This week, we sat down with company member Luke Humphrey to talk about his upcoming roles at the Festival this year. In his third season, Luke will be taking centre stage, playing D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers and Murph in Taking Shakespeare. Find out at bit more about your leading lad in this charming interview!
Stratford Festival (SF): When did you first know that you wanted to be an actor?
Luke Humphrey (LH): Ever since I was a little kid I have enjoyed acting, but it was not till I was cast in my high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet that I fell head over heels in love with the craft. At the time I was focused on sports and music, and I was unsure about even auditioning. Finally, after a lot of thought, I decided to go for it, and I ended up being cast as Romeo. Doing that play changed my life. From that point on, it felt like the choice was out of my hands: acting was just something I had to do.
SF: This is your third season at the Festival and you’ll be performing two lead roles: D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers and Murph in Taking Shakespeare. How does it feel to be taking centre stage?
LH: In all honesty, I’m a little nervous taking centre stage at a place as prestigious as Stratford, but what nerves I have are overshadowed by how giddy and excited I am for this season. This really is a dream come true for me. Not only do I get to tackle these amazing parts, I get to work with the most amazing and talented people – I could not be happier.
SF: The Three Musketeers is a much-loved and recognized story, and Taking Shakespeare is a relatively new work. As an actor, what excites you the most about working on a new play – and similarly, what excites you most about playing a role people know and love?
LH: With a role that people are familiar with, like D’Artagnan, there is always a little pressure to either compare yourself to or to replicate what has come before you. I think the key is to trust the material and the director and to discover the part as if it was the first time the play had ever been presented. That’s why we go and see great plays over and over again. We love seeing great stories told in a new way. Each production brings something new that we have never seen and helps to complicate and enrich our understanding of the story. Also, D’Artagnan is just so much fun. There is a reason the story and those characters have stayed with us: they are iconic and thrilling and somehow universal. It is an honour to try and bring these legends to life.
Taking Shakespeare has already proved such a thrilling experience for me. Being able to talk to the playwright, John Murrell, about the play as he is creating it and being able to read the different drafts as he shapes and hones the story is so exciting. I get to watch the characters and their journeys change and evolve as the story takes shape. In a new work there is a lot of freedom, which can both empowering and at times a little daunting, but overall it’s great to be able to take a new idea and breathe life into it. For me, that’s the thrill of being in the theatre: creating and sharing stories.
SF: Graham Abbey played D’Artagnan in 2000 and he’ll be playing alongside you as Athos in our upcoming production of The Three Musketeers. What does that mean for you as you create your version of the character?
LH: Trying to follow in the footsteps of Graham Abbey is quite the challenge, especially when he is there watching me! Luckily for me, Graham is a very supportive guy which should (hopefully) make things a little easier. I remember reading The Three Musketeers as a kid and running around with a fake sword in the backyard imagining I was D’Artagnan off on one of his adventures. I just love D’Artagnan’s attitude. He has this love for life and an insurmountable desire for adventure; it is contagious. For him, every challenge, every setback, every obstacle is an opportunity for something amazing. That, and the fact that he is incredibly dashing, honourable, brave, brilliant and daring all at once, makes him such an exciting and compelling character. This is an amazing opportunity for me to play out my childhood dream and hopefully bring some of that character that I fell in love with as a kid to life, to share with the audience.
SF: A lot of people are excited to see sword-fighting on stage in The Three Musketeers. Will this be your first time wielding a sword?
LH: I have a bit of experience with sword-fighting, mostly in college and in stage combat classes, but to prepare for the amount of sword-fighting in The Three Musketeers I started fencing and sword-combat training in my off-time. D’Artagnan is the best swordsman in France, he is a natural-born fighter, and he is legendary. I have to do my best to make sure I can fight up to his standards – not to mention show up the other Musketeers.
SF: You participated in the Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, led by Martha Henry, and now you’ll be acting alongside her in the two-hander Taking Shakespeare. How do you feel the Conservatory has helped you as an actor, and how does it feel to be taking the stage with Ms Henry?
LH: I don’t think I would have the confidence in myself and my work to take on this season if it was not for my time at the Birmingham Conservatory. It was actually Martha Henry who taught me the most valuable lesson I learned about acting. She taught me that I could bring myself to a part: not try to make it something but allow myself to discover, not impose, what is there in the script and to trust in what I find. That being said, working opposite Martha Henry is intimidating, I mean, she is a legend. I guess I just have to take her advice and trust myself.
Just for fun…
SF: If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, whom would you invite?
LH: Chef Ferran Adria for sure, but he would also have to cook the dinner. Comedian George Carlin; not sure how happy he would be to be back from the dead or about the state of world, but I would sure love to hear him rant about it. After a couple bottles of wine, I would imagine Giacomo Casanova would have some pretty interesting stories to tell, so I would have to go with him for the third.
SF: The most-played song on your iPod is…
LH: “Wolf Like Me,” by TV on the Radio.
SF: Any guilty pleasures?
LH: Butter tarts and board games. I really love board games.
How do you become a Musketeer? Take our crash course before seeing our upcoming production of The Three Musketeers!