Matt joins a Company of Fools for the first time this season but he’s no stranger to Shakespeare.  Having co-founded Resurgence Theatre Company and the York Shakespeare Festival in Newmarket, Ontario and appearing in several productions in and around the Outouais region, we’re delighted to have him this season as the loveable rogue, Falstaff!

Let’s start with something easy – tell us where you were born.

Brockville, Ontario

What made you want to become an actor?

When I was 17 I was part of the inaugural Young Company at 1000 Islands Playhouse.  We performed a show, built the set, sewed our costumes, wrote music and got paid to do it!!   Back then we made a whopping $40/week!  That summer I was immersed in all aspects of the theatre and was able to observe professionals at work.  I was hooked.

If you weren’t in theatre, is there something else you would like to have done?

At one point I wanted to a lawyer…  Or a photographer…

You’re no stranger to outdoor Shakespeare.  What are some of the challenges of performing in the uncontrolled environment that is mother nature?

Working outside always offers some challenges.  You are always having to compete with outside elements. You need to be prepared to use your full voice or you won’t be heard.  During one performance [at another Shakespeare Festival] we had Cigarette Boats racing by and Helicopters flying over head!

There must be some rewards to performing in such a unique environment.  What are they?

You get to explore and learn these beautifully crafted texts and you get to work with exciting, dynamic people.

What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?

Julius Caesar

What is your favourite role to date?

Shakespearean is probably Sir Toby Belch and modern would be Max in Lend Me A Tenor

What’s your dream role?

I would love to play Mark Antony in Julius Caesar

Which actor do you admire most?

That’s a tough one…  Maybe Anthony Hopkins or Meryl Streep.

You also teach young people and emerging professionals.  Do you have any advice for a young person interested in theatre?

Never stop trying to learn through new experiences.

Feature artist from June 20th: Katie Ryerson

After lighting up the stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and last year’s Henry V, Katie returns for her third Torchlight Shakespeare experience.  A multi-talented performer and just darn nice gal, we are thrilled to have her back and look forward to seeing her as Mistress Ford (among others) in The Merry Wives of Windsor!

 

Katie Ryerson is Tickled pink to be back with the Fools!

Where were you born?

I was born in Calgary, Alberta and my family moved to Ottawa the summer before I turned 10. I’m based in Toronto now, which is also where I went to University. Where do I hope to live in future? Maritimes, Prairies, and small town Ontario.

What made you want to become an actor?

My mom is an actor and a singer and my dad is very musical, so I had those interests percolating in me growing up. By grade 10, I was ready to dive head first into the whole thing and got really obsessed with the awesome drama program at my high school, Earl of March, and doing shows at my neighborhood haunt Kanata Theatre, and I now hold a BFA in Acting from Ryerson University. And hopefully this story is to be continued!

If you weren’t in theatre, what job would you like to have done?

I was seriously interested in interior design; I love bright colours and organizing.

What are some of the challenges of performing Torchlight Shakespeare?

Finding the balance between drinking enough water to stay hydrated and cool but not so much that you need to pee during the show! It takes some real figuring out. Sunshine in your eyes can be tricky. But making sure everyone hears you is always the biggest challenge.

What are some of the rewards?

It is the most fun. We get to incorporate stuff that happens around us, we get people involved, we get to be silly for each other and for the audience, we get to be huge in our performances, we get to wear beautiful costumes, and at the heart of it we get to tell people a story of Shakespeare’s every night. We also have the luxury of a very long run, so there are lots of opportunities to try new things and play.

What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?

Othello is one of my favorites. It is stunning and so human. I will also never get tired of going to see Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

What is your favourite role to date?

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I think my favorite Fools role might be the Dauphin from last year’s Henry V.

What’s your dream role?

From Shakespeare: Desdemona, definitely, and Juliet would also be fun to try on. Elsewhere: Mary from Salt Water Moon.

Which actor do you admire most?

There are a lot of people. In particular, Allen Cole (musician & musical director & composer), Joey Tremblay (actor & director), and Dayna Tekatch (director & choreographer) have had an immense impact on me and are three folks I hugely admire, both as theatre artists and as extraordinary human beings.

Advice for a young person interested in theatre?

At some point (doesn’t have to be right out of high school), try for a post-secondary education in your theatrical field of interest. It’s not a requirement, but a huge asset. The people you meet, the toolbox of skills you develop, and all the good, bad, and the ugly that you will go through is incredibly informative and, yes it’s true what they say, makes you a better person. It also becomes clear very quickly if it’s something you want to stick with. But there is no ‘one way’ to do things in this biz; just be kind to people and enjoy yourself!

 

Feature Artist from June 10: Vanessa Imeson

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hal & Falstaff – Costume, Set & Puppet Design

This season marks Vanessa's Torchlight Shakespeare Debut

 

After winning Outstanding Costume Design at The Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in Vancouver and completing an MFA in Design at UBC as well as Special Effects Make-Up Training at The Vancouver Film School, we knew we had to snag this talented designer up    and steal her away to Ottawa. This season marks Vanessa’s debut with a Company of Fools and we’re thrilled to have her as part of the Torchlight Team!

Thanks for chatting with us today. We know you’re very busy cutting and sewing and building and paper machéing, just to name sa few of the many things on your to do list, so we’ll keep this short and to the point. Why don’t you start off by telling us where you were born.
Small town southern Ontario, too small to warrent a blip on anyone’s radar.

So what made you want to become a designer?
Jim Hensen and Julie Taymor, when I realized I could tell stories for a living with the things I created I never looked back.

You have an incredibly talented mind and are quite crafty, so it goes without saying that you were born to work in the theatre but just out of curiosity, if you weren’t in this line of business, what other job might you like to have done?
When I first applied to theatre school I was also waiting to hear back for mortuary science. When the acceptence letters came in, turned out I was short furneral home volunteer hours so instead of making them up I went into theatre. In an alternate life I would be a mortician.

What are some of the challenges of designing for Torchlight Shakespeare?
The biggest challenge, as the designer of a outdoor summer production, is to make costumes that are comfortable, easily changeable and cool while still maintaining the integrity of the design.

What are some of the rewards?
It is rewarding to watch everything come together out of the pandemonium which is collaborative theatre, in hindsight of course. Designing is the most stressful and disastrous event in my life but when each unique show is up and running it’s a marvel to see the beauty in the wake of chaos.

You’ve designed for a wide variety of theatrical genres but we know you have done a few different works by the Bard. What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?
So cliché but Macbeth, I’m fascinated by the witches and the juxtaposition of supernatural myth and historical event.

What is your favourite project to date?
My favourite characters to design, obviously, are the witches from Macbeth. I love that universality of Shakespeare’s work, no matter what the genre or period that production is placed in, there are these inherit markers for all his characters that make them recognizable. It’s the relation of those signifiers that I am most intrigued by, the endless possibilities to reinvent a character that is alway inheritly the same.

What would be your dream show to design?
I’m waiting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream…I can’t wait to get my hands on Puck and Titania.

Which theatrical professional do you admire most?
I’m addicted to Julie Taymor, and admire her dedication to her craft. I hope to be able to follow in her footsetps and travel the world to encounter the most beautiful theatrical and puppety traditions preformed by masters. When you are in the presence of such greatness, it’s my theory, that a little has to rub off on you.

We know you have a lot to get back to. Can you leave us with parting advice for a young person interested in theatre?
You have to find that one thing that makes you, you. So when people see your work it carries a signiture that is so distinct it makes them want to see more. I find the easiest way to do that is to create for yourself first, when you love what you are doing others will too.

Feature artist from June 3: Melanie Karin


The Merry Wives of Windsor: Mistress Ford, Slender, Rugby. Hal & Falstaff: TBA

Straight off of completing her Master’s Degree in Dramaturgy in the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa, Melanie is making her a Company of Fools debut. Since returning to Ottawa a few short years ago, she has been kicking butt and taking names – not to mention making a serious name for herself as a force to be reckoned with, both on stage and behind the scenes. We’re stoked to have her as a part of this year’s 10th Anniversary Torchlight Shakespeare season and we know you’ll love her as much as we do.

Thanks for chatting with us today. First off, let’s find out where you were born.

I was born and raised in Ottawa, but after spending the better part of a decade between Victoria and Vancouver as a young adult, I feel like I “grew up” in BC.

What made you want to become an actor?

I have really eclectic interests. As a kid, I had a new dream career every week. But when I thought about the things that really moved me, it always came down to stories – books, films, TV, theatre. I was a huge X-Files nerd as a kid (still am), and I was always blown away by how David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson pulled me into their world. I realized that actors are vehicles of storytelling, and so I wanted to do that too. AND I realized that by being an actor, you could be someone different every day, which solved my dream-career-a-week dilemma. Instead of committing to being an astronaut or a lawyer or a cop – I could just play one. Which is way more fun (and less paperwork).

What if you weren’t in theatre, is there something else you would like to have done?

I think I would’ve been a scientist – a biologist or a doctor. Then I remember all of the times I ran out of high school chemistry crying, and I’m glad I stuck with theatre. I really don’t regret choosing theatre as my career path because I’ve met so many amazing people (one of whom I married), many of whom I have the pleasure of working with every day!

Torchlight Shakespeare is a long stretch – seven weeks in the great outdoors. What are some of the challenges of performing in such an environment?

I’ll find out! This is my first time performing with Torchlight Shakespeare. I’m no stranger to performing outdoors, but that said, all of my outdoor performing experience happened on the West Coast. It’s a lot cooler there in the summers, so I’m curious to see how challenging it is performing in HOTtawa! Other than that, I imagine that the usual challenges will arise: you’re effectively competing with everything else happening in the park (e.g. the weather, your general surroundings, somebody’s dope picnic). It requires a lot of energy and commitment to keep an audience engaged, but I’m ready for it!

Do you anticipate any rewards?

Again, first-timer here, but I imagine that it will be pretty cool to bring theatre closer to people’s homes. I love that Fools makes an effort to tour parks all over Ottawa, as people may not always have the opportunity to catch theatre downtown.

You did Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos with your own company 411 dramaturgy co. and now you’re working for the Fools for 16 weeks! You mush be a huge Shakespeare fan. What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?

Three-way tie between Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth for very different reasons. Romeo & Juliet has the perfect plot, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s greatest and most complex character, and Macbeth for its themes/motifs. I try to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies whenever I can, thanks to the Scottish play.

What is your favourite role to date? (It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare)

Very recently, I played Jane in Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn. I usually get cast in villainous roles, so it was a pleasure to play someone so earnest and pure. It sounds cliche, but I do miss her. She was a neat freak, so I could probably use her at home… I should break her out and do some dusting. I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind.

What’s your dream role?

Realistic: Soldier in Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End.
Less realistic: Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Totally unrealistic: Hamlet.

Do you have any particular actor or director that you admire?

I’m really into Claire Danes at the moment. I just watched My So-Called Life and Homeland back to back, and now I’m going back and watching a lot of her films. She’s had next level skills her entire life. She’s been grace incarnate since age 15, y’all! If you ever want to talk about how awesome Claire Danes is, get at me. Or you can follow me on Twitter (@MelanieKarin), where I mention Claire Danes frequently. By the way, Claire Danes is awesome. Claire Danes!!!

In terms of theatre/live performing arts I would say Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (choreographer/director), Marcus Youssef (all around Canadian indie theatre artist), Robert LePage (director/performer), and Annabel Soutar (director/writer). It’s hard to pick one person to admire, because I admire a lot of people (as one should).

You are a pretty cool woman whom I imagine a lot of young people admire. Do you have any advice for those young people who might be interested in theatre?

See as many shows as possible. If you can’t afford tickets, many shows need volunteer ushers – so do that. See shows for fun, but also see shows to build your critical thinking skills. If you love or hate a show, see if you can determine “why” beyond a gut feeling – it’ll make you a better artist. Develop a thick skin. Learn to be cool with rejection – recognize that by and large, it’s rarely personal. Take every opportunity you can to do what you love, until you reach a point in your career where you can pick and choose your projects. Don’t get tied down to one discipline if you have varied interests in theatre. It will make you more marketable. I know very few artists that make their living in theatre as “just” an actor, or a director, or a designer. And seriously consider pursuing a masters degree in your field. It will open a lot of doors and maybe even lead to some lucrative teaching opportunities that keep a lot of professional artists afloat. But above all, only do theatre if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, because it is a (mostly financially) hard life in between all the fun. But yeah, it is totally fun.


Feature artist from May 26, 2013: Geoff McBride

The Merry Wives of Windsor: Mistress Quickly, Parson Hugh Evans, Host of the Garter
Hal & Falstaff: TBA

 

Geoff returns to Torchlight Shakespeare for his third season in a row and we are thrilled to have him.  Last year Geoff directed our summer tour of Henry V. Audiences may remember seeing him on stage in 2011’s Antony and Cleopatra as the loveable, if poorly abused Messenger, the drunken Lepidus and the less-than-swarthy Snake Salesman. Geoff also bravely exercised his acting chops for us in White Rabbit Red Rabbit this past May.

 

Thanks for chatting with us today, Geoff.  Why don’t we start out with an easy one:  tell us where you were born.

 

It was a rainy night on the road to Paris, my mother heavy with twins went into labour. My parents, simple peasants, stopped at a roadside in to seek help. Simultaneously at the inn, the Duchess de Sisi was also in labour with twins. In the confusion of that evening I was switched with one of the de Sisi brothers and grew up…no wait, that’s the opening of “Start the Revolution Without Me”. It’s a very funny movie with Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland (Kiefer’s dad) released in 1970, four years after I was born in Montreal.

What made you want to become an actor?

A restless nature, a love of stories, a desperate imagination and mediocre high school grades.

What if you had never joined the theatre, what would you like to have done instead?

Lead singer in an awkward post-punk band. Or maybe that should read an awkward singer in a post-punk band.

What are some of the challenges of performing Torchlight Shakespeare?

Trying to out-perform the surroundings. It is hard to compete with low flying air craft, kids enjoying the splash pad, co-ed Frisbee football or a beautiful sunset. The great outdoors is also a very physically demanding performance venue. It can be hard on the body and the voice.  Finding the parks can be a bit of challenge too, especially for the new company members, and I speak from experience after getting lost in Bells Corners, Alta Vista and Kanata to mention a few.

Wow, that sounds exhausting!  Are there any rewards?

After the production of Antony and Cleopatra I was in the best shape I have ever been in. Lots of heavy lifting on the set up, strike, running the show and then riding my bike left me disgustingly healthy. I also love that, most of the time, I get to ride my bike to work.

We know that all of Shakespeare’s works are masterpieces, but do you have a favourite play by the Bard?

The one you’re not supposed to speak aloud. It is one of the cleanest, clearest examples story telling in the Greatest Hits Collection. Swords, Sorcery and Ambition, all the right ingredients for a good evening out.

You have quite a long history of working in the theatre.  Do you have a favourite role to date?

Donnie in Lee MacDougall’s High Life.

What is your dream role?

Huh, this is by far the most difficult question. My flip answer would be to play the title role in the The Don Knotts Story. That said I was jealous that Scott Speedman got to play Edwin Boyd in Citizen Gangster. In Shakespeare I would refer you to question # 6. I would like to try Mr. M.

Do you have a particular actor/designer/stage manager/director whom you most admire?

Alan Rickman is one of my favourite actors to watch perform. He has a strong presence and is not afraid to chew scenery every now and then. I also love the work of Michelle Monteith-Hughes in Toronto, she is an amazing actor.

Lee Ann Vardy is a lighting designer in Halifax who makes things look beautiful and terrifying. We’re lucky because she has come to Ottawa a couple of times to light things for the NAC.

I admire all stage managers. They are some of my favourite people. I admire Nora Polley who was the head stage manager at the Stratford Festival when I was a wee apprentice and shepherded me through that experience. I admire Christine Oakey who sends us postcards for her travels with theatre round the world. Erin Finn who helped me survive my first big directing project with the Fools. I could go on.

The late Neil Munro was an amazing director, the play became a fascinating study of time, place and psychology under his guidence. Jim Millan is also an awesome director who brings a sense of calm, cool and fun into the rehearsal room and makes you believe you can do anything.

What kind of advice would you give to young person interested in pursuing a life in the theatre?

Don’t do it! It’s a trap! Seriously, it is like that part in the horror film when the person is going to open the door and you know they shouldn’t, but they do and there is nothing you can do to stop them. Similarly theatre can be exciting and scary at times. At times it is frustrating and boring. But I always say: This is a great job. Explore it all, the writing, acting, directing and designing as well as the producing, administration and teaching. You will discover something that challenges you and always be looking for the challenges, always be looking to learn something new.