This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Tori here with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto.
The 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival runs from June 29- July 10th.. The Fringe will be a Shakespeare lovers dream this year because the festival is hosting 8 Shakespeare/ Shakespeare related shows. I reached out to Shakespeare Bash’d who after four incredible seasons at the Fringe is getting ready for their fifth and final year at the festival. Bash’d’s Artistic Producer, co-founder, and director of this production, Julia Nish-Lapidus, has assembled a cast of past Bash’d cast members to bid the Fringe farewell in true Bash’d style, drunken, hilariously, and creatively, with an innovative production of The Comedy of Errors where each set of twins will be played by the same actor! How will this work you may ask? I’m just as curious as you! Find out some of the details of what to expect to below and make sure to buy tickets to what is sure to be an incredible show!
Julia: really excited to officially be at the helm for this show. As Artistic Producer for the company, I’ve had an active role in the planning and execution of each of our past shows, but it feel good (and like it’s about time) that I take on a show myself and I think our final Fringe show is the perfect one. I’m happy to get to work with this amazing team and bring it to life.
T: What has been your directorial approach and how does it differ from previous BASH’d directors?
J: I think all the directors who work with our company have a lot in common in terms of their approach, and I certainly follow suit. We all like to start from the text, making sure everyone understands what they’re saying and mining it for every clue Shakespeare has left for us. And this show will certainly have the usual BASH’d energy and pace that audiences have come to expect from us. The Comedy of Errors gives the opportunity for lots of physical comedy and that’s something that I’ve had a lot of fun exploring. I’ve always loved clown; that’s the style of comedy a lot of my work as an actor has come out of. I think this show is really well suited to that type of comedy: connecting with the audience, sharing and bringing them into the character’s feelings as chaos ensues.
T: BASH’d started out at the 2012 Fringe Festival, how do you feel the company has matured since that first show? How does it feel to be saying goodbye to the Fringe Festival?
J: When we first started at the Fringe, doing Shakespeare in a bar, a lot of people thought we were nuts. We heard that the Fringe wasn’t the right venue for Shakespeare, and a bar seemed crazy. That first summer, we had no idea what to expect and were shocked to find sold-out crowds loving what we were doing. We discovered that there is an audience for this type of energetic, bare-bones, accessible Shakespeare. Now, in addition to doing the Fringe for the last four years, we also have a successful season outside of the festival. We’ve been able to explore different types of plays (dramas, histories, and contemporaries of the Bard) and we’ve really solidified what it is we do as a company. We know our style, what works in a bar, and how to engage an audience in that setting. We’ve also had the time to nurture relationships with lots of incredible artists, which has inspired a lot of our work.
Saying goodbye to the Fringe is certainly sad. It’s where we started out, where we learned, and we have endless fond memories of our time at the Victory Café. But all good things must come to an end. With Honest Ed’s being torn down and the Fringe tent needing to find a new home after this summer, this seemed like a logical year to bid farewell. Five years is quite incredible at the fringe and we can’t wait to see how we can continue to grow as a company. But you can bet we’ll be regular audience members at the Fringe next year. That tent (wherever it may be) will always be a highlight of our summer.
T: You’ve just announced what is sure to be another fantastic season, what are you most excited about? What does the next chapter of BASH’d entail?
J: This season is going to be a lot of fun. After the success of our staged-reading of Marlowe’s Edward II last year, I’m excited that we’re continuing the staged-reading series with another play of Shakespeare’s contemporaries: The Changeling. The staged-readings really take us back to the roots of how we started as a company and it’s thrilling to get to mine the text with a group of performers. Last year, we had a packed house for the reading and actually had to turn people away at the door. The energy in the room was unbelievable. We’ve also been talking about doing Twelfth Night for a very long time. James and I both love that show: the characters, the comedy, and how it gives some great parts to women. I can’t wait to see what James does with it in a bar in the new year.
T: You’ve assembled a cast of familiar and talented faces, what has it been like working with so many BASH’d alumni?
J: We thought the best way to say goodbye to the Fringe would be with a group of people who have been part of what we’ve created over the last five years, so we were pumped when this amazing group of BASH’d veterans agreed to join us this summer. Working with people who have been part of the company for a while means we have a bit of a shorthand. They already know what it’s like to perform in a bar; they already know that I’m going to ask them to think fast and really earn any pauses they think they need. It means within the first rehearsal, we were able to start digging deeper and really mining the text for all it’s got. These people are pros and it’s a pleasure to get to create with them.
T: This is such an interesting concept having one actor play both of the Dromios and Antipholus, what has been your approach in taking this on?
J: It’s just so much fun! There’s extra comedy that comes out of the words Shakespeare wrote when you see one actor taking on both twins. I’m very lucky to have a pair of smart, funny, and versatile actors taking on this challenge. We’ve made sure that we take the time to just play. It’s a huge challenge we’ve given ourselves, especially by the end of the play when the long-lost twins (spoiler alert) finally meet. We’re trying lots of different ideas and finding the strongest way to make it work, and sometimes there’s just something magical that happens naturally and everything clicks into place. I think this concept will offer a really big payoff in the final scene and have a bit of theatrical magic.
T: What can audiences expect from this production? What will set it apart from the other Shakespeare plays at Fringe, especially the other production of The Comedy of Errors at the Annex Theatre?
J: This production is a culmination of our last four years of sold-out Fringe shows. We’re pulling out all the stops and really putting our money where our mouth is. This will be an energetic, bare-bones, clear, engaging staging of this hilarious play in true BASH’d style. We’re taking everything we’ve learned and developed from past Fringes and putting together a tight, hilarious show, to serve as a thank you to everyone who has helped make us a success.
I don’t know much about the other production at the Annex Theatre, but I think it’s a more modern adaptation of the play. That alone will mean these productions will be incredibly different. Ours is very true to the text as is was written in the original, creating an immersive, action packed, bar-room staging. I’m excited to see how the other production stages their adaptation at the Annex Theatre. It will be a lot of fun to see another way of telling this story (audiences may enjoy seeing them both)! Tori: Both of you are playing two sets of identical twins in this production. That must come with a unique set of challenges. What have been some of the best moments working on this show and what have been some of the challenges? What has been your approach?
Tim: For me, some of the best moments have been the most challenging as well. Playing twins makes for serious logistical difficulties – since, at times, I need to literally be in two places at once! Playing two characters in itself is nothing new (especially for BASH’d shows, where many of the roles are double-cast), but playing two characters who speak to each other is more unusual, and can be tricky to pull off. We were apprehensive going into rehearsals for an ending scene where my characters speak to each other, but something truly serendipitous happened – I’ll save it for the show! – and we managed to make a little bit of theatre magic.
I try to approach every rehearsal process with an open heart, curiosity, and imagination. The BASH’d team is always open to any, and all, of my wacky suggestions, and encourages us to work in ways that suit our specific acting style.
Kelly: I think (so far) my favourite moment while working through this guy was the first time we made our way through Act 5. Now, WARNING I have some spoilers coming up. When we got to the point where all the twins finally come face to face, we had an “ok lets try and figure THIS out” moment. So we tried something out and it sort of just worked. It was a little happy accident. All the blocking worked out, for the most part, and we were facing the person we needed to speak to next. Look, I won’t go into too many details, but you are going to have to buy a ticket and talk to me after the show about it. What you will see when you come to the show is a refined version of (maybe) our first attempt to figure out the twins reunion.
T: You’ve both worked with BASH’d before, what have been some of your favourite moments? What can audiences expect from your performance?
Tim: Some of my favourite moments working with BASH’d are actually of their audiences. I think a Shakespeare play only comes alive when performed in front of living, breathing human beings – and the BASH’d audiences are some of the most giving and supportive. The people that come out to see the shows are always there for a good time, and are as integral to the performance as the rest of the production team.
Fringe audiences can expect to hear a clear story, and see two clear characters! I’m working to make the twins separate, and their respective stories understandable – hopefully this makes for hilarious comedy!
Kelly: This would be the 3rd show I’ve done with BASH’d. I’ve done a few readings as well. My favourite time might have been working on the Romeo/Friar banished scene with Jesse Griffiths. He’s SO great and I felt we were really there for each other. It was definitely a “I love this/I’m terrified of this” scene. I loved it. Another one would have to be during The Taming of the Shrew where I jumped forward (maybe) 2 pages of text. I remember looking up and seeing three wide eyed scene partners and then we figured out some blocking together and got out of there.
The Comedy of Errors runs at the Victory Café:
July 1st at 7:00 PM
July 2nd at 5:00 PM
July 2nd at 9:00 PM
July 3rd at 5:00 PM
July 5th at 7:00 PM
July 6th at 7:00 PM
July 7th at 7:00 PM
July 8th at 7:00 PM
July 9th at 7:00 PM
July 10th at 5:00 PM
Tickets are $12 online and at the door. Make sure to buy early because tickets sell out fast!