This week, as we count down the final episode of Stageworthy, host Phil Rickaby talks with the passionate Emilio Vieira, who takes on the role of Palamon in Shakespeare BASH’d unique production of “Two Noble Kinsmen.” Together, we explore the thrills and challenges of performing one of the Bard’s less frequently staged plays. Emilio reveals the intricacies of making Shakespeare’s language resonate with contemporary audiences and discusses the emotional highs and lows his character endures in this tale of honour and forbidden desire.
Embark on a behind-the-scenes journey with me as we examine the craft of adapting Shakespeare for today’s audiences. We contrast the festival stage’s grandeur with the intimacy of smaller productions and dissect the professional growth that comes from long-term engagement with Shakespearean drama. Moreover, the conversation turns to survival—both of the actor during an arduous theatre season and the creative spirit during the pandemic. We shed light on the birth of the SuddenSpark Collective and its aspirations, offering an inspiring look at the resilience and creativity of theatre professionals in unprecedented times.
Emilio Vieira is an actor/ creator currently working on Shakespeare BASH’d’s Two Noble Kinsmen, playing at the Theatre Centre from January 25 to Feb 4, 2024. Emilio is about to embark on his 7th season with the Stratford Festival playing Antonio in Twelfth Night, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and Richard Dazzle in London Assurance. Other credits include: Richard II, Grand Magic, Richard III, The Miser, Coriolanus, The Tempest, Napoli Milionaria!, Tartuffe, Macbeth, All My Sons, Bunny (Stratford Festival); The Three Musketeers (RMTC); Towards Youth: a play on Radical Hope (Crow’s Theatre); Tartuffe, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Titus Andronicus (Canadian Stage); february: a love story (Sudden Spark Collective/Globus Theatre); Cymbeline (Shakespeare BASH’d). Emilio has appeared on HBO’s Titans and some indie projects you haven’t seen. He continues to voraciously audition for film and television without much success. During the pandemic, Emilio, and his creative collaborator Ellen Denny launched Sudden Spark Collective, a company aimed at producing heartwarming stories as soup for the pandemic soul. Their two projects, february: a love story, and Above Ground Floor had successful digital debuts with great acclaim. Both went on to stream with Stratfest@Home, garnering international attention and meriting them an interview with Tom Power on CBC’s Q. Emilio is a proud graduate of York University’s Acting Conservatory and studied under the direction of Martha Henry and Stephen Ouimette at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre.
He loves dogs, hugs, mint chocolate and cricket!
Transcript auto generated.
0:00:04 – Phil Rickaby
I’m Phil Rickaby and I’ve been a writer and performer for almost 30 years, but I’ve realized that I don’t really know as much as I should about the theatre scene outside of my particular Toronto bubble. Now I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can about the theatre scene across Canada, so join me as I talk with mainstream theatre creators you may have heard of and indie artists you really should know, as we find out just what it takes to be stage worthy. Emilio Vieira is an actor and creator appearing as Palamon in Shakespeare BASH’d’s production of Two Noble Kinsmen, playing at the theatre’s centre from January 25th to February 4th. In this conversation, we talk about what makes a Shakespeare Basch production unique, emilio’s history with Shakespeare, how to survive a season at a repertory theatre festival, and much more. Here’s our conversation, just right off the top. Let’s talk about Shakespeare BASH’d’s Two Noble Kinsmen. What role are you playing in Two Noble Kinsmen?
0:01:43 – Emilio Vieira
I’m playing Palamon. Palamon is one of the Two Noble Kinsmen the other Kinsmen being our site and he is a very noble, very chivalric, very accomplished soldier of Thebes, as is his cousin. The two of them, as I think one of my lines is, are twins of honour. The play sort of Two Noble Kinsmen is one of those ones that’s never done. One of Shakespeare’s latest that he co-wrote with John Fletcher Working on the show, is very interesting in that you can kind of feel Shakespeare the Fletcher throughout.
But yeah, it sort of begins with the two of us after a war has broken out. Our uncle Creon, who is the king of Thebes we’ve sort of agreed, is not honourable, not chivalric and he no longer deserves us to fight on his side. So we discuss leaving the city but realise that as the king of Athens, the Duke Thesius, is on his way over, that we’re going to have to go to war one last time. Through the course of that, we say to ourselves we’re doing this for our country, not for our uncle Creon, and we are taken prisoner. That’s where the real drama begins, as we encounter a wonderful, beautiful princess, emilia, who we both fall in love with, and therein lies a tale.
0:03:18 – Phil Rickaby
As you mentioned, two Noble Kinsmen is not. It’s one of the plays that’s not frequently done. There’s, I mean, everybody. There’s the big four, everybody does the big four, and then there’s a bunch of other ones that are done less frequently, and then there’s a group of them which people hardly ever touch, and Two Noble Kinsmen is one of those. In your mind, what is it that people are afraid of about the show or don’t like about the show? Do you have a sense of why it’s not often performed?
0:03:49 – Emilio Vieira
I’ll certainly say that from my perspective as an actor who does a lot of Shakespeare maybe because it’s Fletcher as well, but the language is really quite challenging I actually don’t think that it’s that hard to understand once we’ve done all of the work to make it as understandable as possible. But on face value, simply because it hasn’t been done as frequently as some of the big fours you say, we don’t recognize the humanity and relatability of it as upfront as we may do with some of the others, and that just may be part of the long term culture of doing plays. I actually think that, yeah, especially with Shakespeare BASH’d, who is a group of people I love working with that are absolutely hooked on the text, trying to break it down, make it as digestible as possible that is the prime focus from which to tell the story. I think that in our work, our production has done a really great job of making it accessible to the audience. There are moments of great comedy, great tragedy, of total relatability for the human experience that I think will shock an audience and hopefully leave them asking why is it that we don’t see this one more often? It tells some truly human moments that we can all recognize wars within ourselves over what we truly feel, honor versus desire to do something, what it is that is expected of us versus what we truly want, and how society plays a role in all of that. In my mind, I selfishly have this nerdy desire to do all of Shakespeare’s plays before I die, and this is one of the ones that never gets done. So an opportunity to get to do two noble kinsmen how fantastic.
But I have seen I think maybe it was during the pandemic a digital version of production that was done and I have read it before and every time I’m always struck with some of the moments that feel, perhaps, that they’re pushing beyond Shakespeare into his contemporaries, that feel so colloquial that, particularly for Palomon, he is, I think, a person that lives in a very high emotional state throughout a lot of the show and in trying to express himself he has many, many run-on sentences. His sort of parenthetical thoughts to color how he’s truly feeling seem to pop in almost at random and has been hard to work on as an actor, as I said before. But that in that challenge is to really motivate. What is it like when you are at this emotional state? These things are happening to you, how do you respond to them? How do you articulate them to the people around you? And, as you can see me having no trouble with run-on sentences, it seems to be a perfect balance with which to work on that aspect of humanity.
I am in an emotional state, something is happening to me. How do I express that? What are my avenues through it? Yeah, I find it totally delicious to work on.
0:07:05 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, you mentioned something earlier about how it’s easy for people to digest the language once the actors have done all of their work, which is, I think, one of the big things about Shakespeare, in that a lot of people’s first experiences with Shakespeare is in high school and reading it with a bunch of students who haven’t done that work. So it’s no wonder that we teach Shakespeare so poorly in schools. But it’s that that puts a bad taste in people’s mouths that because they don’t understand it, they haven’t seen a bunch of actors who’ve done all the research and all the work to make the words make sense. Do you recall your first experience with Shakespeare, bad or good?
0:07:59 – Emilio Vieira
Bad or good. I’ll just start by saying I’m actually, you know, at the time of this recording. Tomorrow I will be teaching a class at high school, some grade 12s, and one of the speeches we are going to look at is a speech from two noble kinsmen, by the jailer’s daughter, because I find it so accessible. She’s saying exactly what she means. It’s pretty easy to break down language. I’m going to lean on that rather than go to a mac or an R&J, because it’s very fresh in my mind and hearing Julia do it, I go oh my gosh, this is totally an accessible monologue, I think, for this age group, and so I’m very excited to dive into that with them and hopefully give them an opportunity here to show that they are certainly not part of any curriculum.
I’ve been a part of my very first experience with Shakespeare. I’m having a hard time remembering the very first, but it may have been. My high school went to a production heart house of Julius Caesar and it was the first time that I’d really seen Shakespeare with full, unified theatrical experience. It wasn’t just those of us reading it in our classroom, it was people wholly embodying those characters fighting on behalf of what they want. It was very cool to have the storm that Casca goes out into, and I remember thinking that I’m not necessarily catching every word of this. There are bits of this that I would like to know more about, but that it is moving through in such a way that I’m grasping the concepts that these people are going for, and it certainly enkindled a sense of oh, if I could just get to know a little bit more about what they’re saying full on. And it had nothing to do with the actors, really it was my lack of experience with it at the time, but it was kind of addicting to go oh, wow, this is just really. It’s moving and moving, and moving. I would love to go back and look at when that would have been and who was in it. That maybe I know now and can ask what did you think of that show? What was that like?
But to your point about Shakespeare not necessarily being taught the best, the finest tools at hand. In school, I always have to shout out my grade 10 English teacher, Carol Roseman he was. He is one of the reasons that I took to Shakespeare so much in my later years of high school and then again in university, because he just had a way of unlocking it for me, and as I go into my kind of teaching scenarios or workshop scenarios with younger students, I try to call back to what that was that he did to unlock it for us and I I think it wasn’t a dusty piece to him. It was real people going through real issues that we continue to experience 400 years after the fact that humanity has come so far and yet not that far at all in their human experience, and that the same questions we ask ourselves we’ve been asking for centuries. And once I realized that you could connect to the period through your contemporary lens and honor both in the exchange, then it became about breaking the puzzle.
It became about finding the clues in the text. What are the words I don’t understand? Do they mean? How can I use these tools that are being taught me to break this down and make it digestible for myself and my colleagues as we work on it, and then, furthermore, to take it to that step to get an audience to go wow, I’ve been there, I understand that human moment and, furthermore, it’s making me think about my own humanity in this current moment. I think that’s the thing that continues to hook me on Shakespeare.
And now I’ve been doing it long enough that I’m coming back around to you know, in many ways coming back around to shows that I did 10 years ago for the second, sometimes third time and discovering totally new things about them because I’m in a new human space. So it’s very interesting, as I’ve continued. Julius Caesar, for example, that first one that I saw, that has a memory and I have a very visceral experience of that. That made me really want to play Cassius. And then I got a chance to play Cassius in school and that was a whole other thing. And then since then I’ve seen it a handful of other times and every time you’re engaging with it it sort of builds upon the last time with more nuance, more color.
0:12:58 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, absolutely, because you learn. I mean you’re growing as a person and your understanding of life is growing and you find more depth. Regarding the way that schools teach, I’ve thought for a number of years now that I mean it’s hard to do because you have to hope that a production of the play that you’re studying is being done. But it’ll be so much more helpful to, instead of like, study the play, then take the kids to see the show. It’ll be really great to reverse that take them to see the show and then have them study it, having seen a bunch of actors perform it who are making sense of the world, the words and emoting and being actors, rather than a group of students who are monotonously reading text that they’re seeing for the first time.
0:13:42 – Emilio Vieira
Yeah, and you know what better opportunity than us doing two noblekins in January and February. There you go, at the beginning of a year. You know, at the time that this airs your tickets for real. I do think that one of the things that hooked me on that, you know, aside from having Mr Roseman as a real shining light in that my father used to listen to tapes of Gilgood and all of these actors. You know he was sort of a fan of not only of Shakespeare but of opera and other forms of, you know, quote unquote, dusty bits of art, and maybe that seeped in at some point in my early youth.
But I felt compelled, I felt called to. You know, I had a mentor say to me once that in an audience of a show any show that you but Shakespeare, let’s say Shakespeare there will be people who will be experiencing it for the first time, people who will be experiencing it for the hundredth time and people who will be experiencing it for the last time, and that we have a responsibility to each of them to not disrespect that energy that an audience comes in with, which is more than 50% in your camp, that people generally don’t arrive at the theatre going well, this is going to be terrible, and you know that they come at at least a neutral, if not an excitement to see what’s coming, engage with what’s going to come down the pipe, and our job as performers is to not squander that, and I like that as an idea rather than, oh, I have to reach out and grab them and get them on my side. They’re already just there and that is enough.
0:15:29 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I remember years ago I was doing a production of Macbeth and I was talking about a scene that was going to happen and somebody that I knew tangentially was on Facebook or whatever and they were like spoilers and I was like the play is over 500 years old. And then it struck me wait a second, not everybody knows this play as well as me. Yes, I have, you know, been, you know, performing Shakespeare, have done like that play three, four times by that point, but this person doesn’t know that play as well and maybe didn’t, hasn’t seen it or whatever. We have that’s kind of an exciting prospect to remember that, that that there are people who haven’t seen the plays as often as we have.
0:16:11 – Emilio Vieira
Absolutely. I get no greater joy than student audiences gasping or finding the humor and understanding all of those human themes and going see, right there. That is somebody’s experience firsthand of this moment and it’s undeniable. I find myself, as an audience member, being a kind of vocal audience member. When you can feel the people around you sort of humming, you know, something happens, they go. That that’s recognition. I especially the way that Basch does it in such an intimate setting at the theatre center incubator space we are going to. You know, james is always saying as a director, when you have a soliloquy, you are turning to your friends in the audience and parsing it out with them, asking them those questions. You may in fact like pause for a reaction and then go and parse out another piece of it. So it is terribly active, which is totally the antithesis of treating it as a dusty tome. To flip open 10 am in your English class, Absolutely, Absolutely.
0:17:27 – Phil Rickaby
It’s funny the way that you were mentioning, like when the audience discovers the play and they laugh or they react. I always find it fascinating that that moment when an audience you know you hit a line that’s funny and the audience laughs, and a few minutes before you know there’s somebody there who’s like I don’t know, go into this thing. I don’t really understand Shakespeare, but you laughed, you got the joke. That means that it’s working for you and that reaction can change somebody’s opinion of Shakespeare forever.
0:17:58 – Emilio Vieira
Yeah, we’ve identified some of the areas in which we expect the audience may hear something in a more contemporary lens and have a reaction. And as actors you can never bank on that. You just got to be ready to go, keep pushing. James is a director who really gets you know in the final weeks before performance on you about pace, because it’s sort of antithetical to think, oh, I’m moving quickly through this and that will help them understand. But it does, because you sort of languishing in these things or breaking up the thoughts makes it harder for an audience to piece out.
So as we approach a performance pace with this piece, those balls are starting to drop or the pieces are starting to come into place. And even as a person working on the show, watching run-throughs and as we get closer to inviting an audience to witness what we’re doing, I’m hearing themes that happen earlier in the play echoed at the end as we make it through one pass and begin again. I’m having a whole new experience once more of oh wow, I didn’t realize you say that thing before I do. Or here’s me picking up on that concept and you start to almost see meta-theatrically what the playwrights are going for, which of course is not really actable, but you go with the moments that are mine to cultivate. I better do these with a careful hand, because they exist in a greater constellation that the audience will be experiencing. Yeah, absolutely.
0:19:46 – Phil Rickaby
You’ve mentioned James, and this is a Shakespeare BASH’d production. For somebody who maybe hasn’t experienced a production, what can somebody expect? What is a Shakespeare BASH’d Shakespeare show?
0:20:03 – Emilio Vieira
I’m so glad you asked Shakespeare. In my experience I’ve only done one other with them, but of course I’ve seen several. At this point it’s a very immediate, intimate space. They used to perform at the Monarch Tavern. Since last year performed the tragedy of King Lear in the Theatre Center Incubator Space and now this show.
I think one of the things that James really likes to do with bas shows and Julia that is the pair of them helming the company is that lights are up on the audience, that you know when you are there that you will be witnessed by performers and other audience members, that it really is coming to the forum to experience, interrogate. These plays do them justice for what the text actually says? I think that their focus really is. There’s so much to mine out of these words, out of what we’re given by these editions of the text that we have. With a play like Two Noble Kinsmen, it doesn’t make it into the folio, so we’re going off of other versions that are not necessarily sanctioned as the versions of the show. I find that very exciting An audience member walking into the show.
You’re going to first walk into the Theatre Center and experience the environment of that cafe and that bar and know that as the pro log gets underway, the show is unfolding just beyond those doors. For you, the experience will be different for an audience member sitting on one side than for another. You will get to see everything as it’s been staged, you know, very precisely to fit that space, but it is totally encompassing. Actors will be, you know, flying right by you as they enter that narrow corridor. Past this curtain. The energy of the piece really takes over the whole space, which in many ways is a black canvas. You know we don’t use a ton of costumes. We have some beautiful sound design and light design, which are elements that amplify what we’re already going for with the focus of the text.
But it is not going to be a production that is focused on spectacle. It is going to achieve those sort of awe-inspiring moments by the merit of the language. So in many ways it is one of the best ways to encounter the play for what the play is, rather than, you know, somebody’s adaptation or take on it. Certainly there is a focus for this production that has come out of our discussions of the themes in the text. We are just leaning into some of the I wanted to use the word anachronistic, but that’s not necessarily the case, although I think James would use that word, but that there are moments that echo, in many different eras, I think, throughout the human experience that we are putting on display, because they are present in the text. So you know, come have a beer, sit down and enjoy an absolutely wild ride through the land of two noble kinsmen, a play which you may never see done again, that’s true, that’s true.
0:23:31 – Phil Rickaby
It’s funny. You mentioned like concepts. I have seen shows and I’ve been involved with some shows where they have a very strong concept. But you know, some people will say, somewhat rightly, that you can put Shakespeare into anything. But I’ve also been involved in productions where the concept is so precise it gets in the way of the actual story. So now you’re having to do acrobatics, mentally or creatively, to try to make the story work based on the concept. So you can do all kinds of crazy things with Shakespeare. But you also have to make. The concept has to fit with the story. You can’t just throw it into whatever you needed to, because it still has to make sense to an audience. It is a danger with something that you can do anything with, because there’s no rights holder going to come after you. Have you yourself ever been in a production that was a little too conceptual for the play itself?
0:24:34 – Emilio Vieira
Oh, you’re going to get me in trouble telling tales out of school here. I have certainly been a part of some truncated Shakespeare’s that you know, based on the parameters of the production or what they were given as a time limit. I’ve done some 90 minute Shakespeare’s where you kind of have to be hack and slash job and just go for, you know, one of the themes or a general concept. At the end of the day, I always find as an actor that you have to be in the show that you’re in, not the show that you wish you were in, and it is always a great joy to be in the ones where that Venn diagram is a circle, this production. I’m certainly feeling that we, you know, we have so much agency in our work as actors approaching the text with James, who is, you know, such an addict of Shakespeare’s and really a master of the text. He’s asking, investigating questions. We are encouraged to bring our own curiosity to the room and sometimes the decisions that end up being made or not made and left to, you know, nightly interpretation and freedom, are out of some really great debate. So I certainly have been in those productions where you go okay, well, here comes the dance break, and I don’t know that Shakespeare would have ever thought that that was going to come. And that is not throwing shade on the Richard II that I did last year, which I actually that was a very successful version of adaptation and in which I thought concept was very well used to tell a new angle on that story or or explore further an angle on that story. So it really depends, because I am certainly not a Shakespeare purist I think that word is kind of itchy, because there are many ways to dive into these places We’ve already said, and that there is as much space for the version where we just go with what is in the text and investigate, based on the facts of what’s written and the versions where we go. Well, where does this lead? And ultimately, as with any production, I think it comes down to how the people work together to to tell those unified parts of the story and how much faith you have in in what you’re aiming to do.
It is interesting, though, when you think about the big four, as you were saying so frequently, because, because everyone’s seen those plays, you know how many midsummer’s, how many orange is, whatever. Have we seen that? The, the sort of desire is to go. Well, let’s put on a concept that no one’s ever thought of when it comes to this play and it’s in those cases you may be doing yourself a disservice. Where I think those adaptations and do a really great job is when they are really rooted in. What is the story, what is coming out of this play that I’m reading, that that sort of feels like there is an alignment to this sort of question that we’re investigating or this sort of vision.
I do think that at the end of the day, we go back, whether we are doing as I did this past summer 1970s, 1980s disco Richard II or if we’re doing as I think I’m going to be doing next year or this this coming year a Romeo and Juliet in Italian Renaissance clothing. So there’s a whole range with which success might be achieved. I think it always comes down to are we investigating what’s actually written about this, and can we throw away our ideas from things that we’ve seen before that maybe feel like they only exist because of repetition? I think maybe that’s where we get ourselves into some troubles. We go well, this is the way it’s always been. Well, really, if you can investigate it through scientific methods and still find the same answer by all means, but it is worth the investigation. We should not take it for granted.
0:29:01 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I think the way this is the way it’s always been done is a very dangerous way to approach Shakespeare and it is one of the reasons why I think sometimes people think it dull, because people get stuck into. This is how it’s how it’s always been done. Now you mentioned last summer and the shows you’re going to be doing in the future. You’re going to be your seventh season at the Stratford Festival. What do you enjoy about the big festival, the Stratford Festival, that you don’t get out of a smaller production like a ?
0:29:44 – Emilio Vieira
I think one of the great crimes with what we’re doing with Shakespeare Bass right now is that we only get to do 10 performances. But it is also a real treat coming out of the festival sort of system of things where I will probably do 50 or 60 performances of R&J in 12th night Is that, with only 10 opportunities to do it in front of an audience, we are really investigating wholeheartedly what it is like to be witnessed by an audience, to have them participate with Shakespeare Bass. I think that’s an incredible. It sort of encourages risk. I think it can’t take anything for granted, because I will wake up on the morning of February 5th or 6th and go oh, that’s how I should have done that, but that’s truthfully how I do it at the festivals too is I wake up on November 1st and I go damn it. I spent all summer in this corner and I completely lost this other corner.
But I think one of the gifts that we’re given at the festival is the length of time. Not only are we rehearsing in rep, so you have digestion time. It’s actually very similar to Shakespeare Bass in that we rehearse part time for a longer stretch of time, so we’re only rehearsing three days a week and that means that between that Monday and Thursday rehearsal you have a few days to digest, to let things percolate, to have the discoveries sort of arrive, rather than what I think happens with, or can happen with, a three-week rehearsal period, or a two-week rehearsal period is okay, we better just get it up. We better get it up and going and it’s over before you know it. I love at the festival this, yeah, the gift of time, and also that, particularly with the main stage, shakespeare, is you’re only doing them twice a week, so when they come around you are itching to do them again and excited to dive back into the story, to the world, costume lighting, sound, the way the audience grows over time, that there’s sort of student matinees towards the end of the semester and then you’re into the summer and then there’s the American month, where all the Americans are up and they’re a totally different ball game that you have to surf, just like. There’s not many places I think can boast inviting such an international group of people to witness the work, and I love the ride.
It is, yeah, going into my seventh season. I’m starting to become a bit familiar with how it feels, how my body goes through the long experience. What is February like versus what is July like versus what is October? I think my goal this year is to spend a little bit more time in present moment. I think it’s very easy to put your head down, wake up and it’s August and there is a beauty to what we do and an immense investment I won’t say cost, because it does feel like there’s an exchange. I put in a year of my life to work on those shows and be here and be a part of that environment, and I think what comes out of it, especially for Shakespeare and myself as an actor who likes to do Shakespeare, is that I am sharp. It is the repetitions. I feel like I’m getting to dive into it and practice it every day in a room with some of the most incredible people, and that is truly a gift that I think is unique to the festival in terms of its time and resources.
0:33:35 – Phil Rickaby
You alluded to the length of time that one is in Stratford, from rehearsal to the end of the season. It’s February to November or, if something gets held over, maybe even into December. That’s a long time to be working on something and to be going for so long, especially in Rep and all of those things. What is the survival kit for an actor going into a festival like that look like?
0:34:08 – Emilio Vieira
Oh, that’s a good question. Well, fortunately, with the Stratford Festival, they have an incredible coaching team. There is a team of vocal coaches, movement coaches. They get visits from physiotherapists or there’s a connection to physio and Cairo and things like that in the town to take care of your body as the season goes on and wear and tear my brain thinking about playing tibble in a couple of weeks, is thinking about that sword fight and how do I go from February to November making sure that my body gets through that and not just gets through that? Maybe better than survival we can aim for. But fortunately, part of the provided toolkit is that coaching support, the support of the community in terms of massage and physio and your body and stuff like that.
I also think that there’s such a wealth of knowledge in the exchange of intergenerational experience. I have mentors and colleagues who, at this point, I’ve worked with for a long time that I can always go to with a question or hey, have you ever noticed this about this play or this scene, so that when you feel like you get your 45 minutes on the scene once every couple of weeks because of the rep rehearsal, that you can continue that work alive while you may not be in front of the director. I do think that from month to month the landscape changes so much, based on you start with one show, then the second one starts and you be teching one while you’re previewing the other, then they both open and then you start the third one. The landscape changes so much that each year, I find, teaches you how to do that specific thing. There is not really a one-size-fits-all. Knowing that there’s sword fighting coming up, I know that body conditioning is going to be a huge part of my year. Other years it may be a little bit more of a vocal conditioning or caring for my mental health, my emotional state. It depends on what’s happening in my life, what the ask is at the festival and the surprises along the way.
Yeah, as I said, it is just now, after seven years, seven seasons over almost a decade, starting to feel like I understand this container. I cheekily refer to it as the cruise ship gig. You get on and we’re going. We get off at port a couple of times where I can go to Toronto for a day, or Sean goes to see some shows. Friends can come visit, but you’re on, you’re on six days a week. In this case, I start my first rehearsal February 16th, I think. I close October 27th or 28th or something, with the option to extend into November. Recognizing the container and going yeah along the way there will be some rises and falls. I know I’ve been through it before and I’ve got the tools to manage it and I’ve got the community around me to ask for help when I need.
0:37:28 – Phil Rickaby
I wanted to take some time to talk about SuddenSpark Collective, which is a project you created with your collaborator, alan Denney, and that was a sort of a pandemic. Everybody has sort of had their pandemic projects. How far into the pandemic did it take you to be like I got to be doing something and tell me about the projects, and does SuddenSpark have a life after the pandemic?
0:38:01 – Emilio Vieira
Yeah, so SuddenSpark came about, as you mentioned, with my dear pal, alan Denney. We met in 2019. She was doing an internship on the other side of the table at Crow’s theatre while I was performing in Towards Youth Play on Radical Hope by Andrew Kushner, and that was when we met each other and in that context I didn’t know Alan’s work as a performer or a writer, and then I very quickly got to, as we were connected on social media and became friends. And it was throughout that first phase of 2020 when everyone was saying goodbye to their projects. She and Alex Ferber, who were supposed to do Saltwater Moon at the Guild Festival theatre someday, snippet, sat on those beautiful steps, those beautiful marble steps, sitting six or eight feet apart from one another, doing a scene from the show, and she had posted it. And I’d responded saying, oh, I would have loved to have seen that. It’s such a shame to say goodbye to that project, and that would have been maybe July. And we kept chatting what is the state of theatre right now? Where will we go from here? Will it ever come back in the way that we wanted to, or recognize it? And from that started a question of what is the kind of story we need right now, and that Alan’s always said this that after we met working on Towards Youth, she sort of keeps a running list in her head of people she’d like to work with, and that after that experience, for whatever, I was fortunate enough to merit that mind list. And so we met in a park near her place and we sat under a willow tree on separate blankets, rained, and we talked about the state of the theatre and what we were going to do, and we came up with the idea of a winter rom-com, something for either Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
And I had never written anything before and I knew that Alan is always working on five or six projects all the time. I admire that woman so, so, so much, and I learned quite a lot working with her about so many things. But it was certainly a challenge, one that I didn’t know that I could rise to. And she was like well, do you want to write something together? And I said, sure, and she looked at me dead in the eyes as a way only Alan Denny could do, and she said I finished the things that I start. And I said, ok, loud and clear, I will take you on, let’s do that, and at the time I did not know what was going to happen, where we were going to go, and we team wrote a winter rom-com that we called February a Love Story for Valentine’s Day, and that was many, many Zoom sessions over a Google Doc, making changes, writing one seat, plotting things out and then switching and making notes on each other’s work, and I think the result ended up being this kind of you know, I think of Shakespeare and Fletcher and what that must have been like to go to totally different writing styles, a person who’s never written before finding their writing style, and a very accomplished person working with Anubi, and I think what the play reflects is a kind of product that we could not have created alone.
That exists purely because it is the two of us, and so the idea was that we would perform it live, and as the Delta wave hit and 2020 turned to 2021, it was clear we were not going to get that live in person, outdoor, even outdoor at that time, we weren’t allowed to gather in Toronto in groups more than five, and then it was only your household, and so we had to give the dream of being able to do it. One of our Google Docs was the multiple budgets. Okay, this is how we’ll do it. If we get a grant, oh well, we didn’t get one. So this is what we’ll do. If we have to beg, borrow and steal, oh, we’re not allowed to be outdoors. And the last thing I had sort of thrown out there as an idea that I didn’t think she thought I was serious about was the film, and so we drew up, you know what would this budget be? The beg, borrow and steal film version.
And because film sets were allowed to continue with a testing capacity and the theatre was, you know, dead in the water, we shot and produced, directed by Mari Bab, the first project of Sudden Spark Collective, which was February Love Story, and then it went on to be on the StratFest at Home Streaming platform with Stratford Festival and you know it had so many other lives. We ended up being able to do it in person at Globus Theatre. That was incredible, and then that brought about more projects. We produced another short film that was animated with the beautiful work of our friend in Gabon, abeyah, who is such a talented performer and artist, and all of these collaborations just sort of came out of people having maybe a little bit more time than they normally would, and all the good faith in the world to create these heartwarming stories for the pandemic.
And of course, since you know, a majority of regular life quote unquote has returned to Ellen and I in terms of our work. That was very familiar to us before the pandemic. Sudden Spark is on a bit of a hold until the next crest of a project comes our way, but we keep in touch. We continue to collaborate in little ways and I’m always dreaming of things. Now I think I’ve got the Ellen bug where you know. I’ve got a couple of projects in my head and if I ever put pen to paper and have time to do that at some point, maybe later in the summer, that can be a little pet project. Who knows, we may soon be seeing more from Sudden Spark collective in the future.
0:43:56 – Phil Rickaby
So I mean the idea of creative, because if you haven’t written before it can be pretty frightening, but then when you’ve done it, it’s a muscle, and so you, that muscle, once you work it, it just it keeps getting more. It’s like why, if you want to write a lot, write a lot, you know, because it just keeps going. Have you found that, aside from the ideas of Sudden Spark, are you feeling called to write on your own, or is this specifically a collaborative thing, that you think that that way of writing works best for you?
0:44:32 – Emilio Vieira
I think it’s really interesting that my first experience with it was collaboratively, because now, given the workload to write a thing, produce a thing and be a part of a thing, I go. I don’t know how people could do this alone. And, of course, like at no stage does anyone really ever do it alone, except that you are writing your concepts down or you know, trying to plot things out, grabbing your ideas, doing the messy stuff that you don’t want anyone to see, and then at a certain point, you are inviting other people in workshopping it or doing a reading and somebody’s giving feedback. Like all processes end up being some form of collaborative. Even one person shows how directors and you know designers and stuff like that.
I think for my next projects, should I have time, energy and money to dive into them, which is a confluence of things I find very scarce these days I would certainly, depending on the project, open it up to collaborators at a certain time.
Right now I’ve got this like there’s a story that’s been kind of haunting me, no pun intended. That is a horror film concept and I’m such a scaredy cat I was not into horror movies and then I watched Midsummer online in a Zoom watch party with my friends when I was alone in my apartment and they were alone in their apartment, and that could have scarred me forever. Instead, it made me a horror buff who wants to write one of his own. So is that a sudden spark collective project? Probably not Heartwarming stories to get us through soup for the pandemic soul. I don’t know that that’s the right avenue for that, but that’s the next thing I think I’m called to write, and who knows, by the time I actually get down to it, there may be a production of Mackers that comes up and I go oh well, this suits my, this fills my need for horror, and now I don’t need to write that.
0:46:31 – Phil Rickaby
It’s funny, you know, as a as a as an avowed, scaredy cat myself, like my girlfriend, loves horror. She is a horror buff, she loves ghost stories. You know she loves all kinds of stuff. I can’t watch it, so it’s like she, she’ll do it and I’ll go off and I’ll do something else. But I love creating horror.
0:46:52 – Emilio Vieira
There’s. I think that’s one of the ways to survive. It is to go, if I can engage with this, not from the it’s working on me, but from the curiosity of how is that working on me? Yes yes, yeah, then you know you’ve sort of you beat the bugaboo yeah absolutely Absolutely.
0:47:10 – Phil Rickaby
I kind of want to go back to something you mentioned really early in our conversation about being able to hear in in the text of two noble kinsmen when it’s Shakespeare and when it’s Fletcher. Do you find that, as somebody, that that’s really apparent to you, as somebody who’s done a lot of Shakespeare, or do you think that that’s apparent for like to the ear of almost anybody who would hear the the language spoken?
0:47:43 – Emilio Vieira
I wonder if you know it’s hard to speak on behalf of someone encountering it for the first time, because you know, I’d be very curious to ask even some of my feeder pals who have worked on Shakespeare whether they can tell one or the other. But certainly from my, for my ears, fletcher is a little bit more long-winded. Fletcher is trying to cram a lot of syllables into lines, so there’s a lot of long lines. The meter is kind of all over the place and certainly for the stuff that Palomon is, you know that heightened emotional state that I was talking about, those commas and those sentences could be anywhere.
So it’s made it very challenging to learn. Because I go, okay, well, why is he qualifying it just this way? And then suddenly you’ll break into a chunk that’s written by Shakespeare and it feels like it just clips along a little bit easier, a little bit lighter. I don’t know that one is better or worse in this particular case, they’re just different. There will be, I think, some moments in which an audience can go, huh, I, you know, I bet that’s written by a different person than I was just listening to. But whether you’re, you’re probably right about the shift, but you may surprise yourself as to what you’re right, that it’s Shakespeare versus Fletcher. Kind of comically, we’ve been talking in the room about these two speeches that the character Emilia has. My friend Kate is performing that role.
One is written by Shakespeare, one is written by Fletcher, but they are very similar in their concepts that they’re exploring and I mean there could be a whole university course on how those two speeches dive into the same concepts and so, yeah, it’ll be very interesting for an audience to come in and go either oh wow, I didn’t realize it was team written, or it’s very clearly something other than just a straight up shake plate. When you look at something like R&J, I mean rhyming couplet like all over the place. That doesn’t exist as much in this place, a lot more complex meter structure, so in a way it can feel more modern, more colloquial, less poetic. But, yeah, I will be interested to chat with people, as I always am, after they see the show.
0:50:13 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, yeah, I remember the first time that it struck me that Elizabethan writers all had different voices. Because you knew Shakespeare, you knew Shakespeare. Then you started hearing about Marlowe and Johnson and other people, and suddenly you’re okay, so let’s take a look at these people and see how they’re, how do they write, and suddenly realizing that they sounded different, that they felt different, that the way that they constructed his speech was different. Johnson is really wanting to know how educated he is, and Marlowe really is in love with his own words, and so you can really sort of feel these things in the text and I think it’s a fascinating thing to sort of like realize that I kind of feel like there is a reason why we know Shakespeare and it’s not like you know, it’s not because he was actually written by Queen Elizabeth or whatever. It’s because he really understood people and wrote really great language.
0:51:13 – Emilio Vieira
And it’s really great to encounter him at different stages in his own creation. You read an early play like Titus Andronicus and I’ve always thought that you know that’s him writing some kind of thriller. You know blood and gore, every couple, you know, every hundred lines is somebody getting a hand cut off or something. And he’s a young author. He’s trying stuff out In the concepts of that play. He’s exploring things that he later goes back to with Mackers and R3. And you know, I think there’s even Coriolanus. Things like that are present in those early plays. He’s not quite done with their concepts.
He writes a comedy of errors and there’s, you know, like themes in the comedies come back and so it’s fun to imagine a person, if indeed a person he was, and you know neither here nor there about that argument, but I’m cheered, at the very least, that humanity produced such works. Yeah, you get to sort of, as I’m encountering at different stages of my life, sort of admire what this person is trying to express about humanity or what questions they’re asking and how those get refined or shifted throughout the course of his life, you know, and a very interesting life it is. So, yeah, I realize that sounds super fauney over the guy, and I guess that’s kind of what I’ve become in my old age. But there we are. I must embrace it. It’s where the bread and butter has been for me. I mean absolutely.
0:52:53 – Phil Rickaby
It’s funny because I have a friend of mine who you know went to school and did a whole bunch of stuff and then, for many years after they were done, they were just always like nobody needs to do Shakespeare ever again, nobody needs to go to do Shakespeare ever again, it’s dated, it’s over, forget it, we don’t need to touch that again. And then went to school in New York and studied Shakespeare properly and suddenly they were like, oh my God, now I understand and it’s funny how you can be absolutely certain that it’s over, that you never need to touch it again, that you know why are we doing these old plays, and suddenly then like being really taught the plays and the language and how it works, and to suddenly have that shift and go oh no, no, now I understand that there’s a reason why these plays keep being done, absolutely.
0:53:40 – Emilio Vieira
Yeah, I get hooked on bits of language. They come back in the way that when you watch a movie you really love those lines that stick and I understand how, to somebody encountering it for the first time or for the first time since school and maybe a bit reticent, that it can feel sort of daunting to sit in a room full of people who know it so intimately and feel that you’re somehow out of the of the in group with you know this, this nerdy fixation of whatever it is, and I a little anecdote I have is last time I did Shakespeare in High Park. That’s one of those 90 minute edits that they do and there are people who arrive to that show in broad daylight with their copy of their scripts in their hand and flipping pages as you’ve gone and slashed it right, and I almost feel like, as I hear the pages turning and they’re trying to keep up with us, of turning over and saying it’ll be a page 263 in your, in your ardent addition and we’re going to keep going with the story here if you don’t mind. So that can feel very. I can see how that can feel very stuffy or not inviting.
I do think you know one of the things that brings me back to time and time again is the invitation to encounter a largely unedited script that is really just trying to put the play up on its own merit and and asking you to engage with it wherever you’re at. It’s our responsibility to make it digestible and relatable and also not to and also to go. This is hard. This is a bit obscure. What is your takeaway from that? You will not come away with 100% saliency of what it is. That is not the goal.
0:55:24 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, the goal is to experience something you know yeah, it’s definitely great to have somebody who, who maybe you know a lot of people who go to see two noble kinsmen are not going to be people who know it intimately. That’s the joy of like one of the rarely performed plays, is it? Most people have not seen them very often, so you can go and I think there will be fewer people who, with their copies of you know, going through it and huffing when you skip something or you’ve got something, it’s, it’s, it’s. It’s really a great opportunity, I think, to experience something anew.
0:56:01 – Emilio Vieira
Absolutely, and to see, maybe, where some of your favorite modern stories have pulled from this, from this tale, because Shakespeare himself pulls this from Chaucer. It’s a night’s tale. So, in in the way that we, you know, as humanity, continue to pull from the human, well, so was Shakespeare. He was pulling from the Holland Shed, he was pulling from, you know, not only authors of his time but historians of his time, and then and then playing and messing with the history. It’s, it’s just the was ever thus, yes, with artists pulling on one another’s strings and going Well, let’s take this one a little further down the rabbit hole.
So I am so excited to have audiences experience this play. You know, as I say it is, it is the play we are doing the play, so engaging with their feedback and and feeling their reactions, and over the course of a 10, only 10 performance run, it’ll be really interesting, night after night, to go. Where are the areas that I can kind of create an average response like, where this is where people sort of react to this way and this other way. It’s not so clear. You know, without without spoiling too much there, there are moments of direct address to the audience in the structure of the script that, I think, invite people to consider what it is they have just witnessed. I hope it breeds lots of discussion and that people go away from it at least saying, well, that was fascinating, what a what an interesting story, yeah yeah, absolutely Well, emilio, thank you so much for joining me this evening.
0:57:51 – Phil Rickaby
Thanks so much for giving me some of your time and, as always, looking forward to seeing the latest show from.
0:57:58 – Emilio Vieira
Oh, thanks so much for having me on. It’s been good to chat.
0:58:05 – Phil Rickaby
This has been an episode of stage worthy. Stage workthy is produced, hosted and edited by Phil Rickaby. That’s me. If you enjoyed this podcast and you listen on Apple podcasts or Spotify, you can leave a five star rating, and if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review. Those reviews and ratings help new people find the show. If you want to keep up with what’s going on with stage worthy and my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to philrickaby.com/subscribe and remember. If you want to leave a tip, you’ll find a link to the virtual tip jar in the show notes or on the website. You can find stageworthy on Twitter and Instagram at stageworthypod, and you can find the website with the complete archive of all episodes at stageworthy.ca. If you want to find me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at Philrickaby and, as I mentioned, my website is philrickaby.com. See you next week for another episode of stageworthy.