by Kelly Peck
As I woke up this morning and felt that it was far too close to the freezing point, I was once again pummeled by the obvious—it’s November. And if it’s November, that can mean only one thing: the University College of Cape Breton Dramagroup will be presenting their traditional adaptation of the world’s most famous and loved bard—William Shakespeare.
For seven days from November 22nd to 28th, Romeo & Juliet, possibly the most famous love story of all times, will be staged at the Boardmore Playhouse. The Monday to Friday performances will be morning shows for local junior and senior high school students. The weekend performances are open to the general public with performances scheduled for Saturday, November 27th, at 8pm and Sunday, November 28th, at 2pm.
Director Todd Hiscock, manager of the Boardmore Playhouse, is just back from a two-year sabbatical at York University, where he achieved his Masters in Fine Arts. Hiscock brings some valuable experience and training to this production and audiences should be in for a real treat. Included in the action on stage will be choreographed sword fights, a feature directly linked to Hiscock’s experiences at York where he studied stage fighting as part of his degree.
Hiscock says that during their other Shakespeare productions, the Dramagroup always managed to find some way of staging the many sword battles. But now he is able to impart the basics of stage combat which make the onstage duels more realistic and safer. With such a young, energetic cast, Hiscock admits it’s a hard but necessary thing to do.
“They pick up the sword,” he chuckles, “and all of a sudden they’re warriors.” But, Hiscock points out, experience in the techniques of stage combat is an important skill for his young actors to acquire if they want to continue on as professional actors.
“It’s a huge talent to have,” Hiscock says. “It’s really useful in the film industry; filmmakers are always looking for fight directors and actors with experience in stage combat. And it’s always good to have another craft inside the larger craft.”
With a large cast of mostly first time actors, Hiscock says this “is what we (the Dramagroup) have to remember: to give people a chance to be onstage and give people a chance at performing Shakespeare. In rehearsals I try to pass along what I now know about Shakespeare’s text, like how there are specific stage instructions hidden in the text. I also try to help the actors try to understand why they’re saying what they’re saying.”
Included in the cast are Colleen MacIsaac as Juliet, Phonse Walsh as Romeo, Rob MacVicar as Mercutio, Frank MacKenzie as Friar Laurence, Michael MacDonald and Laurel MacDonald as Juliet’s parents, Keith Morrison and Bernice Webb as Romeo’s parents, Duncan Gould as the Prince of Verona and Ken Chisholm in the pivotal role of the Apothecary.
This production of Romeo & Juliet marks the opening of the 29th Season of Plays at UCCB. The season resumes in 2000 with these scheduled productions: Little Eyolf by Henrick Ibsen in January, a presentation of two one-act plays by Cape Breton playwright Michael Melski in February, the Dramagroup’s One-Act Play Festival held this season from March 10th to 24th, and the concluding production is an adaptation of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.