Beyond the Stage: Star Talks ‘Cynthia Dale xo’

by Madeleine Brown

I am not one of those giddy fans.

Well, maybe I am… when Cynthia Dale is the star in question.

I arrive “just in time” (“late” is such a negative word) at the Festival Theatre Lobby for Star Talks: in-person interviews by the Toronto Star’s Chief Theatre Critic, Richard Ouzounian, with Festival company members.

The chairs arranged around the Lobby stage in the Festival Theatre are filled. The chairs from the Lobby Café are filled. The space that is not occupied with chairs is filled. Adults, teenagers, and children.

Cameras flash from the audience—even Mr. Ouzounian has his. I wish I hadn’t been too embarrassed to bring mine.

Ms Dale enters in white. The audience applauds. A man whistles. I grin.

I promise I am not one of those giddy fans.

From my seat in the back row I’m only a few feet from Ms Dale and Mr. Ouzounian. I’m delighted: such an event would usually occur in a distant radio or television studio. However, in this case the only thing separating me from a Stratford leading lady and a top theatre critic is a couple of rows of chairs.

The pair has known each other for 35 years, or as Mr. Ouzounian describes it, since “she had cheeks… when she was a child.” Their close relationship is reflected in the interview, which is casual and conversational. Mr. Ouzounian’s questions are in-depth and honest. They discuss Ms Dale’s time away from the Festival and what it is like for her now returning as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. Ms Dale reminisces about stepping onto the Festival Stage for the first time and being reduced to tears at last season’s production of Camelot (Ms Dale played Guenevere in the 1997 production).

Mr. Ouzounian’s questions nicely lead into an audience Q&A period. My fellow audience members ask, “Would you ever go on Mansbridge One on One?” (the host, Peter Mansbridge, is Ms Dale’s husband), “How old is your son?” and “How do you manage to keep bumping into C. David Johnson?” (the pair most famously worked together on the television series Street Legal, as well as in the Festival production of The Sound of Music). Without a moment’s hesitation, Ms Dale graciously answers the questions. The atmosphere in the room is reminiscent of old friends catching up after years passed.

As it must, the talk eventually wraps up. I’m on my way out when I notice a discarded 42nd Street program on a Lobby Café table. My eyes dart back to the Lobby stage. Ms Dale is still there. She takes pictures with fans and gives autographs.

I hesitate.

Just for a second.

I grab the program, sprint to Ms Dale and hand her my pen.

She signs, “Cynthia Dale xo.”

When I get home I display the program on the top shelf of my bookcase.

Star Talks is a series of interviews by the Toronto Star’s Chief Theatre Critic, Richard Ouzounian, with selected company members, followed by audience Q&A periods. They occur after Sunday matinée performances in the Festival Theatre Lobby. Mr. Ouzounian will interview Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay, who play Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, on July 29 and will also interview Christopher Plummer on August 26 in the Avon Theatre (auditorium) following his closing performance.

If you like Star Talks you may also enjoy Exhibition Talks, Festival Friday Chats, and Meet the Festival.

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