#16 – Victoria Urquhart

Victoria Urquhart is a Toronto-based actor and director from Caledon. She is also a graduate from the University of Windsor’s 2010 B.F.A. Acting Program. This training has helped her to develop a focus on marrying Physical Theatre Practices with Classical Text. This fascination, combined with her leadership and organizational skills developed through working six consecutive summers at a residential camp have led her to a passion for directing, and the creation of The Spur-Of-The-Moment Shakespeare Collective in Toronto. Through the SOTMSC, she has directed, produced, and sometimes performed in several community projects, including the Shakespeare-On-The-Subway Project, several sessions of Shakespeare-In-Hospitals, and JULIUS CAESAR PROJECT, garnering 4 N’s from NOW magazine at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. Other theatre credits include: Waiting for Alonzo with Empty Box Theatre (2015), Teach Me with Newborn Theatre, and Macbeth with Hart House Theatre.

Film Credits Include: Red Lark with Funro Productions (1st runner up in Toronto’s 48Hr Film Festival) and Misinformed with Stratasfear Productions.

Twitter: @gnitenet
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http://spurofthemomentshakespeare.weebly.com/

Shakesbeers Showdown: https://www.facebook.com/events/982597821848312/

Shakespeare Lives Micro Festival in Toronto https://www.facebook.com/events/1261842920510338/

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Transcript

Transcript auto generated. 

Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 16 of the Stageworthy podcast I’m your host, Phil Rickaby. On Stageworthy I interview people who make theatre actors, directors, playwrights and more and talk to them about everything from why they chose the theatre to their work process and anything in between. You can find stage really on Facebook and Twitter at stage where the pod and you can find the website it’s stage really podcast.com. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use, and consider leaving a comment or rating. My guest is Victoria Urquhart, an actor and director from Toronto. She’s also the founder of the spur of the moment Shakespeare collective in Toronto bringing Shakespeare to places like the Toronto subway and more recently into hospitals. And if you’re listening to this podcast when it comes out, check out the fifth annual Shakespeare’s shakes beers showdown on April 24 2016.

We were we were talking just sort of on the way over about sort of your it’s okay, if I don’t want to burn you. So the waters. Thank you. Thank you. So we’re talking about how, when you came out of theatre school, people told you a bunch of things,

Victoria Urquhart
there was a lot of you shouldn’t you shouldn’t do this piece. You should do this piece for theatre Ontario. And, you know, you need to be careful about doing this. And for me I guess I felt a little bit of a contradiction because I wanted to give the pieces that I felt best represented me. And I was being told what best represented me and I kind of went well, you know, thanks for your feedback. But and you know, in all fairness, I was just learning so much about myself as an actor at that point. But no one can really tell you what best represents you but you and and along the way you definitely learn some different things about yourself and you definitely throw yourself into weird outlets and and make mistakes but yeah, that I think it still comes down to nobody can nobody can really represent you better than you.

Phil Rickaby
Those pieces that they were telling you not to do. Were they overdone were they were they like super well known pieces.

Victoria Urquhart
They were they were a little overdone. Some of them were were more on the superunknown side. There was actually there was a piece that I was told not to do. It was from it was from goodnight, Desdemona Good morning, Juliet. And I was told, you know, don’t do that everybody does that. But I love Constance as a character. And I remember using that monologue. After after I graduated. I actually after that, I kind of kicked those pieces to the curb, and they became my, maybe my back pocket pieces every once in a while. But I, after I got out of school, I was like, You know what I’m gonna do the pieces that I want to do. Yeah, and here’s this piece and this piece and this comedy in this comedy. And they it became a lot easier for me after that. I was also in a class of amazing, lovely ladies who were all in some way or another an ingenue. So I was told that I was more of a quirky best friend. Well, that’s true of you know, that’s true in a context in a comparison to everyone else in my class. But the first role that I got coming out of school was an ingenue role. And I hadn’t even it wasn’t until that happened, that I started considering that I might be able to play that.

Phil Rickaby
It’s so hard in theatre school, figuring out what roles you’re going to play when you get out. Yeah, because there’s always somebody who’s, he’s got the oldest face. So we’re going to give him all the old man characters and he’s 20 he’s never going to play those roles. So what are you telling him? Yeah, what his career is going to be like, and then he gets out of theatre. When all this stuff he’s got is like the old man parts and,

Victoria Urquhart
and especially in Toronto, it’s, it’s always reflective of the community. Because this like theatre is always about community. Yeah. So if you were doing theatre in a community where predominantly the demographic is, you know, a bunch of older white dudes, well, then you’re probably gonna get a show that showcases a lot of older white dudes. Now, having said that, there’s a lot of Toronto communities that need to be seen a need to be represented and aren’t being represented. It’s like,

Phil Rickaby
it’s the community of old white dudes who really need to see not old white dude.

Victoria Urquhart
Yeah, no big time. Cool, big time.

Phil Rickaby
It’s like I saw an article. I think I just talked about this, like the other day with somebody about how they saw some kind of survey that came out of England where it was like overwhelming majority says they could not accept the female Hamlet. And I was like, well, that means that they really need a female Hamlet. You know,

Victoria Urquhart
theatre is not just about, you know, the, the entertainment and the escapism, at the end of the day, some people go and see theatre for many different reasons. Yeah. You know, like, we would spur I do the Shakespeare in hospitals programme. Yeah. And

Unknown Speaker
even before you’re referring

Victoria Urquhart
to the moment, yeah, spur the moment Shakespeare collective, I do the Shakespeare in hospitals programme. And we see the we see theatre happening from many different reasons. And it is so far beyond escapism. And of all places, you’d think that it would be about escapism, and it would be about just the relief. But relief comes about in many different ways. Sometimes it’s escapism, sometimes it’s catharsis, sometimes people want to see someone hurt just as much as they’re hurting right then and there. Sometimes it’s about trying to find that little kernel of of enlightenment, yeah. That isn’t necessarily relief, but it’s, it’s some, it’s some phrase or some some mindset that they can they can ascribe to for that day, you know, it’s the same as affirmations. Yeah. There’s a lot of different reasons why we go and see theatre. And I think that, that’s, that’s just what we need to remember when we are looking at, you know, how, how each community is being represented, and how and what theatre is happening in what community? Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
I think Shakespeare for an audience is such an unusual thing, because the people who really need to see it, are the people who don’t want to see it. Like, you know, the subscribers to so many different theatres are predominantly ageing out. And the people who you really want to get in there, especially for Shakespeare, and things like that, hate it, because it was sort of rammed down the throats, for fashion, in theory in high school. When you’re performing it in a hospital that you are performing with spur the moment in, like for all audiences or do you find that there is an excuse to a particular demographic, or

Victoria Urquhart
I mean, the, the hospitals, the hospital scene has a specific demographic and part of I mean, part of the touring aspect is that each facility we go to has a slight change in that demographic has a slight characteristic, there’s a kind of an overall arc, but then though, there will be little, little, little little differences that we noticed. Yeah. In that sense, we do have a particular demographic that we that we cater to, which is answering one part of that question, and I forget what the other

Phil Rickaby
I think it was about except for get to I it was more of a it was about the the the question of, you know, your demographic, you know, often we see the demographic

Victoria Urquhart
of rage, Shakespearean experience denigrating the plays. Yeah, definitely. I mean, there are there are too many schools that I’ve taught it for the stories and not for the people. It’s amazing. We just had a debate series between Dylan Brenton of wolf Manor theatre, and Michael Kelly of Have Shakespeare in Action. And Michael was, so the debate went to so many lovely places, Michael was so adamant on the fact that, you know, we need to, we need to really focus in on, on what these people are saying, as humans, we really need to connect with that. And I remember him saying, you know, give me like, give me this amount of time in a room with these with with these kids, and they will like Shakespeare walking out of it, because of the way that we’re, that we’re going like that, that I can go without teaching it. And, and I believe that that’s very, that’s very true. With the way that it has set up a lot of our demographics. Now, this is why I believe that one, we need to make sure that we are, we are staging versions that are, I want to say I want to say that are you know, addressing present themes. And I mean, they’re all addressing things that are that are universal and very connected to the present. But for example, we’re doing Julius Caesar project right now. And that is set in a women’s prison. And it’s a mid security, women’s prison. And as we go about this, our director, Jane Spence is fantastic. Because she, for so many reasons, but the one thing that really makes me that makes me I get excited, is that we, when we examine the language, we’re looking at how this language fits into this world, and how this world as vice versa, fits into this language. As but as a part of that, you know, we get to those moments where it’s like, oh, what does like we just got into rehearsal today? And I said, Okay, well augurs in, in the sense of the original story talks about fortune tellers. But I, I mean, there couldn’t be a fortune teller in this prison. I don’t know if that will necessarily be communicated. What do we what do we like what is an augur in this world, and it only makes a slight difference. At the end of the day, as per like, what the inflection is in everything, but with regards to like, that’s, that’s just one little subtle nuance that informs that world. And, and when we think of when we add all of these little nuances together, that’s where we get to unlocking this very clear piece of Shakespeare that is very relatable to, to what we’re dealing with here. And now,

Phil Rickaby
it’s always been fascinating to me that, I don’t think I don’t think it’s an it’s just for adult audiences. But every audience that I’ve ever performed Shakespeare for has, the first scene is that, like this period of language, acclamation, where the rooms are listened to a little more, they don’t quite catch everything, but they’re sort of their brains are adjusting to the way the language works. And from that point, that moment on they don’t hear it as Shakespearean they hear it. Their understanding is really full. I think that comes from like really good rehearsals where you do have conversations like that where you can debate what is the meaning of all you’re in this world? Because if the actors understand it, the audience follows

Victoria Urquhart
Yeah, and it’s a matter of of how much you commit to one thing and over the other along the way too I think hmm I mean, I think that’s that’s one of the definitely one of the big keys I think, I think as well I mean, there’s a certain home man my history teachers gonna love my theatre history teacher would was also my sorry, moving all the chairs Don’t worry, I’m not farting world. Stool right by me. Hello, Toronto. My, my my theatre history teacher would also would always talk about aesthetic distance within a show and how long it takes takes two to reduce that aesthetic distance, and really bring someone into that world. And it would always be interesting because at the same time, you always knew when you were like five minutes away from the, from the intermission from the end of the show, because there would just be the slight energy shift. And whether it was from the actors or from the audience, or from what was being said, maybe someone remembers, someone seen this play a bajillion times and knows, but everybody knows when, when you are five minutes away from the end of the show. And I mean, I think that part of that is crafted within Shakespeare’s language a little bit in the end, in the way that we naturally hit some of these inflections, as well as you know, just in how we have been conditioning ourselves and working a particular scene. And you see it too, in, in all of Shakespeare’s plays, the the imagery. And I, the imagery is it the imagery that’s being expressed in the language that informs the tactics that are being used by the characters. There’s there you get a sense of what world they’re creating, just from the audio. I mean, we always hear people talk about how, you know, a theatre, and its root words at its root is the root of that word comes from an audio base, not necessarily a visual plays visual base. And that’s very true of Shakespeare. I think that I think that, that, when we really mind that for a piece that is so based on language, then we’re able to ease that aesthetic distance that that we sometimes get with with language, or with like heavy language based plays like Shakespeare,

Phil Rickaby
what is your theatre background? When did you first find that theatre was something that you wanted to do?

Victoria Urquhart
That’s the hardest. I was. I must have been like five years old, maybe four. And I, I wanted to be on the TV. And I made friends with people on the TV, and I wanted to be on the TV with my friends. And I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do that. And then, when I was in grade one, I had, I had directed and performed in a bunch of little skits that I had made up because I wanted to do that. And I had written scripts and all of these things. I’m six years old. And I this is just what you do when you when you want to perform for an audience. So I did that. And then at the end of that year, I got this little sticker of achievement, we everybody got a certificate and like, I got a sticker that had the drama masks on it. And I didn’t know what drama was. I asked my mom, what went well, what does that mean? And she says, Oh, that’s, that’s, you know, putting on plays and acting on on TV and stuff. And I was like, oh, acting. Yeah, I want to do that.

Phil Rickaby
So you somehow instinctively knew how to create a script and how to get people to do what was written down. Somehow.

Victoria Urquhart
Apparently, when I was like 10 years old, the first the first piece of theatre I actually got to see that I can remember was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. And I went, and I saw it with it was either my mum or my grandmother, I can’t remember now. But she asked me, How do you like to play? And I said, Good night, like, did a lot. And she said, Okay, do you? Do you think that you want to be on? Do you think that you want to perform on that stage? And I was like, oh, no, I’m going to direct 10 years old. Apparently, I said that.

Phil Rickaby
Did did you find people tried to talk you out of that when you were in high school or when you were going through school? Did anybody try to convince you that that was not something you should do?

Victoria Urquhart
Yes. A lot. And I think I mean, I have actually received that from a couple of different people on varying levels. At one point, my dad tried to convince me out of it. My mum still will sometimes go, you would be really great as a translator, because I was I was really The studious and very good at understanding, especially French, French was very easy for me. Where does

Phil Rickaby
translator come from? For her? Is it just because of the French? Or is there

Victoria Urquhart
I think I think part of it is the French. For her I think my mum used to be an English teacher. And she she kind of started me on my on my road for for Shakespeare I remember getting this very old book is lambs Shakespeare tales. And it wasn’t the actual script. No, but it was a series of stories that were Shakespeare, but they were rewritten by the author so that he could tell them to his sister, because the images were, if I if I remember correctly, about the whole thing on this, this book, this was all told to me by a friend. So I could be totally off. But it actually makes a lot of sense to is, these stories were were real. They were reworded into a narrative as opposed to a full script, so that his sister wouldn’t get triggered by any particular images, because she had a mental illness. Which I thought was really cool. And I remember I remember reading that. And then finally getting to do some Shakespeare in high school and being like, yeah, I totally know what this is. There’s other things, I got this book, I got all these things. And I get there. It’s like, oh, well, this is, I mean, okay, I’m going to go and do some of my own stuff.

Phil Rickaby
When did you? When did you get out of that, sort of disappointment with it.

Victoria Urquhart
Somewhere around, I, somewhere around grade nine grade 10. I, I mean, I was given I think my first Shakespeare play, that I that I was able to read fully on my own was tough night. And I read through that, and it was, it was really easy for me. And I was bored with it really fast. And so I started to read some of the other plays and get a sense of what the other language is. And it didn’t all hit me right away. But I, I started to learn different things with how the lines were written. The big thing for me was knowing that, you know, the period didn’t necessarily meet, or the the end of the line didn’t mean that that was a period. And so I would read through it, and I’d start to read it out loud and go, Oh, okay, this is what this thought is. And so they’re kind of going at it like this right now. And then they’ve got this tactic, and then it just, it made a lot more sense like that. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
go ahead, go the people who try to talk you out of fear, your mom, or your dad have a particular tactic that you wanted, or that he wanted you to follow

Victoria Urquhart
my dad, he, I mean, both of my parents had said to me, like, prior to sometimes mentioning these things here and there, they would say, you know, whatever you want to do, you do it, whatever you want to be, you go for it. You know, if you want to, if you want to be a bartender for the rest of your life, if you want to be a server for the rest of your life, so long as you are so long as you are taking steps to, to pursue that and to do that go be happy. And I I’m so grateful for that. It was then after, after a while that I that I came out as an actor. There were there would sometimes be the mentions of like, you could do this, you know, and have you ever thought of this and it shook me for a little bit. And I was in the in high school, I was in the regional arts programme for drama. And I can sometimes be a very shy person and a very introverted person. And so then, you know, you get into the high school years with your class and there are other people who are recognised for, for having their ability to bring this energy to a character and they can be loud and they can do all of these things. And I was like, Yeah, I can I can do those things. I just don’t really connect with it in the same way. I’m kind of still figuring things out and I don’t I don’t just want to put myself out there without without having a sense of what that feels like yet. Which you know, that’s not the best instinct. To Have and sometimes that still gets me. And you know that we all we all have our burdens to bear. And we all have our things that we work on within ourselves within our craft. So when I was in high school, a lot of a lot of the time, I, I, because I had some different interpretations to the text. And I wanted to try out other things before I tried out the most obvious. I, there would be people in my class who would be kind of like, maybe you’re more of a director, maybe you’re more of this never quite directly saying, Don’t be an actor, but being like, you’re so you’re so great at this, why don’t you go and do that instead?

Phil Rickaby
Where’s Did you Did their guidance counsellors know what to do with the idea of going into theatre?

Victoria Urquhart
I didn’t give them the chance. I always

Phil Rickaby
I never. I don’t know if we still do this in high schools, but we all had to go and talk to the guidance counsellor.

Victoria Urquhart
Future. Yeah. And

Phil Rickaby
so they could like advise us on schools, and they didn’t quite know how to handle somebody who wanted to be an actor go into theatre, because they were all prepared to go Sciences at U of T. You know, all the all of the usual things. And when somebody said theatre, they were they just sort of didn’t have a frame of reference for that. Um,

Victoria Urquhart
I. I mean, I think at that, the point that I was graduating was about 2006. At that point, there were more theatre schools established in post secondary, and so it was a little more widely accepted. The thing that I actually regret, or maybe not regret, but I, I had, I had guidance counsellors strongly advised me not to take you university level math courses. Because I had gotten a 68 in math as my final grade in grade 10. And I was going, Wait a minute, because these things still interest me. I’m just not getting it at the same rate as everybody. Yeah. And that doesn’t, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just, you know, I just need to spend some more time on it later actually learned. Now, like a year ago, I learned that I’m functioning with ADD. So some of these things make a lot more sense.

Phil Rickaby
I have I actually, they told me something similar, because I was not good at math. But I actually found out that I had like, a learning disability where math was concerned, which took like, ages for anybody to tell me, right, yeah, just that I was stupid. And so certain

Victoria Urquhart
thing it can it can be, it can certainly be a blow to one’s once one’s confidence about their intelligence levels and, and whatnot. The funny thing is, I said, Okay, well, I’m still going to do math. I’ll just do it at the college level. And I took this course called personal finance. And I wish they had it in grade 12. Because it taught me so much about budgeting, which then later helped me in you know, finding my own company and figuring out how to make ends meet with that. But the the funny part about that was, there is only one, in my high school, there was only one award for math. And so all of college and all of university got lumped in together, and whoever got the highest mark was the one they got that award. And so in grade 11, I got the award for for the highest percentile in math. And I was in college math, for personal finance. And all of these calculus students are like, just fuming because I got this award. And I’m like, Yeah, I’d be mad about it. Now, I’m never gonna see like, this is this is great. This is great. 11 This isn’t even grade 12 Okay.

Phil Rickaby
It’s interesting, you were talking about, you know, the people who were outgoing, you know, in high school and other things. You were more of an introvert. The number of people that I’ve talked to who are in theatre who identify as introverts far out numbers of people who are extroverts, big time, and it’s interesting because, you know, as as an introvert myself, I never have a problem getting on the stage. It’s coming off the stage of people talking to me after the show, that I can’t quite deal it, because you just spent

Victoria Urquhart
so much time on the stage. And that’s a draining thing. And then all of a sudden people get people get really, people get really excited and want to want to, like, want to touch base and meet the person behind that character and all of that. And that’s great. But it’s like, I have no energy left to really, to really address that. Like, for me, especially with with my ADD, you want, like talking to me after a show is the most it’s it’s overwhelming. Yeah. Because I, you go and you do a character. And you spend so much time and energy on it, and people want to congratulate you. And that’s and that’s great. And they want to get into in depth conversations with you. And you’re just kind of going, Yeah, okay. That’s fine. Thanks.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I totally get that. Because for me, it was always on the stage. I am. I’m here and you’re there. I can connect with you. But I don’t have to interact with you. You know, and so there’s like, there is a bit of a barrier that’s created between the actor in the audience. And then when that comes down, and I have to now interact with you. It sort of was always like I, I managed to come up with some, some thank yous that I thought sounded really genuine, that we would accomplish, I think, thank you. Thanks. There we go. stammer somehow made it a little more earnest anyone. But I had to rehearse rehearse those for a long time before I could actually, like deal with people.

Victoria Urquhart
It’s funny too, because I mean, there’s, you can always kind of get a gauge of

how much presence is expected of you in a conversation. And no one is ever really 100%. But when we’re up on stage, we get pretty close. Yeah. So depending on what show we’re in, when we get out, we could still be writing off of that energy wave of soul connected in this moment. Or we could be like, so disconnected from that. And it’s not a it’s not a an angry thing, or, or an I don’t want to deal with you right now. It’s simply like, it’s simply a not being aware kind of thing, because you’re not present. And like I can, I can just remember countless shows, the big thing for me with with add is that I, I can have a one on one conversation very well. when I’m, when I’m in a sea of people, and when I have to address multiple people at a time, if it’s not a show. It’s it’s very hard for me to focus on one person because like with multiple people, you don’t know what stimulus to take in and after having spent a lot of work to, to ask for that energy, again, to bring that focus into the many conversations that are going on. And it’s it’s it’s, it’s not even sometimes that it’s overwhelming. It’s just that it’s not possible. Yeah. And people have a hard time understanding that and because of that, people have a hard time understanding social awkwardness and social anxiety. And I used to be the queen of non sequiturs. There are probably still a bunch of people who would tell you that I am the queen of non sequiturs. Just because some of my some some of the things that I find funny in my jokes that I noticed, are so detail oriented, that they seem to come out of nowhere to some people. And then I have to like backtrack and explain

Phil Rickaby
what my process was to get into this job. Yeah, and I don’t

Victoria Urquhart
have the energy to explain all of that. So I’ll just shoot it off when I’m that tired. And they go, Huh, yeah. But I mean, that’s something that you grow with, and you learn and you, you develop. And it’s sometimes it’s not necessarily building on your capacity to be able to focus for extended periods of time. Although I mean, especially for the stage. I mean, if you’re doing I was in a show, that was a three and a half hour tragedy, and then afterwards, we had to strike. Like a wonderful learning experience. By the end of it. I was done. Yeah, yeah. So you learn you learn how to take care of yourself in that and you learn. You learn just how to take care of yourself socially in that and I think that a lot of people know how to take care of themselves. lives, they don’t always know how to take care of themselves socially. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. What was it that made you want to start your own theatre company.

Victoria Urquhart
um a lot of bitterness. As I mentioned before, I walked out a theatre Ontario and I didn’t have any calls and, and I had done in part, the pieces that people had told me not to do. And there was this little tiny voice in the back of my head that was that was telling me you’re like, You’re not meant to be an actor, you’re gonna fail all these things. And I said, No, I’m not. And, you know, if I have to keep me if I have to make work for myself to get started, and I will do that. And, you know, in the ideal world, in the, in the fantasy that we create for ourselves, it was I’m gonna make this fantastic play, and I’m gonna get picked up from there, and it’s gonna be amazing. And I that was, that was definitely a part of what I was doing at the start, but then I just kind of got into it a lot more. So I started the company, I I started the company out of out of some bitter feelings, but also some, some feelings and knowledge of the kind of community that I want to that I want to cultivate and bring forward and that a lot of that was that and still is that, you know, if we’re going to make Shakespeare accessible, let’s really make it accessible. Let’s not make it about an elite. Let’s, let’s make it let’s, let’s make it relatable so that it is accessible. Let’s have let’s make it accessible, not just for today’s audiences, but for today’s artists. I don’t want to see a 40 year old Juliet, I want to see a 20 year old Juliet, I want to see a 15 year old Juliet, I want to see a Juliet that’s actually semi close to that that age. Having said that, I have seen some 40 year old Juliet’s who have knocked it out of the park. And that’s amazing. I, and, and really just cultivating a community of artists coming together to talk about where they came from with Shakespeare. Because when I when I graduated from school, I felt so out of sorts with Shakespeare, and I felt like there was so much that I didn’t get that my classmates did. And it made it made me feel stupid. And I didn’t want to feel stupid anymore. I didn’t want to like, I didn’t. I wanted to this is this is the great thing that I think I think people forget, and this is what makes people build up a little bit of resentment for, for for, for people who don’t get things right away, like, you know, there’s always everybody, everybody comes in at a different level. And everybody comes in with a different understanding and different approach. But there’s I didn’t I didn’t want to enter. I didn’t want a community that was like, if you don’t know the rules, we’re not going to tell you Yeah. And I don’t I also don’t want to be coddled about, about my learning. Like, we never stopped learning and we all come from different rule sets. And I want to I wanted to be able to learn on my own terms. And I wanted to cultivate a community that would be okay with that and would be welcoming to that. Which was a lot of where, where my company started. We auditioned for Shakespeare on the subway and we had we had nine different artists from various different theatre schools. We had someone going into u of t. We had someone who had graduated from York. We had two lovely ladies who had graduated from Fanshawe who came from more of like a physical theatre background with regards to the text and more of a device theatre background. We had a Ryerson grad we had a Humber grad, we had my co founder had spent a year in U of T and decided that post secondary school was not for him and he was going to go and figure out theatre and acting on his own. Without without there being a like a post secondary education to it, which like, I know that that’s a big thing that we hold really high in our society for to go to post secondary school but like, there are there are so many brilliant artists who don’t have that background that that really needs to be regarded like

Phil Rickaby
Shakespeare on the sub on the subway was that just you’re riding the subway like rush hour, and then a scene that happens that you’re not expecting or

Victoria Urquhart
so we were, we were doing street theatre with a captive audience more or less, because we’d go on to the cars. And then we would, we would, we would go and perform a scene or a monologue or a collective piece, such as you know, taking the witches text and making that into a choral piece. Now the thing that the thing that makes it a doable project and the thing that I think a lot of people, a lot of people get turned off by the idea of a captive audience. And don’t get me wrong, I totally understand it. Considering that a lot of our work happens in hospitals. Yeah, we have a captive audience a lot of the time. We asked permission. And with with hospitals, you know, we have the we have the luxury of being able to ask that permission, when you’re doing something more street theatre, like Shakespeare on the subway, you don’t have that luxury to verbally go up to someone and say, Would you like to see this? Because more often than not, you’re probably Yeah, they’re gonna say no. But there are other ways to ask permission to take the space in a way that is less so taking the space as inviting people to be to either be a part of it or no. And that’s the thing that we really learned. In our rehearsal period, we worked with a lot of different street theatre artists who, who gave us a lot of a lot of tools with how we, how we take the space and how we give people permission to be a part of that space, and how we cater to people who don’t want to be a part of that. Because it’s important to you know, not shove it in people’s faces and be really peaceful about it. If someone’s going to leave the space, I’m not going to follow them. If you know if someone’s going to, if someone works to really interrupt and be seen in the middle of your piece to try and like especially, there are some instances where we had people with mental health issues getting really paranoid, upset, really elated about it so much that they wanted to be a part of it. Like there’s so many different things that happen on there. And there’s a total different psychology to that, you just really have to be aware of that. Do your research on it. And, and, and be willing to go with the flow of what’s happening. It’s the same as any, any improv show, just say yes to what’s happening. And with that, you know, that was the that was the basis of what we went on to the subway with and performing for a captive audience. The second that someone you know, told us no, like, Don’t do this. We don’t want this year was the second that we were like, okay, cool. We’ll get off at the next stop. Sorry to disturb you.

Phil Rickaby
So with this from from Subway to hospitals, how, how does that happen?

Victoria Urquhart
So we got a lot of press from the from the subway interactions. Before I say that, I just want to preface with the with the subway as well. I mean, aside from doing all of the research and learning all of the bylaws of the TTC, we also asked permission of the corporate corporate executive. I believe he was Brad Ross. Yeah. Yeah. We asked we we first did some research with him. Coworker or communications director. Now Now that’s the title. Yeah. But we we did some research with him beforehand. And, and it was for a school project and whatnot. And we learned a little bit more about it. And then and then I emailed him after the interview that I had with him for this research saying, you know, we’re we would like to do this this coming summer. I just like to know your thoughts are and whatnot. And he he had said to us, you know, so long as you’re not disturbing any like, so long as you’re not disturbing the flow of traffic or causing too much of a too much of a scene too much of a scene being like disrupting completely disrupting your TTC ride, then you’re totally welcome to do that. So we, yeah, we went and did that. And then someone tried to shut us down at one point, at which point we pulled up all of our communications and said, Here’s, here’s, here’s the interaction that we had, here’s how we know we’re actually allowed to do this. We’ve also got this many reporters who are coming in who have already checked in with this person to make this to report on this today. So unless you want me to go and call them and say, Don’t come anymore, this is this is what we’re gonna have to do. But I digress. Shakespeare to hospital or subway to hospitals. So I after getting all of those reports, and getting on the news, which was a crazy, exciting time. My grandmother had said would you come and perform for for my senior residents. And I of course, said, Sure. Let me see if I can get the actors together, we got the actors together. And we did another. We did another performance there. And we kind of brought all of our material together. And, yeah, through that performance, I mean, all of a sudden, we being fresh out of school, there were still things that I was learning and still things that other people were learning about the show and about Shakespeare in general. And I remember finishing that piece and going I feel really great about that. But they had so many questions afterwards, and they wanted to learn so much. And then, so that was that was a big deal for for us. And a lot of people said, you know, you should definitely do this in in here, you should do this at other residences, there are a lot of people who could benefit from this. One of one of my actors, actually, while the news reports were going on, she cut her finger open on a tin can. She, this was while she was at home. She she had finished her performance that day, and she cut her finger open. So she had to go to the hospital to get stitches. And she’s sitting in the hospital and the report comes on and the guy beside her goes, Wow, that’s really cool. They should do that here. And there were there were all of these kind of like little hints that we should really jump in and do it. For me, my grandmother actually passed away that year. And that was that was kind of the the real, the real if I don’t do this, I’m gonna regret it. Yeah, moment. But since then, like so, so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do this and really, really get a first hand look at what accessibility is. Because people don’t consider that in theatre. And people don’t like when people think of accessibility in theatre, they think of a wheelchair ramp. Yeah. And, you know, making sure that that that there is seating for for those who are not as mobile. Yeah. That’s one level of accessibility. When we talk accessibility, we’re talking about you know, taking taking some scenes from Shakespeare, slightly tweaking the images so that we’re not maybe we’re maybe not so vividly talking about the snakes and spiders that are in this particular image or the the angels and devils that are in that particular image. We’re clipping those images slightly in in our scene work, so that we can make these scenes viewable to an audience who say deals with schizophrenia, and would not otherwise be able to see a scene of Shakespeare would would have never seen any Shakespeare in their life because the images are too too much. Right. And that’s like, that’s accessibility on a whole different level. Yeah. There’s also, you know, theatre by someone’s bedside there, which goes back to the mobility. Yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s that, that, that dynamic between relatability and accessibility. And I really think that, particularly with our season this year, we’re exploring how you find a common language with someone making making theatre accessible through through simply addressing that like seeing a piece of theatre that is in French. As compared to seeing a piece of theatre that is Shakespeare as compared to seeing a piece of theatre that is in Spanish and Japanese in all of these things. It’s really, it’s really interesting to see how much is picked up and how you may not understand the exact words that are going on in the language, but you do understand the story because you see how important that is to another human being. And sometimes it lies in how they’re hitting the inflections because those inflections and those, those sounds are hitting people on such an emotional level. Sometimes it’s simply through their body language. There’s another language body language, ASL, another totally different language that isn’t isn’t audio based. These are like, I very strongly believe that when we talk accessibility with Shakespeare, we need to get back to the fact that we are addressing it as a language that maybe not a lot of people today in our modern tongue speak and how we how we bridge that gap without coddling them and going okay, well, this means it’s and we’re going to cut this because that doesn’t make sense anymore. We’ll make it make sense. You know? Really communicate that before you decide that you want to cut it.

Phil Rickaby
I think we’re almost at the end of our time. Are you are you on the social medias? Are you on?

Victoria Urquhart
Oh so much tonight? Can I give you all give? Give us the list? Okay, um, so can I can I plug my shows as well? 100% Of course. Oh my god. Amazing. Um, so we have for for Twitter and for Instagram. For and we’ll say that again. For Twitter and for Instagram. We are at Shakespeare that’s Sha KESP. You are and for Facebook we are spur of the moment Shakespeare collective without any hyphens. Our website is www dot spur of the moment. shakespeare.weebly.com Yes, we are still a Weebly site. We have many shows going up right now because we we created alongside the British Council and, and the and the Toronto Public Library. We created this awesome Festival. It’s called the Shakespeare lives festival. And I basically, we’re doing a bunch of different interactive activities, interactive activities. As soon as we’re done in the interactive programmes, there we go. To celebrate the community impact that the bard has had on Toronto, okay. Because, yes, you know what, there are so many plays that and performances that are out there that are so great. But there’s there is a communal impact. And there is there is an interactive impact that has that has taken hold in especially indie Theatre in Toronto. And so we want to celebrate that. The tomorrow there Tuesday, there is a debate between Brendan McMurtry Hallett of Shakespeare in the rough, and and, and sorry, there’s a debate between Brendan McMurtry how will it have Shakespeare in the rough and Jeremy Smith of driftwood theatre and they are debating. It’s the apocalypse. And you can only save one Shakespeare play. Which one do you save?

Phil Rickaby
It’s just tomorrow. This is April, April 12. Yes. So that’ll be in the past when people hear this but great,

Victoria Urquhart
totally. Okay. There’s another debate happening April 21. With Caitlin reordan of Shakespeare in the rough. And Margaret of wolf Manor theatre, a member of wolf Manor theatre, whose name is Margaret. She’s very lovely. I’ve only met her over email, but she she’s, she’s a lot of fun.

Phil Rickaby
With the topic of that,

Victoria Urquhart
that has been that one is playing that one is gender swapping in Shakespeare. So, and it’s specific to women. So talking about you know, do we do we change male characters to female? as we as we cast Shakespeare shows modernly? Or do we keep them within what was originally written? We also have, this is the big one. The Shakespeare’s showdown which is a it’s an it’s another theatre Christmas every Shakespeare’s is

Phil Rickaby
what’s your Shakespeare’s? Yes, and that is

Victoria Urquhart
a Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s is a great competitive show. Where and it’s all it’s all live like none of this is pre planned or anything. The top nine Indian Shakespeare companies in Toronto get together and they competitively read the First Folio. Now, in that the First Folio I mean, F’s are SS and user V’s it’s very it’s very calligraphic, it’s hard to read. So if they screw up, they have to drink. And there’s a lot of drinking. Okay. And the, the great thing is, you know, we have had Stretford actors do this, alongside actors just out of theatre school. And the results will surprise you. We I we have we have a couple different rounds of this one of which is the fools round. So someone who has failed and failed gloriously gets their own round just to continue to make these mistakes in the most comedic way that they can. There’s also I mean, there’s there’s a lot of opportunities to get involved with this. So there’s some trivia going on. Within that. There’s an opportunity to win tickets to the Shaw festival as well as some different restaurant gift certificates. And tweed seats, the front row seats are $18 and you get a free beer. If you go in a group of five you get a Party Pack. So you get some free T shirts as well as some some swag as per what team you want to root for. And yeah, general admission is $15 April 24. Sunday night, not this Sunday, but

Phil Rickaby
the next 24 Yeah, that’s awesome.

Victoria Urquhart
Yeah, that’s the longest plug I’ve done. Thank you.

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