This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Tori here with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto. I am taking over from the incomparable Lauren Shepherd to provide you with your Toronto Shakespeare fix.
Recently I had the distinct pleasure of attending the final performance of the Shakespeare in Action’s Young Company for Teens Summer Camp for their final production of Hamlet. Shakespeare in Action offers a four week intensive summer camp for youth aged 13-17 as well as a Kids Camp that runs for two weeks for kids aged 7-12. In my opinion, they are doing both a fantastic and essential service for the Shakespeare community in Toronto by fostering a love of Shakespeare in the next generation. For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare in Action, they are a theatre company/ education company founded in 1988 by Michael Kelly. They aim to make Shakespeare accessible, interesting and vibrant for people of all ages, but the majority of their focus is dedicated to inspiring young people to “discover Shakespeare’s universal truths in our everyday world, [and by] showing the influence classical theatre has within…communities.” They offer a number of programs to engage young people, which include: Shakespeare meets Hip-hop, library programs, school residencies, visits, and workshops. For the summer camp program the campers were taught acting techniques, video editing and production, costume design, as well as being taught the text of Hamlet itself. Their production of Hamlet incorporated video, as well as live action which worked incredibly well to intensify the impact of the production.
The campers put on a fantastic performance and showcased their acting ability as well as the training they were provided with at the camp. The campers all seemed to have a grasp on the meaning of the text and were able to demonstrate an impressive emotional vulnerability and range. It was a smart move to put on a production of Hamlet because who better to understand the angst fueled, emotional roller coaster that is Hamlet better than a group of teenagers? I was extremely impressed with all of the actors who put on a great performance, but most importantly, had fun doing it. After the show was over, the actors sat on stage for a Q&A, and their enthusiasm and joy about Shakespeare, the production, their fellow actors, and their director was abundantly clear.
The direction of the play was also fantastic. Joe Bucci (the director) and Sabio Emerencia-Collins (the assistant director) did some interesting things with the show such as including video and by casting three Hamlets. Joe Bucci said when asked that he cast there Hamlets in order to give equal parts to all of the actors but this choice also highlighted the changes Hamlet goes through during the production. The first Hamlet was replaced by the second when Hamlet has his argument with Ophelia where he tells her to “get thee to a nunnery,” he was then replaced by the third who is the one that murders Polonius and ends the play. By casting three Hamlets the cast was able to demonstrate more obviously the descent into madness that Hamlet experiences throughout the play.
Shakespeare In Action should be commended for their incredible contributions to the Shakespeare community in Toronto, for fostering a love and appreciation of Shakespeare in the next generation, and for proving to everyone that Shakespeare doesn’t have to be bland or antiquated but can be vibrant, innovative, and new. Make sure to check out Shakespeare In Action online here–you won’t be sorry.
Besides Shakespeare in Action, there is a ton of other Shakespeare happening in Toronto this summer!
As always there is Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park running until September 6th. This year they are doing The Comedy of Errors on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays and Julius Caesar on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If last year’s productions of Titus Andronicus and As You Like It are any indication about the plays this year, they’re sure to be interesting and innovative. A few tips to make your enjoyment of the plays easier, bring a lawn chair and or a blanket, try to arrive early to get a good spot, and if you are sitting on the ground, make sure you have enough leg room because there’s nothing worse than trying to massage blood back into your legs when you’re trying to enjoy the show! Its pay what you can so make sure to check it out.
Dauntless City Theatre is also putting on a production of Love’s Labours Lost running from July 24- August 16. Their production will once again take place in Berczy Park. Last year they put on a site specific production of The Comedy of Errors where they turned the park into a village and the audience was invited to follow the actors and the action throughout the park. Be sure to check this production out, it was on the most memorable and unique productions I’ve ever attended. This show is also pay what you can so make sure to attend, you won’t regret it.
Driftwood Theatre Group is performing Hamlet in several Ontario Cities in between August 1-16 for what they’re calling The Bard’s Bus Tour. This production is based off the less polished first quarto and the first folio version, so it is sure to be an interesting take. Visit their website for more info and where they’ll be visiting next!
The Shakesperience Group, a theatre company based in Burlington, will be performing Twelfth Night, August 14-16. It will be their first full scale production and I could not be more excited to see it. Though it is their first major performance, their artistic director is our very own Lauren Shepherd, so it has to be good, right?
The Rose Theatre in Brampton is presenting Shakespeare in the Square this year with their production of Much Ado About Nothing, it will be playing every Wednesday and Thursday until August 20.
Classical Theatre Project is currently performing The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged on August 29 at Wychwood Barns. I saw this show in April: it is a silly, drunken mess, but also a ton of fun!
Shakespeare in the Ruff will be performing Macbeth from August 13-30. What is especially interesting about this production is that they will be incorporating puppets! They’re billing it as “the supernatural blown up with puppetry. A Shakespeare- meets-War-Horse-epic!” This show is sure to be a blast. Ruff is always high energy and full of heart. Their production of Cymbeline last year was incredible and shone a light on a play very rarely performed. I can’t wait to see what they do with Macbeth!
If you’re looking to branch out a little, Shakespeare Bash’d will be performing a staged reading of Marlowe’s Edward II on August 30th. Bash’d’s productions are always incredible and deal with relevant issues that faced the early modern period and our own. This time will be no different as they explore themes of homosexuality and kingship. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this award winning company get back to their roots!
As you can see, there’s enough Shakespeare going on in the GTA this month to keep you plenty busy. Get out and get your Shakespeare fix with any of these productions–and check back here for more great Shakespeare news and views!