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Interview with the Cast of Shakespeare Bash’d’s Cymbeline| Shakespeare in Toronto

By February 4, 2020 No Comments

This is part of an ongoing series on regional Shakespeare. It’s Tori here with the latest in Shakespeare from Toronto.
Shakespeare Bash’d is starting off 2020 right with their production of Cymbeline that “puts women in the forefront.” I can’t wait to see what they have in store! The show runs from February 4- 9th at the Junction City Music Hall. I had the chance to chat with some of the first time Bash’ders and get their take on what makes this Cymbeline so special.

Tell us a little about your character – what do you like most about them and what has been the most challenging part to get your mind around?

Mairi Babb: I play Cymbeline’s second wife, Innogen’s step-mother. She is manipulative and dangerous and SO MUCH FUN! It’s not what I usually get to play. The challenge has been leaning into her wicked ways without feeling like I’m playing a caricature of “The Evil Step-Mother” but I know Julia (our director) will keep me honest and on the right side of the line!

Mairi Babb - Photo by Kyle Purcell

Mairi Babb – Photo by Kyle Purcell

Déjah Dixon-Green: Arviragus, for those who don’t know, is one of the long lost children of Cymbeline who was stolen as an infant. She was raised in the middle of the woods, along with her sister Guiderius, by a man who they believe is their true father. Arviragus holds a special place in my heart. She is poetic and has a way with words, but is also being pulled in the direction of her royal blood, inevitably driven by adventure and determination. The most challenging part about playing Arviragus is that she has a huge and complex emotional journey in such a short period of time. So much of my action happens offstage, so when I am on stage I have a responsibility to effectively tell the story using all the information I know as Arviragus. This challenge is actually just the challenge of being an actor. Acting is hard.

Also, FYI: Arviragus is written as a male character in the original play, but we changed her gender for the purpose of our production.

Emilio Vieira - photo by Kyle Purcell

Emilio Vieira – photo by Kyle Purcell

Emilio Vieira: Cloten, son of the queen, is a real stand up guy. He likes bowling, gambling and staying awake all night with his friends. Yes, he is known to have a bit of a temper but can you blame him? The woman he was promised to marry eloped with some other idiot against her father’s wishes and in spite of all the plans that had been made! My favorite thing about Cloten is his flair for the dramatic. When he loses he feels the loss deeply and when he’s inspired to try a new tactic to win the heart of Innogen he flings himself at the opportunity wholeheartedly. The greatest challenge for me has been to embrace what other characters call his ‘stupidity’ and to instead find how that may be considered his brilliance. Cloten thinks of himself as the world’s best suitor for Innogen, smarter and more crafty than those around him and he h
Déjah Dixon-Green - photo by Kyle Purcell

Déjah Dixon-Green – photo by Kyle Purcell

as some ambition for future political status in the royal family. I think it’s paramount that we see him as a fully rounded out individual and not just a cartoon villain, otherwise, why should we care about him?

Kiana Woo - Photo by Kyle Purcell

Kiana Woo – Photo by Kyle Purcell

Kiana Woo: The most challenging part of this process for me is actually the fact that I am playing so many different characters. I play Philario, Cornelius, Lord, Briton Captain, and Roman Captain, which is more characters than I have ever played in a show before. It has been so much fun, because playing so many characters means that I have had the chance to interact with almost every other character in the show in some form. Throughout the process, I think I’ve managed to find something to love about all of the characters I play, even if they only appear very briefly. Cornelius is earnest and nervous, Philario has an air of confidence and charm, while the Lord is just such a little prankster. It was really challenging to find a way to make all of these characters different from each other, particularly because they switch between speaking verse and prose so regularly, but I’m so thankful I’ve had the chance to tackle the challenge.

What are you most excited about?

Mairi Babb: I love direct address and getting to make the audience complicit in my diabolical plans will be incredibly satisfying.

Déjah Dixon-Green: I am most excited to share this beast with an audience. I’m interested in what people will take from the story. Cymbeline isn’t done very often so most of our audience members probably don’t know much about the show. I am excited to see how certain moments will land with an audience and what moments will surprise. Similarly, I am excited to find out how the audience is going to surprise us and teach us about the story.

Emilio Vieira: I’m most excited about audiences joining us for the telling of this story. Up until now, we have been rehearsing in a studio space where we have attempted to best replicate the Junction City Music Hall. It’s always a joy to move into the final space and invite people to experience the story. For me, that’s where the work really takes off and becomes something other than what you’ve rehearsed. Especially with this play, brimful with asides and direct addresses from characters, it’s most exciting to convert monologue to dialogue with new people every day. We have a responsibility as a group of players to tell the story the best way we can and we have laboured in our rehearsal hall to achieve that. Now we add the final ingredient, without whom this soufflé would not rise, and see what happens!

Kiana Woo: I’m so excited to be performing in a non-traditional theatre space. There is something really exciting about bringing theatre into a space where it doesn’t normally exist. Particularly, in this space, we get to be so close and engaged with the audience, and I can’t wait to get to play and bring them into the story with us. And I’m also so thrilled to be in a room of such generous and talented collaborators!

What are you most nervous about?

Mairi Babb: We don’t have a lot of time in the space before we get an audience….so I’ll have to get my bearings quickly.

Déjah Dixon-Green: I’m generally always very nervous to share a show with people. For so long we have just been getting together in a small rehearsal space and playing. Now we are about to take on a completely new space that I have never seen before and welcome in fresh eyes and ears that have not been in the room with us. I always find this final stretch of the rehearsal process the most exhilarating, but also the most nerve-racking.

Emilio Vieira: I’m always nervous about whether I’ve done the right work for the show. The space and the audience will inevitably create some challenges and new circumstances that we have not foreseen but for myself I’m always anxious about whether I’m ready. I think with this play in particular because it contains some of Shakespeare’s most difficult rhetoric and challenging sentence structures I can’t take it for granted. Going on autopilot in this piece is the death of it. I believe it is essential to stay present with the language, while allowing the moment to moment variable changes to guide you. After a few runs in the space I anticipate that nervousness to morph into that kind of electricity in the air that hovers over a tennis court before the first serve. I look forward to that feeling.

Kiana Woo: I think I’m most nervous about adjusting to the space so quickly. We have quick a tight turn around from our first rehearsal at the junction to getting our first audience, so I’m a little nervous about that. So I guess I’m nervous about the space and excited about the space, which is hilarious.

How has it been working with BASH’d?

Mairi Babb: I have absolutely loved it. We have the same approach to the text and everyone is so smart and generous and positive. It’s been really interesting to rehearse over such a long time period (with days between rehearsals) and I’ve found the material percolates in a very different way. It sort of marinates on the days off so I’ve found more flexibility/variations in my approach day to day. It’s been wonderfully freeing.

Déjah Dixon-Green: I love this team and this company. I feel very grateful to have witnessed all the amazing work and soul that has gone into this show. This process and this room is what doing theatre is all about, making art and having the privilege to share that art.

Emilio Vieira: Working with BASH’d is a total delight. This company is held up by some of the most passionate practitioners of classical art I’ve ever known. The rehearsal hall has been a very cooperative space full of healthy debate and exploration and I’m so fortunate particularly with this play to have a team like this to create with and lean on. I hope when you come see our show that it will be abundantly clear we’ve got a lot of love for this team, and therefore a lot of faith in the product.

Kiana Woo: Working with BASH’d has been an absolute delight. I’m still quite new to Toronto and I am so thankful to have been welcomed into a room that has been so warm and collaborative. Every single person involved in the process is so full of passion, heart and talent. It’s been really inspiring, and I think it’s pushed me to want to do the best work I can, which always feels so good. With BASH’d, I think the process is just as enjoyable as the product and I think that’s something that makes them such a special company to work with. I’ve loved every moment of working on this process and I’m so thankful for the experience. I can’t wait to share all of our hard work with an audience!

Thank you all so much for your responses and happy opening!!!

Showtimes:
February 4 @ 7pm
February 5 @ 7pm
February 6 @ 7pm
February 7 @ 7pm
February 8 @ 2& 7 pm
February 9 @ 2pm

Buy tickets and find out more about the show at: https://www.shakespearebashd.com/

Author Tori Carlisle

Toronto Regional Editor. Tori is a passionate high school English teacher based in Toronto. She holds a BA from the University of Toronto in English, History, and Renaissance and Reformation Studies, an MA in English Literature from York University, and a Masters of Teaching from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She is a lover of all things Shakespeare and cats!

More posts by Tori Carlisle

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