Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Feature: Sascha Cole, actor, on Shakespeare's Nigga

Acting in a Dream World
Sascha Cole performs in a work where even the title is hot button
[This article was created with the assistance of Obsidian Theatre]
You’ve been a part of this project from very early on. What was this journey like throughout the various incarnations, (table reads, workshops etc.) to a fully realized stage production? 
I was brought in for a workshop in December 2011. Since then the play has been living inside my heart and head, marinating so to speak. It started to permeate my dreams actually. 
It is a gift to have so much time to let the complexities of the language and the story reveal themselves to you over time. I would be watching a movie or reading a book or seeing a play and suddenly I would think “oh, maybe Judith is a little bit like that” or ''maybe THAT is what Philip was talking about”. And then once rehearsal starts you have the opportunity to explore those small realizations. Even now, as we begin our tech week at  Passe Muraille and gear up to have an audience, I am still connecting the dots and searching to understand Judith.
What were your first impressions of the play? 
I was blown away by Joseph Jomo Pierre's text. His gorgeous poetry and images. Sometimes borrowing Shakespeare's own words, but more often writing his own beautiful prose. The language is so stunning upon reading it the first time, I could not tell which lines were Joe's and which were Shakespeare's.
Also Joe's  fearlessness. And how much he needs to tell this story. And I was just so thrilled to be part of it. Plus I dig period stuff so much. Put me in a gown and a corset and I am a happy woman!
How much of Judith Quiney, the historical reference for the Judith in Shakespeare’s Nigga, was worked into your characterization? 
Absolutely NONE. Seeing as the play takes place in a dream world, my portrayal of Judith is built around how she relates to the other characters and by the choices she makes. Not very much is known about Judith Quiney, except that she married a tavern owner and eventually was excommunicated by her church for not obtaining a proper marriage certificate. All of which I am sure was very scandalous at the time, but nothing in comparison to the actions of Judith in Shakespeare's Nigga. 
What was your experience like as the only woman in the cast? 
I had the great pleasure of working very closely with the assistant director and choreographer Kimberly Rampersad. Along with our  amazing ASM Beth Wong, the rehearsal hall never seemed off balance. But since Kimberly went back to Winnipeg, I won't lie, I have had to keep the men inline, reminding them that there are ladies present!
And as for being the youngest, I didn't even think of it until you asked. I guess I am the youngest. 
You had a serious injury before starting to work on this particular incarnation of Shakespeare’s Nigga. What happened?
I injured my back while doing a show as part of Next Stage Festival. I wish I could say it was because I was doing something glamorous, but I just lifted a very heavy box the wrong way. You know when people are always telling you to lift with your knees? DO IT. 
I am actually still recovering from the injury but everyone at Obsidian and Passe Muraille have been so supportive and patient with me. It was so frustrating to lose mobility and when I eventually joined rehearsal there were still things I couldn't sitting down...or bend. I so wanted to dive in and get to the nitty gritty of the scenes.
It is amazing how much I took my back muscles for granted before. I never appreciated that your back muscles help you balance, go the bathroom, pick things up off the floor and tie your shoes. All that to say, I am SO GRATEFUL that it all worked out. 
When people react to the play’s title, what do you tell them? What’s your “pitch” as it were?
I don't have a pitch. The play doesn't need a pitch.  I have received varied reactions. Some people look shocked, some offended, some intrigued, some don't know what to say.  Each reaction speaks to the power of the title and what it evokes in people. And every time I simply tell them to come and see the play to understand what those two words, side by side, mean. 
Describe your experience working with Obsidian Theatre and Philip Akin?
Philip is one of those directors you dream of working with at some point in your career. You hope one day you get to tell a story together.  I feel so lucky to have this opportunity so early in my career. He teaches me  to continue to dig and to question.  And not to be afraid to go to the ugly places that illuminate the dark side of humane behaviour.  Philip often talks about the text coming from the bones and heart and not the head, I think that is something that will live in my pocket for a while. 
I have long admired the work Obsidian does and am just so grateful to be part of this project.
Sashca Cole stars as Judith in Shakespeare’s Nigga running from February 2-23 at Theatre Passe Muraille. For more information visit or for tickets.

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