Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park — the country’s longest-running outdoor theatre experience — has announced the cast for its 37th season. Each year there are two alternating productions that take place throughout the summer at High Park Amphitheatre; the productions for 2019 are Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing.
This season’s productions will feature the following actors, with their Measure for Measure roles prior to the slash and their Much Ado About Nothing roles following the slash:
- Emma Ferreira (Pygmalion, Guild Festival Theatre) as Juliet/Hero
- Can Kömleksiz as Abhorson, Froth/Conrad
- Richard Lam (Peter Pan, Bad Hats/Soulpepper) as Claudio/Borrachio
- Allan Louis (Baby it’s You, Broadway) as Duke Vincentio/Leonato
- Nora McLellan (The Matchmaker, Arts Club Vancouver) as Mistress Overdone, Bernadine, Friar Thomas/Dog Berry
- Christopher Morris (LULU, Buddies in Bad Times) as Angelo/Don Peter
- Natasha Mumba (Henry V, Shaw Festival) as Isabella/Don John
- Rose Napoli (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Canadian Stage) as Mariana/Beatrice
- Jamie Robinson (Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare in High Park) as Provost/Benedick
- Heath V. Salazar (Shove it Down My Throat, Buddies in Bad Times) as Pompey/Margaret, Verges
- Helen Taylor (Wrecked, Roseneath Theatre) as Escalus, Sister Francisca/Ursula
- Emilio Vieira (Tartuffe, Canadian Stage) as Lucio/Claudio
Shakespeare in High Park gives undergraduate and graduate acting, directing, and theatre design students opportunities to work with established theatre practitioners to bring professional outdoor productions to life.
Measure for Measure is directed by actor and three-time Dora Award winner, Severn Thompson who is also currently an MFA candidate at York University in collaboration with Canadian Stage. She has directed plays at the Blythe Festival and Soulpepper, as well as performed in both the Stratford and Shaw Festivals.
Much Ado About Nothing is directed by actor, writer, and Dora Award winner Liza Balkan, who has also directed productions for Buddies in Bad Times, The Royal Conservatory of Music, The COC, The Theatre Centre and many more. She is also an MFA candidate at York University.
Both plays scrutinize and unpack themes of gender, misogyny, patriarchy, feminism, power, deception, and politics; these themes are especially relevant following the rise of the #MeToo movement.
This Measure for Measure staging is set in fictional modern-day Vienna with themes of extreme morality, political corruption, sexual harassment, mercy and justice. While a puritanical leader tries to straighten up the city with brute force and strict laws, citizens of the city devise a plan to expose the leader as hypocrite and revolt with just as much force. Though this play was written 400 years ago, the themes Shakespeare uses are clearly relevant in today’s hard-line, right-wing, zero tolerance populist movements.
This production of Much Ado About Nothing is a romantic comedy that focuses more on themes of love and war as well as the war of love. Weaving in stand-up comedy and audience interaction, the play takes place in the late-1990s, before the rise of the internet, social media culture and the horrific possibility of having something embarrassing go viral. The production — filled with misunderstandings, humour, and plot twists — focuses on the life of a wealthy government official in fictional Messina, Ontario, described as an area not too far from Muskoka. This production explores the themes of misogyny, privilege and intrigue.
Shakespeare in High Park’s 2019 season runs from July 4 to September 1. For tickets and more information, click here.
The cast for Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing answer the question:
“What do you find most exciting about performing Shakespeare outdoors?”
Emma Ferreira (Juliet/Hero)
I love outdoor theatre for its accessibility. Often people’s first experience with theatre is at an outdoor venue and I love feeling that energy from an audience. Having the opportunity to play in a world created outdoors is pure magic.
Allan Louis (Duke Vincentio/Leonato)
I love the sound and feel of the wind blowing, at just the right moment it’s magic.
Rose Napoli (Mariana/Beatrice)
Nothing keeps you humble quite like being upstaged by a squirrel.
Richard Lam (Claudio/Borrachio)
I’m so excited to act with the WORLD as our scene partner. I’m an improv boy at heart so I’m most at home working with the unexpected and being forced to discover in the moment of performance. I love the idea that the entire environment around us will be changing constantly and we’ll have to listen to it and respect it every day. (I should also probably add that I’m a year-round Toronto cyclist so I draw weird stubborn strength from bad weather).
Nora McLellan (Mistress Overdone, Bernadine, Friar Thomas/Dogberry)
I'm going to find out! I've never done it before! One of my characters is going to crawl under the stage, so I am clearly going to get to "know” High Park quite well!
Natasha Mumba (Isabella/Don John)
Being around people who are crazy enough to think playing Shakespeare under the summer sun is a good idea already let’s me know that I’m around the right kind of people! And I am! I’m so thrilled to get to play with these incredible artists all summer long!
Jamie Robinson (Provost/Benedick)
Shakespeare outdoors is the essence of why theatre is theatre, no other medium like it. The unpredictable sounds, sights and of course, weather! I love moments outdoors as an actor when an animal decides to be part of the show, or when a youngster laughs at a classical joke for the first time, or when a couple is seen falling in love. I love that a gathering of people from all over, can come together and immerse themselves wholly into universal storytelling under sunsets and stars. Shakespeare has the power to inspire, educate and amaze, and with nature as the backdrop, this atmosphere is amplified beyond what an indoor venue can offer. Outdoor Shakespeare consistently attracts new and experienced audiences of all creeds and backgrounds, and invariably transcends generations no matter the subject.
Helen Taylor (Escalus, Sister Francisca/Ursula)
Performing Shakespeare outside really makes it a magical event for both the actors and the audience. The beautiful setting, the evening air and the night sky pull us all together into a special intimacy where it seems like anything can happen.
Heath V. Salazar (Pompey/Margaret, Verges)
The most exciting thing for me about doing Shakespeare outdoors is the daily reminder of grandeur. Our city never stops and when living life from screen to screen and job to job, it's easy to forget that we are a part of something powerful. Outdoor theatre is at the mercy of the wind, the mood in the sky, the raccoon that chooses Act 3 to debut its newfound soliloquy — we can't control it because we are in service to it. In Dish with One Spoon Territory, there have been nations caring for this land for before my imagination can span and working outdoors is a reminder to me of how quickly it can slip away if we don't continue to care for it as we are invited to in the treaty.
Emilio Vieira (Lucio/Claudio)
Coming together with an audience to share Shakespeare’s words under an open sky is exhilarating. There’s something special about speaking of celestial beings like the moon and the stars while they sit above for all to see.
Christopher Morris (Angelo/Don Peter)
What I find most exciting about performing outdoors is the air and the heat. You just can't control it and there is something so magical about having a warm breeze carry your performance to the audience.
Can Kömleksiz (Abhorson, Froth/Conrad)
Playing Shakespeare outside integrates nature to the playground. Daily interaction with natural components like weather and audience (as a part of a relaxed environment) will be exciting to discover for me. I can't wait to feel the difference between a windy night and a hot calm night in High Park.