Archive | Artist Profile RSS for this section

Artist Experience: Judith Thompson on Her Newest Collaborative Piece Welcome To My Underworld

Soulpepper is excited to be partnering with RARE Theatre Company for a fifth time. Performances of this brand new play, Welcome To My Underworld begin May 8.  Judith Thompson directs and dramaturges this new play, working with texts from nine diverse playwrights. We asked two time Governor General award-winner Judith Thompson to share a bit about the upcoming production.

judith-thompson-headshot


Can you describe the process of working with 9 playwrights and bringing their individual pieces together into one play.

It has been one of the greatest joys of my 35 year career in the theatre to collaborate with nine brilliant and unique emerging playwrights. Most of the playwrights bring a wealth of experience to the project as theatre-makers, but for Welcome to my Underworld I have asked them to focus only on their writing.  Writing means ideas, it means reinventing what a play is, it means bringing shifting meanings of identity and language to the stage. Writing is a form of archeology,  a creative documentation of a particular time in our history. Each of these short plays is a calling card from its playwright, and I look forward to seeing all nine of them flower into full length masterpieces.

What excites you about the text(s) and the show?

As a director and dramaturge I am excited by the challenge of weaving nine very different plays into one plausible and exciting journey. Working together we have found striking commonalities between the plays, and these become the golden threads which tie the pieces together as if it were always meant to be.  I am thrilled to have Olivia Shortt compose and perform original music for the piece, and the great Monica Dottor responding to both the text and the music and creating another choreographic masterwork.

Can you share anything about your approach or your vision of the piece?

I plan to create a riveting, joyous, and authentic piece of theatre with the extraordinary texts of each of the writers and the centre. A country is defined in no small part by its artists and its writers. When the play is over, the text remains, and tells us who we are underneath the surface. Canada is not maple syrup and Mounties and intolerable cold. Canada is a complex, multi-faceted country with a population far too diverse to be pigeon-holed. Welcome to My Underworld is a warm introduction to nine of our best new writers.


ODSP Accessible Tickets are available for $25 for all performances. Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) ID required at ticket pick-up.

 Live ASL interpretation is provided on the Saturday, May 25 (8:00 PM) performance. Live Audio Description for the visually impaired is provided on the Saturday, May 18 (2:00 PM) performance.

First look at Michelle Tracey’s Designs for Wedding At Aulis

The World Premiere of Wedding at Aulis begins in just a few weeks! Academy graduate and playwright Sina Gilani is working with some of Soulpepper’s most established artists as well as some of the freshest artists to come through the company – like set and costume designer, Michelle Tracey, who is a fellow Academy graduate. We asked Michelle to give us a sneak peek at the designs for this intimate (and nearly sold out) show.


The audience will enter into an intimate enclosed playing space with seating on all sides. Draped fabric serves as an entrance to the soldiers tents, as well as framing the three Fates who act as storytellers of this myth. The centre of the playing space may evoke a barren landscape on first glance. As the performers move through the space, their steps will begin to uncover the vibrant red colour beneath a layer of fine black mulch.  I envision this floor as a trampled poppy field, covered by dirt and ash, or a blood stained battle field.

Wedding all together

The costumes blend ancient greek lines, with eastern folk dress and moderns materials to create a unique universe that we hope will resonate with audiences on multiple levels.

Artist Experience: Katrina Darychuk on Directing Copenhagen in Today’s Climate

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn hits the stage next month so we asked director Katrina Darychuk a bit about what she’s planning for this historical, ethical impasse that is remarkably timely in our world today.


Katrina-DarychukWhat is it about Copenhagen that makes you want to direct it?

I’ve known about Copenhagen since I saw a production of it at the Vancouver Playhouse when I was 12. No doubt I did not grasp its complexity—scientific or philosophical—but I was rapt by its many layers. And that memory also includes a lot of humour, so the darkness of the wit made an impression.

There is a lot of poetry in this play, and that was the language that first spoke to me. It’s a difficult piece with a poetic pulse. There is a search for a common language within the piece that strikes me as very universal element.  I love work that finds a way to artfully and meticulously examine our biases, and it does just that.

What excites you about the text?

Michael Frayn has created a purgatory-like world, so it seems static but we’re also in a memory play, a historical play, and a philosophical mind-game.  I am excited by the potential of creating a space that can be malleable and responsive to the thoughts and desires of Bohr, Margrethe, and Heisenberg. Even though the characters are dead, their argument is very alive and urgent.

Working with content that is unknown—quantum physics, the creation of the A-bomb–offers such an immediate challenge to the creative team. It’s a bit dangerous and requires a steady balance of research and humility. The politics and the physics are entirely intertwined with the personal in this story and that entanglement is what excited me the most.

Can you share anything about your approach or your vision of the piece?

I’m very aware that as we start rehearsals, there are nine countries holding significant arsenals of nuclear weapons around the world.  Four were in the news today—North Korea’s talks with the US about denuclearisation, and India and Pakistan’s increasing conflicts, which would be the first conflict between two nuclear states, ever.  The events of the story of Copenhagen have led to this reality. Our approach will no doubt acknowledge this fact,  and examine the characters’ pursuit to understand their own complicity.

Artist Experience: Shannon Lea Doyle on Designing 1 Set for 10 Plays

It can be tricky to design the perfect playing space for one show, let alone 10 completely different plays. Set and Costume Designer for Little Menace: Pinter Plays Shannon Lea Doyle has the unique challenge of making designs that can transform, and transform, and transform through all 10 of Pinter’s works. Here is what they shared about the process.


Designing for ten plays has been surprisingly similar to making a sculpture.It has been joyful to work on a bunch of plays by Pinter because I didn’t know his work before (having not gone to theatre school) but now I think that I am in fact very Pinter-esque. My boyfriend doesn’t agree, or maybe just doesn’t want to.

I found the plays to be very open, as though Pinter left a lot of room for me.

I have thought a lot about making art as a process of not knowing and I have thought of designing as creating impulses in other people, it’s been really nice to revisit both of these creative approaches in this process. Because I have thought of this design as a sculpture so often it’s made me extra grateful to be on a team with so many excellent craftspeople and technicians who are able to make the things I design on such a massive scale, like it’s no big deal.

 

Artist Experience: Bahia Watson on the Role of Women in The Virgin Trial

In The Virgin Trial I play Elizabeth Tudor, the person who went on to be known as Queen Elizabeth I, Gloriana, the White Queen, and the Virgin Queen. But this play takes place before that, and we meet Elizabeth, or Bess as she’s called, in her teenage years. Henry the Eighth, her father, is dead, Katherine Parr, her step mother is dead, her younger half brother Edward is a child king, and Bess has been called into the infamous tower for questioning, the tower where her mother, the infamous Anne Boylen was held before her execution.

As I was working on this, I kept thinking about Serena Williams and specifically her recent scenario at the US Open last year. There are people who adore her, who see her greatness, who see her as a queen, and there are people who, from my perspective, seem to be bothered by her ambition, by her power, by her refusal to play the game the old way, by their conservative rules, they are unsettled by someone like her, someone expressive and relentless, and, indeed, special.

A woman’s place. How much has a the notion of “a woman’s place” changed in the last five hundred years? If I say I want to be king, and I mean it, how is that received? How does that make you, the reader feel? I want to be king. I want the power. And, I deserve it.

One of the things I enjoy exploring most through Bess is the feeling of entitlement, which is not something that comes to me naturally. And it has been remarkable and useful in my life, both within and outside of the play, to sit in that energy, to practice the feeling of wielding it, to practice the feeling of taking – taking what I want, taking all that I feel I deserve. But what does ambition cost a woman? What does she sacrifice in order to build the strength to shatter those ceilings? An entitled woman, a woman entitled to power, a young woman entitled to power, a girl – child of a king and a sex-shamed mother who he had murdered, who was sent to live in exile, who went from celebrated princess to extraneous dependant, a motherless child, an outsider with an unshakable certainty of what is hers. How is a girl like that received in the world, 500 years ago, to today? What does it take, what are the characteristics required to assert agency and capability amongst people who see you, a girl, as incapable and, for the most part, unworthy, royal blood or not; in a world that wishes to deny you what you feel – what you know – is rightfully yours; that tells you you can have some, but not all, don’t you dare ask for it all.

And then, what if she does? What if she does dare? Dare to dream of having it all…? What if she doesn’t just dream, what if she acts on those dreams, what are the consequences? How does she do it? The character of Bess stands out as much today as she seems to have 500 years ago: highly intelligent, ambitious and, in many way, unapologetically so. Unapologetic ambition on a girl is almost criminal to some people.

Kate Hennig’s writing is direct and concise, there is no where to hide, it moves forward with urgency and a sharp sense of humour. Alan Dilworth’s direction and staging has shaped a tight, taut and thrilling play that will make you have to think fast, react, and decide for yourself, what is true? And – who is guilty?

Bringing The Last Wife from Stratford to Soulpepper has it’s obvious shifts, in space, but less predicted, were the shifts in time. The Last Wife happened in Stratford at a time where it felt very optimistic for strong women, people left the show feeling revved up. When we did it again, it landed at a different time. Hillary Clinton lost, Donald Trump was being inaugurated and the world had changed a lot. And, as you all know, theatre is alive, it is a living conversation, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and so as the world changes, as you, the audience, and us, the company, change and evolve and develop new insights and opinions, the same information is received differently. The same play sits in a new world every night, and soon, in a new city. In the remount, I am looking forward to discovering the difference between the two, which I can’t anticipate right now. but I do know the world, to me, feels like it is rapidly changing. Conversations on womanhood; on sexuality, on consent and accountability, on gender equality, equity, MeToo, and timesup – these themes are constantly active in our world, in our city, in our mouths, our minds, and on our screens, and so, it should be on our stage too. And it will be.

Artist Experience: Michelle Bouey on her Soulpepper Debut

Michelle Bouey is making her Soulpepper debut this month with the World Premiere musical Rose! “That is very exciting!” We wanted to get to know her and learn more about her experience working on this brand new show, and here is what she had to say about it.

michelle_bouey


Being a part of Rose has meant so much to me, in so many different ways. Having the opportunity to do a brand new show has meant a lot of “firsts” for me. I’ve had the chance to be a part of new works before, but only as far as the workshop stage, never at the point where we get to tell the story to a live audience.  The same goes for playing my cello. I’ve never really done it on this scale – I’ve had the chance in concerts and workshops, but playing the cello and acting in the same show is a whole new world for me. Another first is playing more than one character. Normally I undertake a specific role, but in Rose I am playing three! At first it did feel a little out of my comfort zone, but now I’m having a lot of fun with it; the experience has helped me to grow in so many ways as a performer.

I’m also very thankful to be working for a company that has inspired me ever since attending theatre school. It’s not every day you get to be involved in a brand new musical, let alone one that is premiering in your own city.

From day one everyone has been so encouraging, supportive and kind. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this sort of uplifting spirit in a rehearsal room. We are fiercely led by a creative team that welcomes our ideas and also gives us time to play around, and to find out how everything fits right for us; all while emboldening laughter, focus and hard work. The rehearsal space and process feel safe and warm.

Though Rose challenges me on many levels it’s been easy to enjoy the process of this wonderful project. We’re surrounded by the best people and the most amazing material. The book and score sparkle in such a big way – I think it is going to leave people of all ages feeling curious, joyful, enchanted and truly touched. And, the fact that I get to learn from, and perform with, these seasoned actors and musicians to help make this beautiful story come to life is a dream come true. I can feel the excitement buzzing and building from everyone, and I can’t wait for all walks of life to follow the journey of Rose!

Artist Experience: Words For My Nine-Year-Old Self

Rose is nine, almost ten, and she has these questions that don’t quite make sense to her. Her thoughts are constantly going around and around in her head, as she tries to find a sense of certainty about who she is, where she belongs, what the world is, and what she wants from it, so she goes on an amazing journey to find her answers. We asked some of the company of Rose what questions they had when they we’re Rose’s age, and what they would tell themselves back then. Here is what they had to share about their little selves.

Troy Adams, Ensemble

 troy-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

Interesting enough, the majority of those questions I still have today. There may be slight variations – but ultimately the same. I came to the understanding that we are continually growing and changing. The quest for those answers, is, life.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

You are worthy and you have so much to share. Know that. And love yourself.

Sabryn Rock, Teacher/Ensemble

sabryn-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

I remember having a lot of questions about life and death. I was an alter server at church and would serve at funeral ceremonies so was exposed to death at a young age and in some ways was desensitized to it. I remember not being scared of death but being fascinated specifically by seeing a body in a casket. That definitely led to some existential questions similar to Rose like ‘Why are we?’ And ‘How are we?’ or ‘why do we exist?’

I also asked questions about religion and beliefs and our purpose on earth. I had a hard time reconciling getting older even from a baby to a very young 9 years old. I distinctly remember the realization that I was no longer a baby who would be taken care of and had to learn independence and autonomy and that was a very painful truth for me around that age.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

I would tell my 9 year old self that it’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to be weird and not go along with things you don’t believe in or agree with; to march proudly to the beat of your own drum and not be afraid to ask hard questions much like Rose. So much of my childhood was spent mimicking my brothers or following friends around doing whatever they were doing even if I didn’t find it fun for fear of not being included or left alone. But I actually had a great time playing on my own, writing, singing or lost in my own imagination and could entertain myself for hours. Now as an adult being a socialized introvert I crave those quiet solo times and I would give my 9 year old self a gentle reminder that I’m pretty great and to enjoy those times of solitude; I remember that so often those times were when I was the most creative as a kid; I could also take a cue from that little girl back then and try and be more creative in my private time which is something I don’t do as much as an adult.

sabryn 9

Chapter three, a page from Sabryn’s autobiography.

Michelle Bouey, Ensemble

michelle-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

I was a very curious child and asked a lot of questions. I grew up in a household where I heard two languages: English and Korean. So, up until a certain age I sometimes didn’t know which language some words belonged to. An example that makes me laugh is: Ja mot (the word for pyjamas in Korean) – I remember going up to my parents and saying “How do I say Ja Mot in Korean? I wanna teach my friends at the sleepover tonight!” I also had a major fascination with big words. There would be certain words I’d hear on TV, read in books, or overhear adults saying and I would persistently ask my teachers what they meant. Then I would go home and teach my sister, even though she is older than me and likely already knew them!  One question I asked my parents, and that stuck with me for much of my childhood, was wondering if there was a way to make time stop. Part of me genuinely believed it could be possible and so I thought that maybe my grandparents might be with me forever.  My grandparents are gone now, but somehow the memory of that question will stick with me for life.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

To always be herself. To realize that who she is, is enough. She doesn’t need to try to change her appearance or personality just because it’s not what other kids look or act like. Remind her that she’s special. And, one day she’ll meet other friends and people who will see that in her, as she will see it in them. I would tell her to be more brave, to trust her instincts more, to believe in her talent. I might tell her to step out of her comfort zone more often, to take a chance on being wrong. And, even though I already have stick-to-it-ness, I would encourage her to persevere even when things seemed daunting.

Erika Morey, Assistant Stage Manager

erika-9

What questions did I have about the world at 9 years old?

When I was about Rose’s age, I fell in love with books.  I was learning a lot about the world as a result of my interest of reading, but of course this newfound curiosity opened up a whole lot of new questions, as well! I started to wonder how my life might be different if I didn’t live in Moncton, New Brunswick, or if I’d been born to a different family, or under a different set of circumstances. Would I still be me? Was my identity tied to my history and my environment more than anything that was especially uniquely me?  Was it possible to leave my history and environment behind to pursue a life that was entirely mine? I’m not sure if I would’ve had the language to articulate my questions exactly this way, but I did question if I would forever be defined by my parents choices.

What would I tell my 9 year old self based on where I am today?

I’d reassure nine-year old Erika that her circumstances and surroundings would shift many, many times as she got older, and that her perspective and sense of self would keep growing and changing as well. I’d try to explain to her that it’s perfectly valid to choose to abandon, re-write or embrace the narrative of your early life if it serves you as an adult.  I’d also tell her to put down her book and play outside for a while.