Shakespeare as Shakespeare would have done it | Romeo and Juliet starts previews

May 1, 2013… One of Britain’s leading directors, Tim Carroll, returns to the Stratford Festival to present the most famous love story ever told. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers who risk everything to be together, begins previews on Wednesday, May 1, at the Festival Theatre.

A founding member of The Factory and Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe in London from 1999 to 2005, Mr. Carroll has had a prolific career in theatre. He recently directed Mark Rylance – the Globe’s first Artistic Director – in Globe productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night, and in 2010, he made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan.

“It is an incredible honour to be asked to do Shakespeare on the amazingly beautiful stage of the Festival Theatre,” Mr. Carroll says. “I think of the truly great theatre artists who designed and built this theatre, and who have worked on it over the last 60 years, and now here I am doing one of the big ones on that stage. If that doesn’t excite you, it’s time to check you still have a pulse.”

In its tenth Stratford production, the classic story will be performed in Original Practices, a style of performance that evokes the manner in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally staged in the Elizabethan era.

“I have staged Romeo and Juliet as though it were indeed an afternoon performance in an Elizabethan playhouse,” says Mr. Carroll. “The light will not change to suit the scenes, any more than the scenery will move to reflect new settings. We will know where we are, what time of day it is, and everything else from the starting point of Shakespeare’s theatre: the actors and the words they speak.”

The title roles will be played by Stratford newcomer Daniel Briere and Festival favourite Sara Topham. The cast also features Nehassaiu deGannes as Lady Capulet, Jonathan Goad as Mercutio, Kate Hennig as the Nurse, Tom McCamus as Friar Laurence and Scott Wentworth as Capulet.

The production’s artistic team includes Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Carolyn M. Smith, Lighting Designer Kevin Fraser, Composer Claudio Vena, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Movement Coach Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

In a playbill that explores communities in conflict, Romeo and Juliet is a particularly apt choice.

“I have assembled a season with a particular focus on examining how we reach across our differences to find our common humanity, and few plays do this better than Romeo and Juliet,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Although written over 400 years ago, it’s a story that remains incredibly pertinent today and one that, I think, matters so much to young people. It speaks to them; it speaks to their experience of the world. I’m thrilled to have Tim back to open our 2013 season with this beautifully imagined interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play.”

Romeo and Juliet Forum Highlights 

The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

Themes related to Romeo and Juliet will be explored through several Forum events, including: Ancient Grudges and New Mutinies, in which John de Chastelain, the former Chief of the Defence Staff and former ambassador to the U.S, reflects on the Prince of Verona’s role as peacekeeper in Romeo and Juliet and relates it to his own experiences; Original Pronunciation, with Tim Carroll, in which the director explores the implications of how Shakespeare’s text was originally pronounced; and Sex and Love in Verona, Venice and Vienna, a talk by Stanley Wells, Honorary President, Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and general editor of the Oxford and Penguin Shakespeares.

Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series, including the appearance of John de Chastelain, is generously provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Romeo and Juliet is sponsored by Sun Life Financial. Production support is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein and M. Vaile Fainer.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, begins May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.

Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Montague…………………………………….           Wayne Best

Escalus……………………………………….           Michael Blake

Benvolio……………………………………..            Skye Brandon

Romeo……………………………………….            Daniel Briere

Musician – Percussion…………………….…            David Campion

Lady Capulet…………………………………           Nehassaiu deGannes

Gregory………………………………………            Victor Ertmanis

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Sara Farb

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Jacquelyn French

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Barbara Fulton

Mercutio……………………………………..            Jonathan Goad

Musician – Recorder/Flute…………….….…            Ian Harper

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Valerie Hawkins

Nurse…………………………………………            Kate Hennig

Lady Montague………………………………           Gabrielle Jones

Abraham/Apothecary………………………..            Robert King

Balthasar………………………………….….           Andrew Lawrie

Friar John……………………………………            Roy Lewis

Musician – Violin…………………………….            Mel Martin

Friar Laurence………………………….……            Tom McCamus

Musician – Lute……………………………….            Terry McKenna

Petruchio…………………………………….            André Morin

Old Capulet………………………………….           Sam Moses

Peter…………………………………………            Mike Nadajewski

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Andrew Robinson

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Sabryn Rock

Sampson……………………………………..            Brad Rudy

Tybalt………………………………………..            Tyrone Savage

Juliet………………………………………….            Sara Topham

Capulet………………………………………            Scott Wentworth

Paris……………………………………….…           Antoine Yared

 

Artistic Credits

Director……………………………….…..…            Tim Carroll

Set Designer………………………………….            Douglas Paraschuk

Costume Designer…………………….……..            Carolyn M. Smith

Lighting Designer……………………….…..            Kevin Fraser

Composer……………………………………            Claudio Vena

Sound Designer………………………………           Jim Neil

Movement……………………………………            Shona Morris

Fight Director……………………………….            John Stead

Producer………………………………….…             David Auster

Casting Director…………………………….             Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director……………….…            Jason Miller

Associate Fight Director…………………….            Geoff Scovell

Assistant Director……………………………            Ken Schwartz

Second Assistant Director…………………..            Graham Abbey

Assistant Set Designer………………………            Brandon Kleiman

Assistant Costume Designer…………………            Alyssa Prigioniero

Assistant Lighting Designer…………………           Tristan Tidswell

Assistant Fight Directors…………………….           Anita Nittoly, Kostas Tourlentes

Fight Captain…………………………………           Wayne Best

Movement/Vocal Captain……………………            Barbara Fulton

Stage Manager……………………………….           Bona Duncan

Assistant Stage Managers……………………           Bruno Gonsalves, Margaret Palmer,

Crystal Skinner

Production Assistant…………………………           Linsey Callaghan

Production Stage Manager…………………..           Margaret Palmer

Technical Director…………………………..             Jeff Scollon

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PHOTOGRAPHY:

Promotional photos for Romeo and Juliet:

http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/imagegallery/imagegallery.aspx?id=20294

Headshots:

http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/imagegallery/imagegallery.aspx?id=14315

For more information, please contact:

Ann Swerdfager
Publicity Director
Stratford Festival
519.271.0055 x2297
aswerdfager@stratfordfestival.ca

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Celebrate the birthday Bard with an amazing deal!

Shakespeare’s 449th birthday is nearly upon us! On April 23 we’re celebrating the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon with the launch of The Forum – a.k.a. the Shakespeare Slam – at Toronto’s Koerner Hall. Join us for an evening of irreverent and provocative entertainment featuring the outstanding talents of Adam Gopnik, Torquil Campbell and Rufus Wainwright. Ticket information and other details are available here.

As part of our birthday celebration, we’ll also have an amazing ticket offer for some of the Festival’s 2013 Shakespeare plays!

2013-FB-BdayBard Get A or B seats for any May or June performance of Romeo and Juliet or Measure for Measure for the cost of a C seat – that’s just $49! But you’ll have to hurry – this great offer is only available from April 23 at 12:01 a.m. until April 24 at midnight, and only using Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page.

What can you expect from Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure?

Director and Shakespeare aficionado Tim Carroll joins us this season to direct the most powerful love story ever told, Romeo and Juliet.  Mr. Carroll’s extensive work on original practice at the Globe theatre in London has been widely praised by critics and fans alike, and we’re thrilled to have him back at the Festival this season directing a period production of Romeo and Juliet (he also directed Peter Pan in 2010). Festival favourite Sara Topham will play Juliet alongside a new face this season, Daniel Briere as Romeo.

Learn more about Daniel in this exclusive interview!

Martha Henry makes her directorial return this season with Measure for Measure. Ms Henry’s film noir-inspired version of Measure will explore Shakespeare’s “problem” play in the world of 1940s Vienna. Measure’s star-studded cast includes Tom Rooney as Angelo, Stephen Ouimette as Lucio, Geraint Wyn Davies as Duke Vincentio and Carmen Grant in her break-out role as Isabella.

Read more about this year’s production of Measure for Measure.

To celebrate the birthday Bard with $49 tickets…

*Promotion not available on previously purchased tickets or in conjunction with any other offer. Offer is only redeemable through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page and cannot be used to purchase A+ tickets. May expire without notice. Some conditions apply.

Romeo and Juliet – The Rehearsal Blogs Pt. I

The rehearsal process is often mystifying to the general audience. What exactly goes on in preparation for a performance? How do the actors make sense of and breathe life into the words on the page? The Education Department has asked three actors from this season’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Tim Carroll, to share with us their experiences and discoveries while rehearsing the play.

Daniel Briere plays Romeo in this season’s production. He shares with us his first-day experience of being on the “Tanya Stage,” and the various exercises involved in understanding the power of the narrative and the importance of connecting with the audience and his fellow actors.

Keep your eye out for further blogs on this site from Tyrone Savage, who plays Tybalt, and Skye Brandon, who plays Benvolio!
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by Daniel Briere 

Walking for the first time out onto the Festival Theatre stage, complete with the newly restored Tanya Moiseiwitsch floor plan, I am immediately struck by how small the room feels. I remember when I was a wide-eyed theatre student—on my school’s yearly trip to the Stratford Festival—sitting at the back of the balcony before the show, imagining that home plate in a baseball stadium was closer to me in that moment than this stage. I recall how when the actors took the stage, their warmth and energy soared across an ocean of heads, bodies and attentive ears. I think of how monumental this room felt, like an Olympus peopled with the demi-gods of Canadian stage. And yet, here I am today, standing centre stage, acutely aware that it is only 66 feet from centre stage to the very back of the balcony.

Daniel Briere Blog photo FestivalStagefromUC

This is my first season with the Stratford Festival, and I will be spending a lot of time upon this stage. In fact, all three of the shows in which I will appear will be on the Festival stage. Today is the first day “on deck” for the cast of Romeo and Juliet, and we have a lot to do. I am not the only rookie in the room, and while we test the space with all sorts of strange vocal sounds and exercises that actors do, many of the veterans experiment with the extra steps and playing spaces provided by the “Tanya” configuration. There are fights to work through, dances to space out and all kinds of entrances and exits to discover. Later on, we’re scheduled to do something called a Rope Theory Test, which raises more than a few hairs and much confusion throughout the company.

After a quick group warm-up, Tim Carroll, our director, teaches us a simple song, which we sing in a round. This being the third week of rehearsal with TC, we have become very familiar with his method of launching us into exercises before we have a chance to think about them—thereby allowing us to make unexpected discoveries. So with little explanation or pause, we are moving single file between aisles in the audience, up to the balcony, around backstage and through the underground passageway, sweetly harmonizing a round of In My Lady’s Garden. When we land back on the deck, the space newly christened with our voices and energy, the air seems thick. “Now spread out and find a seat somewhere in the house,” instructs TC. “Who knows a bit of their text? Daniel. You shall be our first victim. Give us ‘But soft…’”

I have managed to blend in with the crowd somewhat effectively in the first part of this rehearsal process, mostly as a side effect of Tim’s democratic rehearsal process—where no one was allowed to read his or her own character’s lines in the first week, as we worked on the structure and sound of Shakespeare’s verse lines. As I mentioned, this is my first season with the Festival, and starting with a role portrayed by such greats as William Shatner, Christopher Walken, Paul Gross and Stratford’s current Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino, I certainly feel pressure to perform. I have to prove that I deserve to be here, after all. So, about to speak Romeo’s lines for the first time, on this historic stage, in front of the entire cast, I forget to breathe.

Tim quickly and efficiently distracts me from my self-doubt, though, asking me to give each verse line to a specific person in the audience, and then say their name aloud. Even with all the lights up, this proves very difficult as I can’t clearly see some spots of the audience, so I spend most of the time trying to determine who I’m looking at and speaking to. I am starting to get a feel for actually speaking to the audience though, asking real questions, making real points. Then, to take it one step further, I work the final tomb speech—line by line to a specific person in the audience, saying their name aloud—and the listener has to repeat the verse line back to me word for word. If they don’t repeat it correctly, I haven’t communicated the idea/thought/image clearly enough, and I have to give them the line again until they receive it. Great: I sense some development there. Then we break quickly for coffee.

The scheduled Rope Theory Test turns out to be an opportunity to try out the corded ladder which I will use to descend from the balcony in Act III. The theory (I think) is that they will need fewer rungs on the ladder than originally thought, due to my long legs. Trying out the ladder myself, I find that I take most of my weight in my arms anyway, and my feet easily get tangled in the ropes. So the theory seems to be correct, and more experimentation is required.

At the end of the day, I’m still here, breathing, still standing, and still with the support of my director. We clearly have more work to do before we’ll be able to play our games in secret in front of an audience, but isn’t that the fun? Today was like a first date—somewhat sweaty, pretty self-conscious and full of questions. “But he that hath the steerage of my course / Direct my sail.”
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Read more in Pt. II of our rehearsal blogs as company member Skye Brandon, currently playing Benvolio, shares with us some of his behind-the-scenes experiences during the run of Romeo and Juliet.