-production by Theatre Smash and Tarragon Theatre

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Sharp, odd, hilarious and the tightest staging, design and performances that we’ve seen in one show in a while – The Ugly One is a must-see before it closes mid-February. We can’t and we won’t stop chatting about it. Theatre Isn’t Dead said it perfectly: “Non-theatre folks will dig it too. I can almost promise that.” –Blog Theatre Isn’t Dead.

We deem this our Theatrical Rejuvenation date aka. Win-over-that-friend-who-is-too-cool-for-theatre-with-the-cool-theatre-show date recommendation.

“You can’t sell anything with that face.” A razor sharp satire about getting ahead in the world. With mesmerizing speed, this award-winning work by one of Germany’s hottest playwrights catapults us into a narcissistic world obsessed with beauty, image and plastic surgery.”

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Where: Tarragon Theatre Extra Space
When: Now until February 16th
Tickets: http://tarragontheatre.com/season/1314/the-ugly-one/

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp

Created and performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee, presented by U.N.I.T. Productions and Factory Theatre

OF MICE

U.N.I.T. Productions is excited to announce the remount of Of Mice and Morro and Jasp!

Morro and Jasp feel the pinch of the recent economic downturn and decide to try to make ends meet by staging John Steinbeck’s classic tale Of Mice and Men. Can the clown sisters stick to the story? Will they both make it out alive? This winter, find out for yourself!

This is our Friends Until The End date recommendation.

Where: Factory Studio Theatre
When: Jan 28 to Feb 8, Tue-Sat 8PM, Thur 1PM, Sat 2PM
Tickets: $25 Regular Price / $20 Student, Senior, Arts Worker PWYC Preview Jan 28 www.factorytheatre.ca 416-504-9971

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Read our latest interview with Co-creators & performers Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee here: https://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/01/29/of-mice-and-morro-and-jasp/

Idiot’s Delight

Written by Robert E. Sherwood, presented by Soulpepper Theatre

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

With 1920’s flair, song, dance and love amongst wartime, this is our Indulging in Delights date recommendation.

“A cast of wonderfully eccentric and international guests – countesses, arms dealers, showgirls, revolutionaries, charlatans and lovers – spend a fateful weekend in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps. While songs are sung and dances danced and loves rekindled, the dark clouds of war come rolling in.”

Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
When: January 29th – March 1st
Tickets: http://soulpepper.ca/performances/14_season/Idiot’s_Delight.aspx

Read our latest Artist Profile with Paolo Santalucia & Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster “From Academy to Company in Soulpepper’s “Idiot’s Delight” here: https://inthegreenroom.ca/artist-profiles/

the dreamer examines his pillow

By John Patrick Shanley, presented by JR Theatre Company

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the dreamer examines his pillow is a surreal, intimate look at the beautiful and dark forces of love. The play explores the aftermath of love, whether it’s after an explosive affair between two lovers, or the dwindling, harsh lack of love from a widowed father to his daughter. Poetic, lyrical and rough – the dreamer examines his pillow is one of contemporary theatre’s finest looks at intimacy and need. It sounds to us like the perfect antithesis to Hallmark’s version of Valentine’s Day!

This is our Dark Surrealist Valentine’s Day date recommendation.

Where: The Box Toronto (89 Niagara Street)
When: February 7th-16th Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm
Tickets: dreamer.brownpapertickets.com 

LABOUR

Written by Eric Welch and Ryan Welch. Based on the original short story by Ryan Welch with further realization by The Coyote Collective Company, presented by Coyote Collective

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LABOUR looks at the Sisyphean life of factory day-workers, who see no choices but to go to work every day, and have resigned themselves to a life of the same. For these four characters, commodification has completely changed the way they think about life, love, and happiness.

This is our Socially Conscious date recommendation.

Where: Theatre Passe-Muraille Backspace
When: February 5th to the 9th. 5th-7th 7:30pm, 8th 2pm & 7:30pm, 9th 2pm
Tickets: $20, Student/Senior $15, PWYC: Saturday, February 8th 2:00pm, Opening and Media Night: Wednesday, February 5th
Tickets available for purchase at artsboxoffice.ca or at the door. 

Events We’re Crushin’ On:

The 35th Rhubarb Festival

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Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents their 35th annual festival of new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music. For two weeks artists transform the Buddies neighbourhood into a hotbed of experimentation, sharing new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music with adventure-loving audiences.

New to the festival this year is a new series of Open Space Projects will animate unexpected spaces around the Buddies neighbourhood and make new artistic connections between five historic queer institutions here in Toronto.

When: February 12th-23rd
Where: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre & around the neighbourhood
Tickets: Open Space Projects & Artist Talks – Free
Young Creators Unit – PWYC
Week One Mainstage Projects – $10
Week Two Evening Passes – $20

Roar

Written & performed by Spencer Charles Smith, presented by Straight Camp

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“Roar – a solo play about beefy, burly, brawny love”

SYNOPSIS – A boy’s campy quest for furry love, Spencer will explore his unapologetic desire for ‘bearish’ men, critique the problematic spectrum of identities within the Bear community (Bear, Cub, Otter, Panda, Muscle-Bear, etc.) and hopefully deconstruct notions of hegemonic masculinity.

Above all, it’s a love letter.

This is a staged-reading of Spencer’s latest draft of Roar and he is eager to hear your feedback. A talk-back will follow the presentation. And drinks. Featuring a special pre-show presentation: “Kid: A Queer Fable”, written, illustrated and performed by Katie Sly

Where: Videofag (187 Augusta Ave)
When: Wednesday February 5th 8pm, Thursday February 6th 8pm
Tickets: PWYC (at the door)

Theatre on a Theme: Love

Conceived and Directed by Drew O’Hara, presented by Everybody to the Theatre Company

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“Six actors, 18 theatre pieces that vary in length from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. What do you get? A hilarious, heart-wrenching, fast-paced, occasionally musical, exciting night at the theatre. Following the success of Theatre on a Theme: FAILURE, the Everybody to the Theatre Company gang will bring you Theatre on a Theme: LOVE, just in time for Valentine’s Day.”

Where: Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
When: Sunday February 23rd 2pm & 8pm
Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.ca/o/everybody-to-the-theatre-company-4737180757?s=20682528

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope”

Written by Ian Doescher, presented by Red One Theatre Collective and Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

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A one-night only staged reading of the classic sci-fi epic told in the Bard’s style.

“This sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The Saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.” This is the play you are looking for. Lightsaber fights included! Themed drinks/food/entertainment too – say whaaat!

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 7th Doors at 7pm, Show at 8pm
Tickets
: $10 in advance online www.secureaseat.com or $15 at the door. 

The Howland Company Reading Group – February:

February 9th Charles Mee’s “Big Love”, February 23rd Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”

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“Bi-weekly, The Howland Company hosts an open event called The Reading Group, where artists are encouraged to gather, meet, reconnect and work with fellow members of the Toronto theatre community and ultimately read a play together.

The readings are a laid-back, social way to work with peers and continue to develop our craft. Scripts are provided and parts are assigned and exchanged on the fly. All are welcome to participate in reading or sit back and listen.”

Check out the history of The Reading Group, including all plays past and future, at: http://howlandcompanytheatre.com/the-reading-group/.

For event updates: https://www.facebook.com/TheHowlandCompanyTheatre

When: Sunday February 9th & Sunday February 23rd 7:30pm
Where: Location is posted on the Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
Tickets: Free

Artist Profile: Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster & Paolo Santalucia – From Academy to Company in Soulpepper Theatre’s “Idiot’s Delight”

Interview by Hallie Seline

I sat down with Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and Paolo Santalucia to discuss their journey from the Soulpepper Academy, to graduation, their ongoing involvement in the Soulpepper Company and their current show Idiot’s Delight on now at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

HS: Tell me a bit about yourself and your relationship with Soulpepper and the Academy.

PS: My name is Paolo Santalucia and I’m a 2012 graduate of the Soulpepper Academy. Before that I trained at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College’s joint Theatre and Drama Studies program and after training at the Academy for a year and a half, I started working with the Soulpepper company.

CCL: I’m Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster. I’m originally from Nova Scotia, did my undergraduate at UBC in Vancouver and after that I did the Citadel/Banff Professional Theatre program and then the Soulpepper Academy with Paolo. We are also both part of the founding members of The Howland Company.

HS: So tell me a bit about your experience in the Soulpepper Academy and your relationship with Soulpepper since graduating. 

PS: Well, the Academy was amazing for so many reasons. I think, for me, in retrospect, what it promoted in me and what took me by surprise the most is the fact that at the end of the day what the Academy was doing was… of course it was focused on theatre and of course it was really rigorous, but at the end of the day it felt like what they wanted was to instil sort of a larger sense of what it meant to be an artist. It showed me the potential responsibility of artistry and the ways to contribute as an artist beyond my work on stage, that there is a bigger picture. This company was founded to contribute to the arts in Canada and at the end of the day it is something that I, as a Canadian Artist, can also continue to contribute to. They did things like take us to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), the movies, seeing plays elsewhere as a group. They weren’t afraid to take us out of the Soulpepper context. What it did was allow me to realize the larger things at work and the amazing arts community there is in this city. In retrospect, for me, that was the most significant part of the training – learning about just how much goes into becoming a ‘good actor’ and how much being a good artist is about being someone who appreciates, understands and has love for so many different art forms even beyond the theatre in the city and Canada.

HS: So that was part of the Academy training? Taking you outside of Soulpepper to art galleries, films, different plays…

CCL: Yeah, to expose you to as many different artistic stimulants, including people too, bringing in fantastic Canadian artists to spend some time with us.

PS: I am so thankful for the encouragement that we got in the Academy to explore other aspects of our artistic selves. I’ve never been in a situation where that’s been as encouraged and not only encouraged but it’s been necessary. It’s what will make myself as an artist, and what will make our contribution that much more sustainable… if they come from a place of appreciation for the millions of aspects that go into the arts in this country.

CCL: Well from a practical point of view, there’s no place else in the country, I think I can say, where you would have the opportunity to be in rehearsal and practice the same way that dancers and musicians are in practice all of the time. I mean you don’t meet a professional pianist who doesn’t practice for hours a day to keep himself in shape. But when you’re an actor, you’ll have periods of time where you’ll be working on a contract, working on that one show, which is one kind of practice, one kind of rehearsal, but the rest of the time you’re very often stumbling to try to pay your rent and working your ‘joe’ job while still trying to read plays and stimulate yourself. While we were in the Academy, we had a living wage for the whole time we were here and we were told to focus on art and your craft and develop yourself. It’s a very rare thing, that kind of opportunity.

HS: Idiot’s Delight marks the professional debut of this year’s Soulpepper Academy actors. Can you talk of the benefits of being both taught and working along side Soulpepper Company members?

CCL: It’s great to be in the rehearsal hall with the current Academy actors because this is also being treated as a learning experience for them and they are also, brave souls that they are, they are also still taking Academy classes in the mornings, rehearsing the show in the afternoon… so they are resilient! But because it’s a learning experience for them, I find Albert [Schultz] who is directing, is taking his time with things. We have a slightly more extended rehearsal process so he can take his time and explain the mechanics as we go. Therefore with his decisions as a director, he’s taking the time to explain them, allowing everyone more of an opportunity to learn. So we get to take advantage of this learning opportunity just as much as the Academy does!

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

PS: It’s amazing to watch people in process. I love that. When the process is, as Courtney was saying, this exposed and part of the rehearsal is actually part of exposing that process as a learning exercise, everyone in the room benefits. I feel like that’s really exciting. There’s such a strong sense of company here. Albert said on the first day of rehearsal, “This marks the first show where the number of Academy involvement (post-graduate and current Academy members) actually outnumbers the other members of the company.”

CCL: Not just in the acting department but in the design, the assistant stage management etc.

PS: It’s the first time that that’s happened and I can only imagine what that means for him but for us what’s incredible is that it just sort of promotes that stronger sense of company. It makes you feel like you’re supported and a part of something that is just a little bit bigger than just the play. It’s really exciting because, again, it doesn’t really happen that much. To continue to support these kinds of programs and to continue to bring these generations of programs back in contact with one another, we’re very lucky here to get to be a part of, learn from and see that kind of evolution. It’s a really cool place to rehearse from.

HS: It seems like there is a lot of multi-generational collaboration and support within the company, the Academy grads and current Academy members.

CCL: And there’s a common working language that has been developed through the shared training. Part of the Academy is that you have founding members of the company coming in to teach you, so already they have a shared language, which they then impart on the students as well as the different artists who are coming in and out. When you get into the rehearsal hall, you already have a level of understanding and intimacy that usually takes weeks to develop when you’re starting a new project.

PS: That common language is actually a huge benefit. It’s amazing listening to when you see senior members of the company trying to piece through something, the specificity of how they work together, you can connect it to the broader common language that you’ve been taught in the academy and watch it work in such intricate, specific ways. You feel like you can engage with these actors who have so much more experience, which can seem sometimes quite intimidating I can imagine coming in fresh, not knowing them and not having worked with them before, but in this situation it’s really cool because you feel like you can go up to someone like Albert [Schultz] or Diego [Matamoros] and tell them about a part in the work you’re having an issue with and they can either teach you or speak to you through an established common language. That’s really exciting to have that multi-generational connection through your working relationship I think.

Raquel Duffy, Paolo Santalucia & Diego Matamoros. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

HS: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

CCL: Albert will always say, “Listen” and he’ll say “Big thoughts. Bigger thoughts” and it’s almost too simplistic but that’s kind of what it boils down to. And “It’s not about you. It’s always about the other person”. And those are the kind of things that you always forget, the simplest things. It’s not about me, it’s about the other person…

PS: “Think on the line”…

CCL: Yes! Exactly. And then when you’re having a moment where you think “I’m terrible today” you stop and think, “Why am I terrible today? Oh it’s because I’m obsessed with myself today”. (laughs) It’s not about me. Instead I need to be listening to the other person because it’s about them.

PS: I think it was the first huge thing that I remember hearing in the Academy, in our first week, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. We were doing scene study and our teacher at the time said, “My favourite actors, and what I think are really good actors… a good actor never lies on stage.” And I don’t think that I had ever really heard that said in that way before. I had never heard of acting being spoken of with that much truth before. And the amount of work that goes into communicating that much truth. It really struck a chord with me at that moment in this place.

CCL: I think for a long time, when I first started, I had a perhaps romantic idea that being an artist and being an actor required a certain amount of constant self-flagellation and it took people, in the Academy, saying “You’re really hard on yourself. That’s not very useful,” to learn to let that go and just focus on the work and the other person and listen and keep going. I think as actors we think that there is very little in our control and sometimes that turns inward and we think “What am I doing wrong? I need to be better. I look silly when I stand like this. Etc” But all of that just gets in the way. That was a big lesson for me. Learning to let go of always trying to fix yourself and just focus on the work.

PS: Again, to add on to that, I learned to go through a checklist. When I’m stuck I’m either not having big thoughts, I’m either not thinking on my line, I’m either not listening or I’m not trying to affect my scene partner. I go through that checklist and usually I’ll find out where my problem is.

CCL: And it’s like a muscle, to build it you have to practice and that’s what the Academy offered to us. A place to practice and practice and practice.

HS: What’s your favourite place in Toronto?

PS: Just by Lakeshore, out past what’s called Mystic Point, there is a lighthouse. You can only get there by biking west of the Humber river. You bike over this path that curves around the island and right at the tip of the island is the lighthouse. I found it one day by accident when I was trying out a new bike path and it was stormy and the wind was blowing over lake Ontario. And it’s the only place that I’ve found where the lake looks as big as it is to me. It’s one of my favourite spots in Toronto.

CCL: When I moved here from Vancouver, I guess two and a half years ago now, gosh, I struggled with the lack of the obvious natural beauty in Toronto because Vancouver is like, ostentatiously beautiful in places, so it took me a little while to discover that Toronto has some really beautiful pockets and they are all the more charming for being a little harder to find. So there’s a new park I’m loathed to tell people about, but it will be overrun soon enough anyway, just by the DVP called Corktown Commons, which is just south of King by the DVP, south of Eastern I guess, and it’s a beautiful new little park. They’ve tried to include the indigenous plants and swamps, incorporate them into this beautiful park that also has paths, trails and playground equipment that I totally play on. So I’d say that place and the Riverdale Farm are my two current favourites. Beautiful, hidden spots.

HS: If you could entice someone to come see Idiot’s Delight in five to ten words, what would they be?

CCL: I’ll go first. Showgirls in sequins, singing, sexy-sex-sex, poignant, funny, sad and beautiful.

PS: It’s a sexy, beautiful, topical, war-play you’ve never heard of.

CCL: And it has a cast of twenty-four which you rarely see! We look forward to seeing you there.

Idiot’s Delight

Dan Chameroy & Raquel Duffy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

By Robert E. Sherwood
Presented by Soulpepper Theatre

What: A cast of wonderfully eccentric and international guests – countesses, arms dealers, showgirls, revolutionaries, charlatans and lovers – spend a fateful weekend in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps. While songs are sung and dances danced and loves rekindled, the dark clouds of war come rolling in.
Sherwood’s mad-cap romance won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1936.
Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
When: January 29th – March 1st
Ticketshttp://soulpepper.ca/performances/14_season/Idiot’s_Delight.aspx

For more on the Soulpepper Academy, check out their website: http://www.soulpepper.ca/artist_training.aspx