This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Lauren here this week with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto. This week’s posting will give you an insight into the Shakespeare in the Ruff hosted Masterclass with Chick Reid and Tom McCamus, as well as an interview with up-and-coming writer and director Brian Waters, of WatersEdge Theatre Collective.
This week I was fortunate enough to participate in the 3-day Masterclass with Chick Reid and Tom McCamus (currently performing in Her 2 and The Seagull respectively, in Toronto). Both are company actors from Stratford, and brought their wealth of knowledge to this 3-day intensive.
Our first few hours each day consisted of text work (Chick gave us a fantastic “checklist” of things to know before you even begin speaking your text!), exploring and re-discovering what Shakespeare really had to say. We also worked through some vocal warmups, and “jumping off points” to begin speaking on full voice. After lunch, we would work on full voice with our speeches. Chick and Tom encouraged us to listen to the verse, and speak to the end of each verse line.
During this part of the masterclass we worked solo, or with our speech buddy, to find the shifts, twists, and turns in our speeches. We immersed ourselves in Shakespeare’s language, and relished in the meter. Then came our final presentations; I was working through Tamora’s speech in Act 2 Scene 3, “Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?”. And what I discovered in the moment left me trembling, exhilarated and anxious. It was quite possibly one of the best experiences of my life; to feel the text so fully in my body. And all it took was 3 days, really interrogating and indulging in Shakespeare’s words.
A big shout out to Shakespeare in the Ruff, for organizing such a fantastic Masterclass. It is part of their mandate to offer such Masterclasses each year at about this time in the season. Thank you to AJ Richardson (Dramaturg & Founding Member) and Kaitlyn Riordan (Associate Artistic Director & Founding Member) for creating a fantastic environment for the group, and for being our “go to” people all week. And a huge thank you to Chick Reid and Tom McCamus for indulging everyone this week!
And now, I’d like to introduce to you Brian Waters, of WatersEdge Theatre Collective. Brian and I recently caught up on his new project The Most Lamentable Tragedie of Gingers in Love. And I know what you’re thinking… what the heck does this have to do with SHAKESPEARE?! Well, I’ll tell you…
“Gingers in Love is a contemporary, pseudo-sequel to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in modern day Toronto. Narrated by an ancient Robin Goodfellow, it tells the story of Aries and Whittaker, two star-crossed redheads whose magical love is the catalyst to a Shakespearean comedy of errors. It features a mix of original folk music by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Erik Kopacsi (Hair – National Tour, Jesus Christ Superstar – LOT, Toronto) and classic folk songs from the North American songbook, woven together with a bitingly witty book by playwright and director Bri Waters (bare, The Who’s Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar – WatersEdge, The Rocky Horror Show – LOT, Toronto).” The production was originally written in 2013, was workshopped throughout 2014, and will open at The Annex Theatre on April 10th, 2015.
Being a red-head myself, I thought, what better way to ring in the new year than have a quick interview about fellow red-head Brian’s production about gingers in LOVE?! And so here it is folks, everything you need to know about this adapted and blended production inspired by Shakespeare for a contemporary modern Torontonian audience!
And so, without further ado – here is some insight into the mechanics behind this incredible adaptation of Shakespeare’s works, Gingers in Love.
Me: In your press release you bill the show as a pseudo-sequel to A Midsummer Night’s Dream – however in the opening scene there are numerous similarities in character construction to those in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Could you speak briefly about the relationships between Aries, Angela, and Greg, as well as Whitty and Sonny? And what sort of interference can we expect from the Narrator?
Brian: Though the show most resembles Midsummer in terms of themes and dramatic devices, the Narrator (who is reminiscent of Puck) sings in the opening number about being a few other minor characters in Shakespeare’s cast which seal the fates of others. For example “the messenger that came too late, swiftly sealing Romeo’s fate” and “the ghost upon the battlement,” alluding to disguising himself as King Hamlet’s ghost, thereby orchestrating the demise of Hamlet and his family. The story of Gingers in Love would then just be another instance of Puck making trouble for others, as he has done for centuries. It’s not so much a sequel to Midsummer but maybe is the latest installment in the series of Puck’s misadventures. The show does draw the most on Midsummer and Romeo and Juliet, to simplify the action and make it more accessible for an audience. There are instances where Shrew is alluded to, as well as Lear and Richard III.
At the top of the show it is Angela and Sonny that are in love. They are the conventional “lover” characters you would see in Shakespearean comedy. They fall in love fast, they’re good-looking and they’re clueless. For all intents and purposes, this show should be about them, with Aries and Whitty being the bumbling fops. Aries is used to not being the centre of attention, especially when it comes down to romantic involvement with men and the same goes for Whitty who never leaves the house. The “Midsummer magic” that occurs later in the second scene, not only orchestrates the Shakespearean comedy of errors that advances the plot but also spins the focus of the show to the two red-heads, thereby breaking convention not only in Shakespearean comedy but also in popular culture.
Me: Shakespeare uses contemporary song in his plays to highlight themes, as well as allow certain characters vulnerability and honesty, potentially even agency where they wouldn’t usually have it. In Gingers in Love song also seems to appropriate change, or at least a shift in thought for the characters. Can you speak a little about the use of North American folk music as a contemporary outlet to give a more resonant voice for each of the characters?
Brian: This musical is just that, a musical in its simplest terms. Shakespeare does this same thing in many plays (though I do find that he uses his songs to reveal things about other characters or advance the plot more than I do per se). Folk music was chosen because of its longevity, much like Shakespeare’s plays. There is a timeliness and a timelessness to folk music that complements the nature of the show and works well with the Shakespearean aspects at the same time.
Me: The Narrator character is reminiscent of “Puck” or “Robin Goodfellow”, and yet functions also as a narrator in its simplest terms. However, he is clearly visible to the Torontonians in this piece. How does his visibility, and ultimately interaction/interference, affect the way an audience might perceive a character like him, or any Puck or Robin Goodfellow? Is his presence meant to bridge the gap between audience reality and play reality? Or is he merely an observer, commenting aloud? His presence is both unsettling and reassuring – but who does this trickster report back to?
Brian: The narrator is both visible and invisible. He interacts with the characters when he chooses to do so but for the most part is invisible to all but the audience. It’s as if he knows he is performing a play and has orchestrated this production…without letting the rest of the characters know. There is very little realism throughout. The only people unaware of this is the main cast. In staging, the band is seen in the middle of the stage on a raised platform and the action of the play actually takes place in front of the proscenium. Sets and instruments are brought in and out by “rude mechanicals” throughout, who also interact with the cast. They are seen and unseen. This narrator is supposed to be unsettling. It should be hard for the audience to determine his motives. He is dangerous and malicious in his ambivalence towards the other characters. The notion that he reports back to someone is an interesting one, and something we continue to discuss in rehearsals. It is clear that he does report back to someone even more sinister than himself.
Me: How prominent was Shakespeare’s style and writing during your workshopping and conception of this piece? Did it drop into the pseudo-sequel that it is billed as, or was it a conscious effort to reinforce themes that are still relevant to our contemporary society?
Brian: I have always been hesitant to describe the piece as a “pseudo-sequel” because it is not that exactly. It is sort of a continuation in a series. Perhaps there are missing plays between Midsummer and Gingers? I hope it is clear that this Narrator has been doing this for a very long time and is almost bored by this magic. I tried my best to use the Shakespearean style and direct quotes in a way that also seem current while at the same time are ridiculous. For one example, Day in Act 2 states, “what a piece of work is man” a “piece of work” as a negative thing not the wonderful being Hamlet describes…
Me: The opening sequence to the play is a cacophony of disembodied voices speaking lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tanner Cohen’s Were The World Mine, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Could you speak a little about this clash of words, the Narrator’s reigning in of noise and control of it with merely his hand, and then the lead in to the Narrator’s opening song?
Brian: There was a correction in the text. The line that was accidentally taken from the film “Were the World Mine” was removed and amended by our Dramaturge, Denise Christof. One of our actors pulled it out during a workshop and I added it to the script. The line now simply reads “Fetch me the flower!” and is Oberon’s direct quote. I’ve seen parts of the film and it does share a few similarities with Gingers, but is a queer re-telling of Midsummer. On stage, the voices come from the band and the “rude mechanicals.” These are lines that call the narrator out of hiding or denote his presence. The band is the Narrators group of merry wanderers. They meet up wherever a new story is about to be told. These lines were chosen specifically because they either have to do with magic or weather, two things the Narrator controls. More lines of this nature have been added.
So keep your eyes peeled this April for Gingers in Love, whether you’re tentative about Shakespeare, or want to see what a modernized performance of blended storylines could provide – its certain that this piece will give you an experience to remember of our beloved Bard and how he still infiltrates Toronto life!