Outdoor theatre

Announcing our New Artistic Director

By | Outdoor theatre, Shakespeare | 2 Comments

My adult life has be characterized by radical geographic change, moving from Montreal to London, then to New York City, and then to Toronto in under ten years. I’ve thrived on shaking it up and seeking re-invention. It’s enabled some incredible adventures and opportunities, but I always sensed that it also left me missing something; a sense of community. When Brendan approached me about re-starting Shakespeare in the Rough (now Ruff), in 2011, I began my journey of finding that sense of community. 

When, over a year ago, Brendan reminded us that we needed to start thinking about a new Artistic Director, I automatically thought, ‘well, I guess I’ll leave too. We’ve had a good run, and after all, I came with Brendan, it only makes sense that I leave with him, five years as the Associate Artistic Director seems like enough.’

My need for re-invention and change kicked in, and then something else kicked in; a realization that my dedication to this company has grown beyond one person and is connected to the community we’re a part of. I realized that I now have that thing in my life that throughout my 20’s I felt was missing. I have learned so much being a part of Ruff, grown, and struggled, and delighted in the successes of everyone involved. Have felt supported in tough times and have met so many wonderful people along the way.

I am not ready to leave Ruff behind. I’m part of a company of people whom I adore and respect and am challenged by, and a Board of Directors who help us make our wildest visions come to life. Shakespeare in the Ruff is a platform to share Shakespeare’s incredible plays and we get to do that with the most generous community of people who join us in Withrow Park every summer. I love Shakespeare. Since reading Hamlet in Grade 11 and dreading the day we got to Act V, knowing he would die, I was hooked. I love seeing his plays, acting in them, and talking about them. I love so much of what Shakespeare’s writing has to offer and also have some serious beef with other elements of it.

I know we are at an advantage; our society makes a lot of room for Shakespeare, so my intention is to consciously populate that space with people who are less commonly offered that megaphone. To look at his plays from a less traditional angle, to defy convention, and to make them our own.

And a large part of addressing this has to do with how we cast our shows; casting at least as many women as men in our shows and having people of colour in lead roles is a priority for me. That may not sound revolutionary (and many companies across this city are doing it!), but until it is a given, until it is done at the highest level, until it is the new norm, viva la revolution!

In a country that is so diverse in culture and in language, where gender equality is being touted on every level, why is theatre, and Shakespeare in particular, an exception? Because it was written that way? I don’t believe that it has survived for 400 years simply because it was written that way. It has survived because it has the quality to be deeply personal, reinvented, twisted into knots, and thrive because of it.

Brendan & Kaitlyn during rehearsals for Macbeth: Walking Shadows

I feel ready to take on this beautiful challenge, in large part because I follow in the footsteps of an incredible leader. Brendan McMurtry-Howlett has an infectious spirit, mobilizing those who have been and those who are Shakespeare in the Ruff. It’s one thing to take the reigns of a company that has a loyal audience base, decent infrastructure, and operating funding, and it’s another things to start something from nothing more than the shadow of a past company and make it into something so vital. Brendan stepping down is something he said he would do from the beginning; ‘I’ve got five years in me, and then I’ve got to move on’. And true to his word, he is. We will miss him very much, but his passion and vision for this company have infected us all. As he transitions into being an Artistic Associate, I know that his creative presence will also play a role in how the company evolves.

So that’s what we’re aiming for and what I want for Ruff moving forward. No small feat and impossible to do alone. Thankfully I’m not; with Eva Barrie, AJ Richardson, and Caitlin Sullivan, we forge on creating the accessible, joyful, challenging work that Ruff is known for, while running our Young Ruffian Apprenticeship Program for teens in tandem.

I’m so excited to share what we have in store for our sixth season, which we’ll be announcing in early May. So here we go…the readiness is all.

-Kaitlyn Riordan

2016 Season Announcement

By | Acting, Events, Outdoor theatre, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare | 3 Comments

Drum roll please… We are very excited to announce that this summer, Andrea Donaldson will be directing ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in Withrow Park. Both a highly creative mind and an East End resident, Andrea brings a fresh perspective to our landmark fifth season. Some of her most recent work includes ‘Within the Glass’ at The Tarragon Theatre, where she is the Associate Artistic Director, and ‘Mistatim’ at The Young People’s Theatre, starring Ruff’s own Brendan McMurtry-Howlett. Below you’ll get a glimpse of both Andrea’s passion for this play and the strong theatrical potential of our home base, Withrow Park.

“I am interested in creating a beautiful summer evening which is inspired by love, inspired by the environment, inspired by the outdoors. That people can come and lay out a blanket and sit with their kids or their lovers or their friends and go from fights to really beautiful intimate romantic moments to huge moments in scale that can only happen with this huge outdoor environment.

A big piece of my interest in working outside is operating under the notion that the space in and of itself holds so much information and opportunity. The limitations that is poses are also opportunities in disguise. Having to locate where sundown is going to happen, having to imagine how the trees that I’m looking at right now, in the winter, will look when they’re perfectly green and lush. How do we use the space, how do we enjoy the field that is 60 feet long, when in a theatre we typically only have 20-30 feet in depth. All of these things feel like huge gifts for me and actually a real source of inspiration as a starting point to ask – what are all the things we can do outside that we can’t possibly do inside with four walls and a ceiling?

While I don’t know what that evening’s going to look like really precisely yet, the things I do know is that it’s going to be really beautiful. I know that this Romeo & Juliet wants to be a story about two really unlikely young people who aren’t drawn to each other because they should be, but because they can’t help it. There’s an inexplicable force that’s connecting the two of them that doesn’t make sense in their world. I think that that’s truly what love is, the force of love, the power of love, and the power of healing that love can have.”

Cymbeline Series-BONUS Edition

By | Cymbeline, Outdoor theatre, Shakespeare, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

We are so thankful to directors Anita Rochon, Dawn McCaugherty, and Antoni Cimolino, who have shared their take on Cymbeline with us over the past month in our Cymbeline Series. Now that Ruff’s production is up and running, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, our Artistic Director and director of Cymbeline’s Reign, tackles the same three questions we put to these thoughtful and generous theatre practitioners.

1. For a title character, King Cymbeline has very little time on stage and no time alone with the audience. How did you ensure that audiences would connect with him? Do you think the play would be better served by a different title?

Well, we did change the title of the play. And I guess this is as good a place as any to discuss our adaptation – what we did to the original script and why.

Shakespeare’s original script is an epic and intricately woven story filled with beauty, compassion, and morbid humour. Every seemingly insignificant detail laced into this story ends up playing a key role in the play’s famous final scene where everything is resolved in what can only be described as a miracle. The original, with all of the myriad plot details, would run at about three hours which is just not possible for us in our park setting, so cuts and edits are required.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the moment you cut one word from Shakespeare, you are creating an adaptation – you are making decisions about what to focus on for your own individual production for your own specific audience. In an attempt to “do justice” to the play, often cuts are made evenly across the board to keep every element of the original in the edited script while reducing the content to roughly half of the original. What I’ve often experienced in these cases is that although a gesture of all of the play’s original elements are included in the edited version, what remains resembles more an excavated medical cadaver than a living and breathing play.

In our approach, we opted to fully embrace the spirit of adaptation and, as such, changed the name of the play to let our audiences know that what they would be seeing was not the original Shakespeare script, but rather our artists’ creation specifically for our audience and setting. I’m proud to say that it’s a world premiere of an original Shakespeare play.

Another aspect we focused on in our decision to adapt were elements in the original that were key social issues of the day when Shakespeare wrote the play in 1610-1611 – mainly the notion of needing a male heir of royal blood in order for security and harmony to be reestablished in the kingdom. In the original script this is done through the reemergence of Imogen’s missing brothers, which allows Imogen to marry an orphan boy without her family losing the throne. I could go into all the political reasons as to why this element was crucial to Shakespeare’s era when he wrote the play, but the basic fact is, the notion of maintaining a class system led by men, is contrary to the kind of society we all wish to live in today.

By no means is this the only thing we’re left with at the end of this play. It could be argued that in a modern production, this element may not even be noticed by audiences and, therefore, could be argued to be irrelevant. But I firmly believe that as artists and storytellers, we need to take full responsibility for what we put out into the world. I didn’t feel it would responsible considering my feminist upbringing to put that kind of story into the world – my mother would disown me.

Now, just to be clear we had no interest in creating a polemic rant against male-centric hierarchy (although a good rant now and again doesn’t hurt). We wanted to focus on the miracle of compassion and acceptance which I believe is truly at the heart of Shakespeare’s original, so we opted to simply remove the male-heir-restoring-harmony element.

In our extensive research on this play (which surprisingly uncovered a long history of derision and dismissal of this play from over a century of critics) we discovered many fascinating adaptations along the way. George Bernard Shaw felt so affronted by what he deemed the ridiculous nature of Shakespeare’s final scene in this play that he decided to re-write the whole 5th act – if you’re curious, click HERE to read it.

The most exciting thing we found was an adaptation written in 1779 by British poet Henry Brooke. He rewrote the entire play, using Shakespeare’s characters and basic premise but taking it in quite a different direction (spoiler alert: there’s an insane human sacrifice scene at the end). The most interesting thing that Brooke did was completely remove the plot line of the missing brothers in the cave and instead focused in on the journey of Posthumus and Imogen. This was one possible approach we had already been discussing and took the uncovering of Brooke’s script as a sign to continue. Brooke also fleshed out the story of the Queen’s plot to usurp the throne, which we found intriguing. Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to have that amazing character on stage more!

Inspired by Brooke’s play, we took pieces of his text and pieces of text from what must be more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s other plays to remove the brothers plot line and fill in the many holes that their removal created. Instead, we sharpened the focus on Imogen’s journey and renamed the play Cymbeline’s Reign to highlight the idea that although King Cymbeline isn’t the main character in our play, everything stems from the decisions he makes. He is both the first and last obstacle put between lovers Imogen and Posthumus. (If anyone is curious to read Henry Brooke’s script, send us an email and we’ll point you in the right direction!)

2. Most deus ex machina (god from the machine) moments are vital to the story. Jupiter’s descent on the back of an eagle in Cymbeline is often cut and feels less integrated than many similar interventions by the Gods in other plays. What was your take on this moment and how important a role did the unseen whims of the deities play?

Researching this play, reading and re-reading it along with all of Shakespeare’s other “Romances” (Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, Two Noble Kinsmen), it’s clear these late-career plays took a sharp turn away from the great tragedies for which Shakespeare is known. The main difference that I noted was that the driving action of the play is propelled by individual characters’ thoughts and actions and how they influence the world around them, for better or for worse. We follow one, or a few main characters’ psychological journeys as they cope with the decisions they make and the consequences that arise from those decisions. But in the “Romances”, Shakespeare seemed far more interested in how a character’s journey was shaped by external elements outside of their control that pulled or pushed them through the action of the play. The main characters are more like swallows in a strong headwind, rather than the great engines in his earlier plays.  Reading Dan Falk’s recent blog post connected a lot of dots for me based on what I was seeing in these plays  – at the time of Shakespeare’s shift into the Romances, there was a huge change happening in science and society where, because of Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s four moons, humans started to really understand the notion that planet Earth, and therefore all humans, were not at the centre of the universe, but are just a miniscule part of something much larger.

In Cymbeline, as well as in Pericles and Two Noble Kinsmen, Shakespeare uses the metaphor of the Roman and Greek Gods, to represent those external elements. In Shakespeare’s original script, the final moment of the play is a deciphering of a tablet left for Posthumus by the god Jupiter, which essentially tells all of the mortals that all of the fantastical and unbelievable things that happened to them over the course of the play were in fact all coordinated by Jupiter himself (and his pet eagle).

Jupiter’s decent on the back of an eagle before Posthumus is the physical manifestation of the idea that Posthumus doesn’t have all the answers. Although he attempts to control his destiny in his quest for death, this moment reminds him that he doesn’t necessarily have control over his own life, which in this case, turns out to be a good thing. In our adaptation, we have not cut Jupiter, but have actually heightened the moment of intervention that exists in Shakespeare’s original and made it more direct.

3. Cymbeline isn’t produced very often, especially in Canada; is it just the ebb and flow of fashion, or are people are afraid to do it? And if so, why? 

It’s a hell of a thing to produce – fight sequences, figuring out what to do with Jupiter, worrying that the audience might get lost in the labyrinthine plot twists. But I think more than the logistical nightmare it poses, this play, more than his others, doesn’t have much life on the page. It reads more like an entire season’s worth of soap opera plots condensed into one play. I found it incredibly hard at first to figure out what was actually at the heart of each scene and what characters wanted from each other moment to moment.

I don’t think that it’s an accident that many generations of critics haven’t had many positive things to say about this play – it’s not a piece that holds up to academic and literary analysis and lacks the poetic language of Shakespeare’s better-known plays. It only truly comes alive at full-speed. The scenes and each character’s drive starts to make a lot more sense when you remove any time to think; all of the characters act and react from pure impulse. None of the characters really think anything through; they simply don’t have time with all of the elements of their world applying pressure on them.

In rehearsals I told all of the actors that this play wouldn’t make much sense until we got it up to speed. I kept encouraging them to speak and do faster than they could think. The recurring questions of, “why does Imogen do this bizarre thing in this moment? Why does Posthumus make this insane decision here?” started getting answered when we removed the characters’ time for deep analysis of their situation. When the actors started to act from the gut, they found that the choices their characters made responded far more to their emotional state than to any kind of deep psychology. I found myself learning far more about the scenes and the play watching the actors in action than I did from reading the play two dozen times on my own.

When reading it the first time, one can get a very simplistic view of the play and these characters, reducing them to archetypes without much depth, but when you put them into action, they come alive. You’ve got to have a lot of courage and trust in Shakespeare to believe that what you read on the page is just the very beginning of this “beautiful mountain” as Antoni Cimolino so aptly put it.

10 Easy Steps to Ruff by Sheila Macdonald

By | Cymbeline, Outdoor theatre, Shakespeare | No Comments

Shakespeare in the Ruff’s production of Cymbeline’s Reign ran in Withrow Park during the summer of 2014

1. Gather friends/family/children/dogs

Everyone is welcome. The more the merrier! Ruff performs an abbreviated version of Shakespeare’s best that is easy to follow and an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.

2. Head to Withrow Park by 6:30

The performance officially starts at 7:30, but if you want to get the best seating, you should plan on coming around 6:30. There is plenty of time before the show starts to enjoy a picnic and some music (see below).

3. Bring a picnic

Outdoors on a summer’s night in beautiful Withrow Park is the perfect setting for a picnic. Enjoy nature in the heart of the city. Pack up those sandwiches and pickles and come to nosh!

4. Bring a blanket or some lawn chairs

The Ruff “stage” is between two trees at the bottom of a small hill with an aisle up through the middle of the audience. You can sit on the hill on a blanket or at the top of the hill in lawn chairs. Either way you are right in the middle of the action. We have extra blankets and chairs for rent, but bring your own to avoid disappointment.

5. Pay the nice volunteers what you can 

We don’t want to turn anyone away, so Ruff is a “Pay What You Can” (PWYC) admission. If you’re not sure, we suggest $15 per person is fair. All monies collected go towards producing the performance which includes paying our actors, who invest so much into this company with very little financial return. So, show them some love and pay what you can, if you can.

6. Eateth, drinketh and be merryeth

While you are enjoying your picnic and waiting for the play to begin, enjoy the musical guests who perform almost every night from 7:00pm. We showcase local musicians who are friends of Ruff or members of the Withrow Park community. 

As a special treat, the night of August 16th, the Young Ruffians will perform. These are high school students who have completed the Young Ruffian Apprenticeship Program, an intensive program with an emphasis on performing Shakespeare where participants learn and work alongside our professional company. Read more about the Young Ruffians.

7. Sit back and enjoy the performanceRUFF_EAGLE1

 Cymbeline’s Reign is being directed by Ruff’s Artistic Director Brendan McMurtry-Howlett who states “Cymbeline = Crazy-Amounts-Of-Fun” and “…it is a piece created as an exploration of new forms of storytelling…” Read all Brendan has to say.

8. Share your experience with more friends/family

Ruff is a small theatre company and only in its third year. We don’t have the budget to advertise so we count on you, our community and our fans, to help us get the word out. Please tell everyone about your experience and encourage them to join us in Withrow Park this August.

9. Stay in touch

We want to hear from you and would love it if you’d agree to hear from us. Please subscribe to our email list, “Like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram. You’ll hear all about our plans, performances and events and we will get to learn what you thought of the performance, so get in touch.

10. Repeat 

The beauty of live theatre is that it’s different every night, and with the sunsets, music series, and passersby, you can bet that an evening with us will never be the same twice, so please do join us again. Now go to #1.

Sheila Macdonald is one of Ruff’s dedicated Board Members as well as an avid theatregoer. We’ve learned that trusting Sheila’s advice gets us far, so you should too.

Ptarmigan-playing August 30th

Highlights from ‘Between the Trees’: Ruff’s Pre-show Music Series

By | Cymbeline, Outdoor theatre, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ptarmigan (playing August 30th)


Highlights from ‘Between the Trees’ running Aug 12th-31st

by General Manager and Resident Musician, Brooklyn Doran

Our production of Cymbeline’s Reign begins tomorrow night and our pre-show music series is going to be off the hook! The ‘Between the Trees’ pre-show music series sees local and emerging musicians share in our evening of magic by performing a half-hour of music before our mainstage production. This year we are inviting back some seasoned veterans and familiar faces, as well as welcoming some brand new emerging talents to the stage and we couldn’t be happier!

Every musician featured this year is mega-talented! If you’re in the neighbourhood, I’d suggest coming back to the park every evening to feast your ears on some of these artists’ offerings. It’s an incredible way to find out about new music, and experience the magic of Shakespeare in the park at the same time! If you like what you’re hearing, many of them will have their music for sale at our Box Office . 

Three Seasons and the Move

Here is a little preview of some of the artists who’ll be joining us this year. All three of these feature a little bit of banjo!

Familiar Faces: Three Seasons And The Move (August 15th)

This year we’re excited to welcome back Three Seasons and The Move who played opening night for our production of Richard III last year. Three Seasons and The Move is an eclectic group of musicians who straddle folk, pop and rock genres. Their music is funky, danceable, timeless and Canadian. If you didn’t catch them last year between the trees, now is definitely the time. Your toes will be tapping and your hearts will be soaring. Preview track here

First Time Favourites: Crooked House Road (August 29th)

Crooked House Road is a Toronto­-based indie, folk, pop outfit comprised of Shaina Silver­-Baird (lead vocals/violin), Mirian Kay (vocals/guitar) and Tom Mifflin (vocals/piano), joined by Derek Gray (percussion), Darren Eedens (banjo) and Matthew Riggs (bass).

 Folk music wrapped in delicious harmony, Crooked House Road helmed by Shaina Silver-Baird’s powerhouse vocals is a band to watch out for. Foot-stompin’ fun- Crooked House Road will get you dancing up out of your seats and revved up for an evening in the park. The raw power and emotion of the vocals paired with the incredible musicianship of this band makes for a sweet, sweet set that is not to be missed. 
Don’t believe me? Check the evidence:

[youtube_video] KwzCgCysI_A [/youtube_video]

All In The Family: 

Ptarmigan (August 30th)

Ruff Artistic Director, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, isn’t the only one in the McMurtry clan overflowing with talent. We’re thrilled that cousin Peter McMurtry’s band, Ptarmigan, is returning this summer to bless our ears with their music! 

If you haven’t heard of Ptarmigan yet, I suggest you come to Withrow Park on August 30th to bask in the glory that is their catchy, brilliantly-crafted folk music. It is the perfect score for watching the last rays of sun drain from the summer sky before the park is lit with the explosive performances in our production of Cymbeline’s Reign. Preview track here

Can’t make any of the above dates? Don’t fret! Every single evening is sure to please with music that is equally impressive and beautiful. The full list of our ‘Between the Trees” performers can be found HERE.

Cymbeline Series-Part II

By | Cymbeline, Outdoor theatre, Shakespeare, Uncategorized | One Comment

Cymbeline doesn’t land on most people’s lists of Top 10 Shakespeare plays, maybe not even Top 20. For this reason, we spoke to three people who have directed this play to get their take on a few questions that we’ve tackled since deciding to produce it. 

Second up in our series, is the founding director of Shakespeare in the Rough, the company that provided the inspiration for Ruff, Dawn McCaugherty. The company was founded in 1994, and their first production was Cymbeline.  

Cymbeline was the first full length Shakespeare I directed and is still dear to my heart. I’ve always been drawn to the ‘fairy tale elements’ of the story – the evil queen, idiot stepson, true and honest servant, lecherous cad, sleeping beauty a.k.a Imogen and, in this case, the three ‘dwarves’ living in the cave in the forest (I take liberties with this assessment). It’s a bit like a roller coaster ride – you leap in at the start, hold on tight through the middle and jump off a little dizzy, though elated, at the end. Of course, it also challenges us to consider faithfulness in the face of deception and jealousy, murderous vengeance and the relative merits of Britain vs. Rome. Never a dull moment!

In the spring of 1994, I was preparing to leave TO at the end of the summer and return to Alberta for a few months before heading off to Vancouver to accept a semester of teaching in UBC’s BFA Acting program. I had been teaching at York and have a memory of being at an end of term party speaking with Roy Lewis of how great it would be to work together before I headed out – and, surprisingly, him agreeing. Now, this is twenty years ago; there is a lot of water under many bridges since then and I never trust my memory much at the best of times, but history is determined to some degree by those who record it – and I’ve been asked to write of the origins of Shakespeare in the Rough. I knew I wanted to do Shakespeare and was excited right away at the possibility of doing an outdoor production in a very simple setting, having a frolicking good time with friends in a park somewhere. Little did I know what a labour of love it would become, for all of the brave souls that became involved. I spoke early on with good friends Sally Szuster and David Caron, and the three of us eventually became the co-founders of that first incarnation of Shakespeare in the Rough, though it didn’t become clear until after Cymbeline closed that there was desire on the part of many, if not most company members, to continue.That launched the company on a trajectory through several evolutions, happily leading most recently to the re-birth as Shakespeare in the Ruff.

Todd Sandomirsky, Michelle Martin, & Roy Lewis

Todd Sandomirsky, Michelle Martin, & Roy Lewis

There was a lot to sort out in a big hurry that year. I honestly can’t recall at what point or why Cymbeline leapt to the front of the selection line. I’m sure the ensemble nature of the piece, a balance of interesting roles, and the fact that the play is seldom performed made it irresistible. Almost everyone in the cast that year was a good friend, which could well be why they agreed so readily to be involved. There certainly wasn’t any remuneration to speak of. I don’t think at the time many of us were Equity, though I might have that wrong. The company included (in no particular order) Roy Lewis, Michelle Martin, Todd Sandomirsky, Richard Vaillancourt, Paulino Nunes, Brad Borbridge, Rick Howland, Stephanie Moore, Mark Ellis, Catherine McNally, Robert Kennedy, Roddy Muir, Fred Matern, Fight Choreography – Simon Fon, Stage Management – Shanna Miller, Costumes/Props – Charmaine Peters. We also had the backing of many good friends and supporters, including Michael Kelly (Shakespeare in Action) and David Smukler. (I know I’ve missed some people and hope they will forgive me. I’m blaming my terrible memory and inability to find a program in my files). The early rehearsals held in my kitchen or backyard (tiny) patio, focused mainly on the text work, before moving into the park. As the actors and I unraveled the text, Sally, David and others were arranging insurance, contacts with city officials, support for the project and city approval, publicity and marketing, searching for indoor rehearsal space near the site and all the other myriad tasks that producing requires. It was exciting and terrifying, that sense of running uphill as the scree slid down, with no doubt that we would reach the summit.

That first year we wound up in Riverdale Park, on a piece that wasn’t too sloped, the audience facing out towards the Don Valley Parkway. Our playing area was completely exposed to environmental sounds – aircraft, traffic – and all the elements. The sheeting we had chosen to use as a backdrop for our scenes, and to block the view of the traffic downhill, worked like a charm – until the wind picked up. I have vivid, hilarious memories of one particular performance where every actor not out in a scene, as well as my visiting father and I, was behind, braced and hunched with fingers hooked into the sheeting in the struggle to keep the wind from blowing it into the audience. One of my favourite aspects of Shakespeare in the Rough once we moved into Withrow Park was the vista it afforded to introduce relationships and observe entrances and exits at a distance behind the action of the written scenes. In fact, when we moved to Withrow, there was a sense of winning the lottery!

1. For a title character, King Cymbeline has very little time on stage and no time alone with the audience. How did you ensure that audiences would connect with him? Do you think the play would be better served by a different title?

“I guess I’d have to say that I’ve never considered this the story of Cymbeline. For me, it is Imogen’s story; it is her trials we follow and through her loyalty and determination we learn something of love. Perhaps, though, the title is meant to draw attention to events occurring during this reign. The play takes place in ancient Britain, at a time after Rome has invaded and is requiring tributes paid to the conqueror. The name Posthumous indicates Roman heritage and when exiled, he returns to Italy. But when he returns with the Roman forces, he abandons them to fight on the side of the British, who ultimately win the battle. I wonder if, in titling the play as he has, Shakespeare is not drawing our attention to the supremacy of the British, adding to the sense of order and justice being restored at the end of the play, and placing the story in a broader context than simply a love story.”

2. Most deus ex machina (god from the machine) moments are vital to the story. Jupiter’s descent on the back of an eagle in Cymbeline is often cut and feels less integrated than many similar interventions by the Gods in other plays. What was your take on this moment and how important a role did the unseen whims of the deities play?

“I regret to say I have absolutely no recollection of how we handled that. I know it was not cut as I seldom cut significantly when directing Shakespeare. I suppose I like the challenge of puzzling out how it can work if everything is left in, as close as possible to the text produced during the playwright’s time. But what brilliant stage mechanics we executed from behind our sheet background may be forever lost to the annals of theatre history. Perhaps one of the founding company members might be able to offer this information?”

3. Cymbeline isn’t produced very often, especially in Canada; is it just the ebb and flow of fashion, or are people are afraid to do it? And if so, why? 

“What a great question. It is a script that poses challenges, no doubt, and is not without problems. Co-authorship may be a possibility, as some of the text seems not of Shakespeare’s quality. The characters at times verge to stereotypes and the plot twists can be serpentine. I think, though, these issues are no more pronounced than in some in the oft produced works. Perhaps what prevents companies from tackling this play is the schism between what might seem sections of broad melodrama or comedy, such as those featuring Cloten, and the dramatic more tragic sequences, as Imogen’s struggles once she learns of the death threat. It resists falling comfortably into one style or category and requires boldness in approach. Maybe it hasn’t been seen as ‘serious enough’ to be a contender for production when measured alongside the great tragedies, resounding histories or whimsical comedies. But the play stands on its own merit and plays well to audiences. I am encouraged that in 2014 there have been several productions: Bard on the Beach (Vancouver), the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington), Portland Center Stage, Raleigh North Carolina and the film starring Ethan Hawke is due for release soon. And, of course, Ruff is doing it! I only wish I could be there. Have fun, all, I’m sure it will be a fantastic run!”

Next week we speak to someone who had the resources to hire actors to play every part in the play. Including Jupiter and his eagle, we assume.