...ultimately, that’s why people come. It’s the work, the place. It’s the talent on the stage.
by David Sklar (photos courtesy of The Stratford Festival)
Senior contributor David Sklar spoke with Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of Stratford Festival, about the challenging experience of taking over the reins this past year.
working with Richard Monette, I realized it was a way that I could make a difference
CHARPO: Did you ever think about becoming artistic director?
Lucy Peacock (l) and Seana McKenna in Mary Stuart, directed by Cimolino - one of the surprise hits of the season
CHARPO: When coming on board, you mentioned how important you felt the “words” are to any production. Do you feel it is working out this season?
CHARPO: I believe it’s 50 years here in Canada.
Tim Rooney (l) and Stephen Ouimette in Jennifer Tarver's production of Waiting for Godot (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
CHARPO: What then should be the role of original Canadian plays?
A young Cimolino with Megan Follows in Romeo and Juliet
CHARPO: [Pointing to a photo of a young Cimolino with Megan Follows in the 1992 production of Romeo and Juliet] How does it feel to come full circle with another Romeo on stage as you take command?
CIMOLINO: Well, Romeo is I think the toughest part in the world. Shakespeare didn’t give Juliet a best friend who is very witty and dies by the end of the first half. Mercutio is so out there, and Romeo has to slog through it but it’s a great and challenging part.
CHARPO: What are the differences between you and your predecessors?
CIMOLINO: Well every one of them was different. Each one offered something important: Michael Langham’s incredible intelligence and energy and unending demand for truth. Robin Phillips demanded that as well but in a very different way. He would create a world in which the play lived. John Neville’s brilliant programming and care for the institution.
I auditioned for Hirsch and boy, did he hammer it home. I was straight out of theatre school for a callback. I was doing Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy and got to the point where I was talking about the characteristics of being human and god creating us for these things to “fust in us unused” and he stops me. He said “unused…unused”. He looks at me and says, “you think you have talent?” At that point, it was so tough, it was a very good question and probably lasted three seconds before I replied but it felt like a lifetime of self-doubt. And as I saw my life flash before my eyes I said, “Yes, I do have talent”. And he smiled and said, “Good. Now what if you don’t work for the next 40 years in the theatre? That’s unused”. Wow, I thought. I did the speech again and I did not say unused in quite the same way.
He taught us that if we have given up our lives to do this crazy thing that we really use the talents we have to the fullest and not piss around.
And oh yes, Richard Monette’s exuberance. Every time he was in town, you felt like the circus was there. When actors spoke in Richard’s productions, you totally understood what they were saying. He validated the individual actor. He always made you feel like you could be yourself and yet find the character and make a contribution. He ended the period when the director could be seen as an autocrat.
Des McAnuff’s ability to put on a show like nobody else and his great nose for what will succeed. His commitment to new work and the development of the artist.
Each one of these people brought a very different talent. But that wasn’t your question.
How am I doing to be different? I guess by being myself. Maybe someone a few years from now will say, “And this is what Cimolino brought”.
CHARPO: Can you give us any previews for the next season?
CHARPO: WHY NOT?
CIMOLINO: We are just a few days away from revealing it. Sorry.