Why See BOTH Pericles and The Tempest?

Today, we launch into the second week of both Pericles and The Tempest... and what better way to kick it off than with another great list to help you decide what to see in the remaining three weeks of our run?

Maybe you saw one of our shows last week, and you aren't sure if it's worth seeing the other as well. Or, you haven't seen either yet, but you're waffling between buying tickets for just one show, or getting a season pass. Well, you've come to the right place! Here are three great reasons why you might want to see both Pericles and The Tempest!

Why See Both Pericles and The Tempest?

1. You want to see the same group of actors in completely different roles. Since 2014, we've been a 'repertory' company. That means that the actors we hire perform in both of the plays in our season! So, in The Tempest, for example, you'll see mentor actor Trevor Hinton playing the terrifying wild fish-man Caliban, but in Pericles he plays the upstanding political adviser Helicanus. These two characters are so different that you'll barely be able to believe that Trevor is the man behind them both! Check out both plays to see how each of our actors handle the epic task of taking on two plays at once!

2. You want to balance the light with the dark. Did The Tempest leave you feeling a little too fanciful? Come see Pericles to ground you with an exploration into the darker side of human nature. Did you walk out of Pericles feeling a little too morose? Come check out The Tempest to laugh your head off and lighten up! Balance is the key to a great life - and the key to a great Shakespearean experience too!

3. You want to experience a whole day of Shakespeare in the sun! On Saturdays, we perform The Tempest in the afternoon, and Pericles in the evening. So if you're a die hard theatre fan, come join us for both shows in one day! Not only will you get the chance for an in-depth, back-to-back comparison of two very different Shakespearean plays, but you'll get to spend a whole day in the great outdoors, connecting with nature and watching the sun move across the sky. Plus, you can even order your dinner to be delivered to you from Dine In Victoria, just in time for Pericles

BONUS REASON: If you get a season ticket, you'll save a few bucks on each show!

Here at the GVSF, we'll be performing each show 12 times this July! So, suffice it to say, we are getting to know these stories very well. We've fallen in love with both stories, and we think you will as well!

Why See The Tempest?

Now that you've read a bit about why Pericles might be the choice for you this summer, it's time to take a closer look at The Tempest, so you can make a fully informed decision! Maybe you're intrigued by the darkness of Pericles, but you're not sure you want to find a sitter for your kids. Or, you're a little new to Shakespeare and you're craving a story that you're a bit more familiar with. Have no fear: our 2018 season has a show for everyone! Here are three good reasons why you might want to see The Tempest this summer!

Why see The Tempest?

1.  You love a good old 'Once Upon a Time'. While Prospera and Miranda might not get the attention that Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty do, The Tempest has all the elements of a classic fairy tale. Star crossed lovers, magical creatures, and a powerful sorceress bent on revenge. Things aren't always easy for the characters in The Tempest, but through it all, it remains a story of love and forgiveness with a satisfying 'happily ever after'.

2. You're dying for a good laugh! Want to spend a summer night full-belly laughing under a gorgeous setting sun? Then The Tempest is the show for you! Throughout the play, a brilliantly written side plot has the fantastic fools Stephano, Trinculo, and earthy island inhabitant Caliban wrapped up in a hilariously confused trio. You just might end up laughing every time they set their feet on the stage!

3. You believe that practice makes perfect. Did you know that The Tempest is the last of thirty-seven plays that Shakespeare wrote? If practice makes perfect, then The Tempest should be one of Shakespeare's best written pieces! Just think about it: he'd had 36 tries before he wrote this one, including masterpieces like Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet! So, The Tempest MUST be pretty phenomenal! But... you'll have to come see it for yourself if you want to form your own opinion on this!

BONUS REASON: The Tempest is family friendly, and children 12 and under are FREE!

Don't forget to check out the final list in this series next week: 'Why See BOTH Plays?'

 

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Why See Pericles: The Hopeful Mariner?

So, you know you want to see some fantastic summer theatre, and you’ve heard that the GVSF creates magical outdoor Shakespearean experiences… but you have no idea which play to see! Pericles? The Tempest? Or…. both!? Here is the first of three quick lists which might help you make your decision!

Why see Pericles: The Hopeful Mariner?

  1. You want to see a play about the darker sides of humanity. Do you love Macbeth? Can’t get enough of Fargo or The Handmaids Tale? Then you might find yourself captivated by Pericles; a story which doesn’t shy away from the human potential for devious acts and immoral behaviour.

  2. You’d like to see some Shakespeare you’ve never seen before! Are you a Shakespeare buff who has seen it all? An avid theatre goer who may have seen one too many renditions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Then Pericles is the show for you! Not only is this one of Shakespeare’s least performed plays, but our production is a brilliant adaptation by Bard on the Beach co-founder, Christopher Weddell which provides a fresh spin on a 400 year old tale!

  3. You want to be reminded about the enduring power of hope in a world filled with darkness. “But… I thought you just said that this play was about darkness and villainy?” … Well, yes, it is! But, Pericles is unique in that it doesn’t quite fit into the “tragedy” classification. We don’t want to give too much away… but there may just be a light at the end of the dark tunnel which is Pericles’s life!

BONUS REASON: Pericles has pirates!


Stay tuned for two more quick lists to help you make your summertime Shakespearean selection!

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It's Time for Tech Week!

Opening night is coming up fast, which means our cast and creative team are bubbling with excitement … and, of course, a healthy dose of fear!

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The week before a theatrical piece opens is usually called ‘tech week’, and it is a very special week in the rehearsal process. This week is the bridge between rehearsals and opening night. Once tech week arrives, the entire creative team changes gears, and a new vibrant energy pulses through the cast. We begin fueling ourselves with adrenaline (and coffee!), and we often find ourselves unusually consumed with our plays: running lines in our dreams, thinking through scene transitions as we stand in grocery store line ups, and conserving all our energy for our evenings -- when the magic happens!

So… what is it that makes tech week so important?

1) Once tech week begins, we stop working on individual scenes, and begin to run the play as a whole. Throughout most of the rehearsal process, we spend our evenings focusing on individual scenes, stopping and starting as we run into challenges, and paying close attention to the details in each moment. When tech week hits,  the play suddenly transforms from a patchwork of scenes into one giant story. Now, we are able to see which moments work seamlessly in the context of the whole, and which need a little extra care. We do our best to get through the full play without stopping, despite hiccups along the way,  before we gather for ‘notes’ at the end of the night when our directors have the chance to let us know what we need to do in order to make the whole piece run smoothly!

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2) We begin to get used to being ‘back stage,’ and we learn to time our entrances and exits accordingly. Now that the play is being run in its entirety, actors who aren't in particular scenes start to practice being backstage and waiting for their cue lines! Here at the GVSF, this is a particularly interesting experience, as our ‘back stage’ is really just a grassy hill! We don’t have the luxury of waiting right behind a curtain and stepping on stage at the exact moment we are needed. Instead, we enter from a any of eight different pathways leading to the stage, all of which take between 5 and 20 seconds to traverse! Since we need to ‘hit the deck,’ so to speak, at exactly the right time, it takes some practice to figure out exactly when we have to leave our grassy backstage area to make it onto the stage at exactly the right moment. Our timing becomes an essential part of the mix, as we neither want to leave an actor alone on stage while they wait for our entrance, or to arrive too early and insert our character into a scene which they aren’t meant to be in!

3) We begin to use costumes and tech. Tech week earned its name because it is usually the first week when we introduce the ‘technical’ elements of the play into the mix. This includes costumes, props, lighting, and sound! It’s amazing how invigorating these new elements can be; they help us to transform ourselves from actors into characters, and our space from a beautiful college campus into a magical new Shakespearean world! These new elements take some special care and attention. New costumes often mean that we need to learn to move differently as our characters. Quick changes between costumes backstage makes the timing of our entrances and exits even more crucial. New lighting and sound cues have to be paid attention to, so that the tone of our performances align with the tone of our environment. Each of these new moving pieces come with new phases of learning, and new opportunities for our work as actors to fully blossom! 

Right now, we only have a few days left in tech week, and our excitement is rising every day as we make more and more progress toward the the finished pieces. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we perform for an audience for the first time during our Preview nights, and then on Thursday and Friday, we open both shows! We hope to see you there!

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A Feminist Tempest

Compared to many playwrights in the 1600s (and in the 2000s!), Shakespeare did a pretty great job at writing emotionally complex, powerful, and dynamic female characters. Lady Macbeth, Queen Margaret, Rosalind, and Viola are all coveted roles which any actor would be ecstatic to play.

However, not all of Shakespeare’s plays are graced with one of these phenomenal female characters, and those plays which are, rarely include more than one leading woman in their plot. By and large, most Shakespearean roles are male characters, played by men. Sadly, this not only excludes female actors from some of the best theatre, but it also means that traditional Shakespearean productions mainly tell the stories of men, and therefore prevent female and non-binary audience members from being able to see their own stories reflected on stage.

But, it doesn’t have to stay this way! The beautiful thing about art, Shakespeare, and theatre is that we as artists have the power to shape it in the ways that serve us best.

Shakespeare brilliantly wrote about the human experience; an experience which is shared by everyone, regardless of gender. So, in order to strengthen these beautiful stories, and to work towards gendered equity on stage, thousands of Shakespearean productions all over the world are choosing to cross gender cast: that is, they are casting women and non-binary people in male roles and opening up the stories that Shakespeare tells so that they include all genders.

Here at the GVSF, we love to contribute to this beautiful movement! This year, The Tempest in particular, features some powerhouse female actors and characters. Chelsea Haberlin has cast the wonderful Wendy Magahay as Prospera, the sorceress matriarch and leading role in The Tempest, originally named Prospero and traditionally played by a man. Chelsea has also taken the classically fragile and flowery character of Miranda (Prospera’s daughter, played by Nicole Bartosinski) and transformed her into a feisty, intelligent, powerfully independent woman who has learned to be a strong leader from her mother. These choices open up new possibilities in The Tempest, one of which is to explore the nature of a mother/daughter relationship, and the ways in which we see ourselves in our children and our children in ourselves.

Last week, I sat down with Wendy and Nicole to chat about what it means to them to play these adapted characters. Check out the video below to see what they had to say!

 

Music and Shakespeare

Watching Shakespeare performed live can be a magical experience. It allows one to realize how much energy and raw emotion is written into the rhythm and cadence of Shakespeare's text. And... what better way to compliment these rhythmic textual masterpieces than with live music, written specifically for our shows?

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Finn, our music director, and chatting about music, Shakespeare, and their creative process. Not only is Finn performing in both pieces, but they are also writing a collection of original compositions to be performed within both Pericles and The Tempest!

Here's a snippet of what Finn had to say:

“Often, people portray Shakespeare as this dry classical thing, but it's not; it's full of life and music. It’s jaunty and full of vigor.”

Check out the video below to hear the rest of what they shared with me!

 

Our Pericles, Jack Hayes, Talks Geography and Challenges In Early Days of Rehearsals

At the end of our second week of Pericles rehearsals, I sat down with our Pericles, Jack Hayes, and we chatted about how the play is beginning to come together. We both agreed that the geography of Pericles has been very central to our rehearsal process to far. Here’s what he had to say!

Candace: Could you tell me a little bit about how the second week of Pericles rehearsals have gone?

Jack: They’re going very well! The play is very geographically complex, there’s lots of different spots we’re travelling to and from, so we’ve been breaking it up by which country we’re in in each scene, which has been very helpful for the cast and creative team to start to get their hooks into the material. It also helps me personally because I have to go though each place as Pericles, so dividing it this way allows me to figure out ‘What am I taking from this place as an actor’, ‘What is Pericles taking from this place?’, ‘What’s different about these places?’. It’s been very helpful to find the themes within each place, and the instances where different characters respond to similar situations quite differently.

Candace: Do you have a favourite place?

Jack: Tarsus, (and this is my grim side), because I got to watch our choreographer / movement coach Nicole work on the famine that Tarsus is gripped by. Watching her create the shape of it in the outdoor space, and then integrate it with the text which had been worked on in a separate area and seeing how that all came together was really cool. And then… I just really love Pentapolis because it’s just so quirky!

As rehearsals progress, I'm excited to continue to discover the what each of these locations can bring to our production. It feels very unusual for a play to be set across six different 'countries' (so to speak), but I think Jack is right; the episodic nature of Pericles' travels is one of the strengths of the play! It allows the audience to more fully grasp the massive scale of the plot, and allows each miniature story within the play to come alive in its own unique way. Jack didn’t elaborate about Pentapolis… so you’ll have to come see the show to find out what exactly makes it so quirky! 

Finally, I asked Jack to tell me a bit about what he finds challenging within this play. Check out his response in the video below!

Five Takeaways From Our Company Workshop With Christopher Weddell

To kick off our rehearsal processes we had a full company workshop on Shakespeare’s text, facilitated by Christopher Weddell. Here are five (of the many) takeaways that we plan to bring to the stage this summer:

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  1. Find the reason why you’re speaking in either verse or prose. Shakespeare’s writing can be categorized into two distinct styles: verse, which has a poetic meter, and prose, which does not.  Simply put, the difference comes down to whether the writing is in iambic pentameter (ten beats per line, with the emphasis on every second beat), or not. Christopher encouraged us to find the emotional reason why our characters have chosen either verse or prose, and suggested that characters who speak in prose may be trying to knock the other characters in the scene off balance in some way or another. He also reminded us that some of the most interesting moments come when our characters switch from verse to prose, or vice versa, in a single scene. There’s always a reason for this, and it’s our job as actors to find it! 

  2. Every scene is a chase scene. Christopher had us literally running through the room, dodging each other as we went, and trying to catch the attention of the actor we’d been paired with while we delivered a monologue to them. My partner was one of our junior company members, who, despite being a full foot and a half shorter than me, was shockingly fast! Having to work so hard to get his attention fueled me with an intense drive and energy while I delivered my monologue. Afterwards, Christopher said that in some ways, every scene is a chase scene. Every character is chasing something: love, commitment, excitement, revenge, or an answer to their questions. Now I’m really excited to find the metaphorical ‘chase’ in every scene, and to bring this intensity to my work on stage… even when my partner isn’t physically running away from me!

  3. Ask yourself: Why am I still speaking? It may sound a little harsh... but I love this question! It’s not very interesting to watch someone speak just because they love the sound of their own voice. Shakespeare didn't make many arbitrary decisions in his writing. So, why are you still speaking? Is it because you haven’t yet received what you wanted from the person you’re speaking to? Are they unconvinced of your point? Not only is this a clue for the speaker, but a clue for the listener. What am I doing that makes my scene partner feel that they need to keep speaking to me?

  4. Monosyllables. I love exploring the rhythm and cadence in Shakespearean language. Christopher drew our attention to places where characters use a string of monosyllabic words to make their point. Why these words? Why this choice? Monosyllables are a clue that the actor needs to s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n. Perhaps your character wants to make a very clear point. Or perhaps, as Christopher suggested, your character is using monosyllables to slow their own racing heart and gain control of their emotions. Either way, I love using textual clues like this as inspiration for character development and acting choices; it’s my favorite thing about being a Shakespearean actor!

  5. Every actor has something to teach us. Christopher reminded us all that we can learn something from every actor we work with, no matter their background. Even a first time actor has offers to give that an experienced actor can learn from. It's our job to be open to this process, and to learn as much as we can from each other! Here’s what Frankie Mulder, one of our company actors, had to say about the workshop: “[It] reminded me how much you can gain from working with actors who come from different backgrounds and training. Our casts consist of performers who are in grade school, university, college, recent post-secondary graduates, working professionals and community members. It's incredible really.”

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What is 'Table Work'? And Why Bother With It?

This May, we began rehearsals for Pericles with a full week of table work.

Table work is a rehearsal technique which is often used at the beginning of a rehearsal process to deepen the actors’ and director’s understanding of the play before beginning to stage it. It usually means that the company will spend their first few days together sitting around a large table, reading through the play, and talking about it before they worry about getting on their feet.

Our director, Christopher Weddell, chose to dedicate a full week of our rehearsal period to table work, which proved to be very valuable, especially because we are tackling a play which is so rarely produced so there is a lot to discover within the text! Pericles is set over a 17-ish year period, and it follows the adventures of a prince, (named Pericles), on the run for his life. Each scene happens in a different country from the last, which brings a succession of different inhabitants, different customs, and different challenges. Each of these scenes tells a mini-story about the lives of the people there, and how they affect Pericles and his family. Our job is to make sure that each of these vignettes serves a clear purpose, and that we know why our characters are important to the overarching narrative.

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So, how did this work? First, we read through each scene as a company, going around the table and taking turns saying each other’s lines. After each scene, we would stop and have discussions about what we’d just read. We asked questions about the language, about the characters, and about the various plot elements. After we’d gone through the entire play in this fashion, we re-focused on certain sections which Christopher thought could use some extra attention. By taking such a long period of time to complete our table work, we were able to move past the surface questions about specific wordings or character arcs, and on to deeper musings about the type of story we want to tell with our version of Pericles, and about the overarching themes and messages hidden throughout the text.

Throughout our table work, we began to notice that each of the mini-stories within Pericles can be interpreted as a morality tale which teaches Pericles, or his family members, a valuable life lesson. With this in mind, we all began to consider what lesson each of our characters brought to the story, and how we each played a part in telling this massive story.

I had a very interesting experience beginning to work through my scenes as “The Bawd”, the owner of a brothel which Pericles’s daughter Marina is sold to in the second act. When I was cast in this role, I was excited to play someone whom I considered to be a villain. The Bawd is unapologetic, harsh, and a shrewd businesswoman. But, as we worked these scenes over and over, I began to see that reducing her to a stereotypical ‘Mrs. Hannigan from Annie’, trashy antagonist would be doing her a serious disservice. I found in the text that there is a softer side to this character -- a mothering side that is protective of Marina. She also expresses complex feelings about the nature of patriarchy, and her belief that sex work is a valuable, and valid way for a woman to earn a living and live with agency and some power as an individual. Over the course of the week, The Bawd transformed before my eyes from a Disney-esque villain to a sympathetic, complex woman who struggles with many gendered issues which are still very relevant in 2018.

I wasn’t the only one to experience some transformation throughout the week. Here’s what Wendy Magahay, who is playing Dionyza – another complex female character, who first swears to raise Marina as her own, and later attempts to murder her out of jealousy – had to say about our table work:

“I admit I’d never read Pericles. And on reading, it’s a story that travels the world and takes place in a half a dozen different places – someone at the table said it was like Pericles was another Gulliver adventuring in all these different lands.  So in just reading, there were definitely times when I was a bit lost. But at the table it all fell into place. Carol’s costume designs, where the inhabitants of each land are so unique, were a huge help. And because of the way the Festival can do Shakespeare with such a large cast, each of the individual voices suddenly fell into where they belonged.  And that’s what our audience will experience. It was so valuable to have the whole cast together. And then to be reminded that these characters are people and that people do things for reasons. Not always good or kind reasons, but still for reasons. So to continually ask: Why am I here? Why am I talking? What do I offer? What do I want? How can I get it?”

After a week of work as in-depth as this, I’m excited to start putting these discoveries into practice and getting the show on its feet!

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Welcome to the ShakesBLOG!

Hello Shakespeare lovers and newcomers alike! Welcome to the first ever Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival blog post. This year, we’re going to tell stories of the creation of our two shows, The Tempest and Pericles, in blog form, so that you can follow along on our journey! Every time we create a show, we are faced with both new sets of challenges, and new exciting moments of discovery. This time around, we want to let you all in on this process, so that when you come see our finished products, you’ll have some insider knowledge about how they were created!

My name is Candace Woodland, and I’ll be your guide through these stories. This year, I’ve taken on the role of General Manager (that is, co-general manager, with the lovely Brian Quakenbush - that's a picture of the two of us below, celebrating our new positions!). I’ve also been performing with the GVSF since 2013, so I am able to have both an administrator’s and an actor’s perspective. This season, I’ll be playing the role of ‘The Bawd’ in Pericles, so I’ll be able to bring you stories directly from the rehearsal process! That said, I’m also going to include others voices in this blog, so that you can hear about both shows from a variety of perspectives.

So, here we go! Rehearsals started this month, which means the first stories are already being created. I’m so excited to share them with you! Stay tuned for new posts each week, and by the time you’re sitting on the grass, smelling the fresh air, eating your picnic dinner, and watching some good old Shakespeare at Camosun, you’ll be able to explain to all your friends exactly how we managed to create such fantastic outdoor theatre!

 

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