For the third consecutive year, Canadian Stage has teamed up with the Department of Theatre in York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design to provide a double dose of entertainment for Shakespeare at High Park – producing two plays by the Bard featuring the same cast and different directors. The classic tragedy Julius Caesar and the delightful Comedy of Errors play under the stars in Toronto’s High Park Amphitheatre on alternating nights throughout the summer.
The shows are directed by two fiercely talented artists set to graduate this year from York’s MFA in Stage Direction in Collaboration with Canadian Stage: Matjash Mrozewski, an internationally recognized choreographer, and Estelle Shook, whose credits include directing The Winter’s Tale at Shakespeare in High Park for Canadian Stage in 2011.
Mrozewski and Shook are helming their respective productions under the mentorship of Peter Hinton, currently the lead Canadian Stage mentor for the MFA program.
Shook’s take on the cautionary tale of the rise and fall of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, with its themes of power, miscommunication and betrayal, is to ignite a dialogue with the audience about authority, citizenship and responsibility, where the formality of the Roman era collides with a contemporary sensibility.
“Artists have been using this play to interrogate their relationship to politics for centuries,” Shook says in her director’s notes. “This summer, as we head into the homestretch of a federal election, the play provides us with an opportunity to question, in [Michel] Foucault’s words, “how to be ruled, by whom, and to what ends.”
The perfect counterbalance to the intensity of Julius Caesar, The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s most uproarious plays. The accidental encounters of two sets of estranged identical twins escalate with increasingly bizarre consequences, but ultimately wind up with a happy resolution. Mrozewski’s delicate approach offers a comedy that is both hilarious and charmingly romantic.
“Shakespeare shows us what it is to be human,” said Mrozewski. “He affectionately points out our foibles and we laugh at them. We recognize ourselves in the characters onstage. The Comedy of Errors shows us that even as life spins out of control and breaks down, there is still the possibility of putting things back together.”
In addition to the directors, the creative team for the two shows features a wealth of York University talent. Lighting design is by Brad Trenaman, an MFA candidate in the graduate program in Theatre Design. The costume designer is Michelle Tracey (BFA ’13), and theatre Professor Teresa Przybylski designed the sets.
The cast also features York theatre talent. Freshly minted alumna Soo Garay (MFA ’15) and undergrad acting student Christopher Allen are part of the 12-person ensemble that transitions from comedy to tragedy night after night.
“These actors have taught me the value of loving your work and finding positivity even in the face of challenges,” said Allen. “My training at York helped with my confidence in presenting myself and my acting ability, so the transition from my tightly knit class to working with this new group was easy.
“The preview performances so far have been an amazing experience. I’ve never previously performed in front of so many people, and the audience is so welcoming!”
Julius Caesar runs to Sept. 5, with performances on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Comedy of Errors runs to Sept. 6, with performances Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Showtime is 8 pm. Admission is pay-what-you-can. For more information or to reserve a premium ticket in advance ($25 for adults, children under 14 free), visit CanadianStage.com.