Theatre Review: Hart House’s Legally Blonde: The Musical

A production that’s just like senior year, only funner!

Theatre Review: Hart House’s <i>Legally Blonde: The Musical</i>

Emma Sangalli is truly the star in Hart House’s Legally Blonde: The Musical. Every part of her performance, from vocals to acting to her connection with the audience, is brilliant. She enters the staged Harvard University with the same natural presence as Reese Witherspoon’s on-screen version. Sangalli’s interpretation of Elle Woods is simply irresistible.

In fact, Legally Blonde is carried most of all by its captivating characters. They’re all easily divided into the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ the nice versus the mean. Yes, these are stereotypes, but the main cast are so charming that you can’t even be annoyed with their predictability. And regarding the more unpleasant characters, Woods herself shows us how to deal with them: with compassion.

The thing is, we — the audience — love Elle. We love her not because she’s pretty, which she is; not because she’s smart, though she’s way smarter than the uptight Harvard boys; and not even because she’s funny — that girl’s got humour. No, we love her because of her heart.

This is how big her heart is: when her boyfriend breaks up with her, she doesn’t react with denial or anger, and she doesn’t scream, cry, or even pity herself, which she would have every right to do. Instead, she stays true to her heart, calmly but sadly saying to her disloyal boyfriend “I love you.”

Elle teaches us to do it for love, to stay true to oneself, and to do what you need to reach your goals — even if you end up at a party dressed with bunny ears and a negligee among a bunch of preppy law school students, or when the scariest professor on campus kicks you out of class day after day. Elle goes through all of these things with her head held high and her heart kept open.

If anyone thought Elle does what she does because she’s naïve, she proves them wrong at the final trial. There, she shows that she’s not only smart and a caring friend, but also displays how that very combination is a winning concept.

Other characters you will fall in love with in Legally Blonde are the endearing Emmett Richmond (Ethan Vasquez Taylor) and Paulette Bonafonté (Moulan Bourke), as well as Chelsea Jayne Bray’s Enid Hoopes. Rae Bernakevitch is another cast member worth mentioning, even though her role as Kate is a small one.

After falling in love with all these characters on the stage, after laughing and crying with them for over two hours, how can I care about the minor details that didn’t quite fall into place? That the energy sometimes fell flat in less than smooth bridges between songs and scenes, or that a couple of minor characters seemed more sleepy than anything else — how could I mind such details?

The opening scene isn’t quite convincing in the girly glitter it’s supposed to convey. What I saw on stage doesn’t live up to what I heard in the song. However, Elle now sits on my shoulder and challenges me: Didn’t I see you shiver during the show? Didn’t you smile, and laugh, and cry?

The answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes — Emmett, I blame you twice for that last yes — during the show I did all of those things. Elle taught me that the feelings the performance gave me matter more than anything else. If there were things I felt were lacking in the beginning of the show, or here and there throughout, the overall performance made up for it.

Beyond the endearing characters and Sangalli’s excellent performance, Gregory Carruther’s choreography is also delightful all throughout the show. The rope-skipping dance number was the most impressive, not least because of how the actors seamlessly pause their skipping and then picking it up again, making it look like the easiest thing in the world.

The set design is hardly as avant-garde or creative as it could have been, but it serves the show well — both the geographical transportation across the US and the actual movements across the stage are combined with nice transitions. That the musicians are visible, even though just barely, through a door at the back of the set is a tiny detail that adds to the vividness on stage.

When Elle first encounters peer Harvard student Vivienne Kensington (Autumn-Joy Dames), she criticizes Elle’s pink fashion choices. At the end, however, the newfound friend Vivienne has come to the realization that “being true to yourself never goes out of style.” What Hart House Theatre’s Legally Blonde shows us is not only that staying true to yourself is eternally fashionable, but also that it’s an essential life skill.

Should the U.N. be Abolished? The 6th Annual CIC Foreign Affairs Debate

Born out of the vestiges of World War II, the United Nations was built with the great hope of maintaining global peace and security. Over 70 years and more than half a trillion dollars later, many would question whether it has been effective. The Security Council remains dominated by five countries and has proven resistant to reform. Wars in the Middle East continue to rage on, with the worst humanitarian crisis of our time unfolding with little international attention in Yemen. The number of people living in absolute poverty has decreased, but wealth inequality has also increased at an alarming rate.

Has the U.N.’s intended vision been realized? Is a tool born out of WWII able to face the challenges of the 21st century?

Hosted jointed by CIC-Toronto, the Hart House Debates & Dialogue Committee and the Hart House Debating Club, the 6th Annual CIC-Toronto Foreign Affairs Debate will feature student debaters from Hart House (University of Toronto) and Ryerson University on the motion “Be it Resolved That the United Nations Should be Abolished”. Standing in favour of the motion at hand will be Hart House, and standing on opposition will be Ryerson.

There will be a panel of three expert judges, as well as a ‘splitting of the house’ where audience members will be be asked to vote on who they believe presented the stronger arguments and defended their position the best. The debate will be followed by a catered post-reception.

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Where: Hart House Debates Room, University of Toronto

When: 7:00-9:00PM

6:30PM: Doors Open

7:00PM-8:30PM: Debate

8:30-9:00PM: Catered post-reception

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Tickets are free. Please reserve your spot on Eventbrite.

Please note that in order to guarantee your spot, you must arrive by 7:00PM. Doors open at 6:30PM.

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If you have any accessibility questions or concerns, please email marco.adamovic@utoronto.ca.

The 2020 Alumni Debate: “Is Following Your Passion the Path to Success?”

As part of a long tradition of inter-generational debate and intellectual spirit, the Hart House Debates and Dialogue Committee is delighted to invite you to be part of the Annual Alumni Debate in the 100th year of Hart House. Join current student debaters, esteemed alumni, and members of the Hart House community to reminisce and reconnect, while celebrating the spirit of lively debate that has played a defining role in the educational experience of many. This year’s debate will feature Professor Joy Fitzgibbon and Professor Randy Boyagoda, who will be accompanied by world-class student debaters from Hart House.

The event is free, and will conclude with a catered post-reception for all attendees!

== THE DEBATE ==

What are you passionate about in life? Are you doing what you love to do?

Nowhere are such ubiquitous questions asked more frequently than the halls of universities and workplaces. While cliché and volumes of advice columns suggest that pursuing a life centered around your passions will provide maximal fulfillment and success, is this advice still relevant in the hyper-competition of the 21st century?

== THE MOTION ==

“THR the Narrative that Following Your Passion is the Path to Success”

== EVENT DETAILS ==

Where: Hart House East Common Room

When: 7-9pm, January 16th, 2020

7:00 – 9:00pm: debate

9:00 – 10:00pm: post-debate reception

== SPEAKERS ==

Chair: Gautier Boyrie, Hart House Debating Club President

Randy Boyagoda, Alumni debater for side government

Randy Boyagoda is the Principal of St.Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Writer, critic and scholar, he is the author of three novels, a SSHRC-supported critical biography, and a scholarly monograph. His fiction has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize (2006) and IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize (2012), and named a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Selection (2012). He contributes essays, reviews, and opinions to publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, First Things, Commonweal, Harper’s, Financial Times (UK), Guardian, New Statesman, Globe and Mail, and National Post, in addition to appearing frequently on CBC Radio. He served as President of PEN Canada from 2015-2017. His third novel, Original Prin, was published in 2018.

James Coady, Student Debater for side government

James Coady is a fourth-year student at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. James debated for three years for the Hart House Debating Club, and the Copenhagen Business School Debating Society. He served for one year on the executive of the former, and was Tournament Director for the 2018 North American Debating Championships.

Joy Fitzgibbon, Alumni debater for side opposition

Joy Fitzgibbon is Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program at Trinity College in the University of Toronto and  a Fellow of College. Joy’s research focuses on the ways in which we can respond more effectively and compassionately to human suffering in the areas of global health policy and violence against women. She is exploring new modalities of pedagogy that enable us to learn, live and serve our communities in integrated and sustainable ways. She has served on the Board of two not for profit organizations, on the University of Toronto’s  Academic Board, as Faculty Advisor to Hart House Debates and Dialogues Committee and currently serves on the Senate at Trinity College and as Chair of the Senior Common Room. She was honoured to join a number of her colleagues in receiving the inaugural Chancellor William C. Graham Award for service to the Trinity College community.

Deborah Wong, Student Debater for side opposition

Deborah Wong is a third-year student at Trinity College in the University of Toronto. She is pursuing a specialist degree in Political Science with a focus on the political and economic development in the Global South.

She is currently a competitive local and international debater for the Hart House Debating Club. Some of her achievements include having recently made an appearance in the grand finals as well as being crowned the runner-up of the coveted Oxford University Intervarsity Debating Championship in Oxford, England. Also, she was the recent finalist of the National British Parliamentary Championship as well as being named the 8th best speaker of Canada.

== TICKETS AND TRI-CAMPUS ACCESSIBILITY ==

Tickets are free.

Given that we are hosting this event at the University of Toronto Downtown Campus (UTSG), all non-UTSG students have the opportunity to be reimbursed for their travel expenses. Please get in touch with us at hhddc.communications@utoronto.ca if you are interested.

For other accessibility inquiries and requests, please contact marco.adamovic@utoronto.ca.

== ADDITIONAL NOTES ==

For any additional queries, feel free to connect with us at hhddc.communications@utoronto.ca.

UTSG: Universities Under Siege — A Roundtable Discussion

In light of recent events of police targeting university campuses across Hong Kong, we would like to discuss within the Hong Kong context, what it means for not only people, but institutions to be a targets of state violence and repression.

Two recorded interviews with frontline photographers covering the course of conflicts at two universities in Hong Kong (Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University) whose works are featured in the exhibition, will be shared.

We will be holding a roundtable discussion in the form of breakout sessions led by facilitators, in hopes of building dialogue among diverse groups affected by the Hong Kong movement.

This event will mark the beginning of the second part of the Toronto exhibition, which will be available for viewing from December 2nd to December 31st in the 2nd Floor Hallway of Hart House.

The exhibition, “Stand With Hong Kong Journalists”, showcases press photos submitted by 12 HK frontline photojournalists, presenting their accurate, fair, comprehensive and visually compelling stories about the movement. There will also be a supplementary timeline to trace the movement from the start to its current state.

Theatre Review: Hart House’s Portia’s Julius Caesar

Spoiler alert: they murder Caesar!

Theatre Review: Hart House’s Portia’s Julius Caesar

Portia’s Julius Caesar at Hart House is an ambitious and honourable piece that tackles a feminist retelling of Shakespeare’s political tragedy Julius Caesar. Originally mounted this past August in Withrow Park by Shakespeare in the Ruff, director Eva Barrie returns to this text with a new cast and mostly-new crew to mount an ambitious rendition of the show.

If you are unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, here is the briefest of summaries: ancient Rome as a time of peace. Brutus (Felix Beauchamp) is invited by Cassius to join a conspiracy plot to kill Caesar for fear that he will become a dictator — they then murder Caesar! In the latter half of the play Brutus and his conspirators are faced with the consequences of their actions as Rome falls into civil war.

Yusuf Zine’s charismatic Caesar opens the night with a land acknowledgement. He laments his death, and how it might have been stopped if only we had listened to women. He continues on to satirically joke that our modern society must have no problem listening to women or Indigenous leaders, unlike his ancient Rome. The retelling focuses on this lesson, though it’s perhaps a bit nail-on-the-head.

In the play, we follow a regal Portia (Athena Kaitlin Trinh) as she navigates the politics of Rome as a woman. The play weaves between her story and that of her husband, Brutus, as Portia overhears the plot to kill Caesar and is tasked with stopping the inevitable. Portia cryptically warns her friend, Calpurnia (Whitney K. Ampadu), of what will happen to her husband, Caesar, and for a moment it seems as though they will succeed, but in one of the more jarring turns of the show Caesar changes his mind and Portia and Calpurnia’s plan fails.

In the final moments of the show Calpurnia confronts Portia, upset and betrayed that the truth of Caesar’s fate was not disclosed to her, and the two lament the ways in which their voices continue to be silenced as Rome burns around them.

Shakespeare is a great challenge for all actors, and this team rose to the occasion — standouts include JD Leslie’s poised presence as the Soothsayer, and the relationship between Trinh’s Portia and Ampadu’s Calpurnia.

Bringing ancient Rome into the cavernous hall of Hart House Theatre was an ambitious feat that the design team accomplishes to great effect. Rachel Forbes returns to the show with a deceivingly-simple set that becomes increasingly disassembled throughout the show, mirroring the crumbling peace of Rome. Julia Kim’s costumes shine vibrantly under Chris Malkowski’s supersaturated lighting.

The lighting has beautiful moments — for example, in the finale all of the design elements merge in a true moment of beauty that showcases the skills of the whole team to create a striking final image. However, certain special effects — like the fire in the finale — could be used more sparingly to create a greater impact when used. Similarly, Andy Tridarth’s sound design would also benefit from some restraint.

Further, the mix of pre-recorded and live music used throughout created a haunting ambiance that echoed through the space, but the live sounds occasionally fought with those of the actors onstage.

The most ambitious, and perhaps strongest, part of this show is the script. Portia’s Julius Caesar challenges Shakespeare and the women he wrote — or failed to write — while still paying homage to the language of the beloved bard.

Playwright Kaitlyn Riordan manages to seamlessly work in her own words, written in verse, alongside the original text to a tremendous effect. Riordan cuts down the script to keep it concise and useful, but still keeps the strongest and most iconic moments.

She also manages to slip in a few lines of one of Shakespeare’s better women monologues from another play — Hermione’s powerful words during the trial in The Winter’s Tale. For those who are familiar with our dear William’s plays, Riordan hid a few more easter-egg quotes, pulling from over 20 Shakespeare plays.

Overall, despite the fact that the show achieves much of its ambitious pursuits, certain elements don’t quite click. That being said, it’s a visually beautiful show, and the powerful final scene is well worth it.

The Breakdown: Hart House celebrates 100th anniversary

Yearlong celebration to highlight student centre and U of T staple

The Breakdown: Hart House celebrates 100th anniversary

This year, November 11 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of Hart House, one of the oldest student centres in North America. A yearlong series of events and exhibits has been dedicated to the milestone’s celebration, including a fundraising gala, concerts, and fairs, along with new historical and artistic exhibits throughout the building that highlight its history.

Key celebrations

Hart House kicked off the celebrations on November 12 with the Gala of the Century. The gala unveiled the Hart House Centennial Art Commission, which is a sculptural piece by Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore and Cuban-born artist Osvaldo Yero. The piece, titled waabidiziiyan doopwining, meaning “to see yourself at the table,” is intended to recognize the history of Indigenous peoples. Upcoming events include a series of concerts featuring the Hart House Jazz Ensemble, among others.

“The Hart House 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee was set up over a year ago and we have students involvement at the strategic planning level since the beginning,” wrote Davina Chan, Senior Director of Marketing, Communications and Information Services at Hart House. “We plan each of the events with the lens of ensuring the regular operations of what Hart House offers remains uninterrupted.”

History of Hart House

Hart House was commissioned by the prominent Massey family as a gift to U of T, with the aim to build a student centre for non-academic student communities and activities. Vincent Massey named the building after his grandfather, Hart Massey. The building’s construction began in 1911, and it opened officially on November 11, 1919. During World War I, it was used for trench warfare drills. Students enlisted in the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps used a set designed by Lawren Harris to look like a war-torn Belgian village for rifle practice — Harris later became a famous Canadian landscape artist.

It continues to host a number of student-run clubs and events throughout the year. Hart House debates have hosted generations of U of T alumni to debate issues like the notwithstanding clause, and has hosted speakers such as John F. Kennedy, Margaret Atwood, and Noam Chomsky.

The place of women at Hart House

Until 1972, women were not admitted as full members — as Vincent Massey’s donation specified that the building not allow women, which was not changed until his death. In 1954, women were allowed to enter after 3:00 pm, and later a women’s washroom and women’s entrance were added.

In 1957, when future US president John F. Kennedy debated Stephen Lewis, female students were not allowed to attend. This incited a protest of Hart House’s exclusion of women, and some women even attempted to enter disguised as men. When security saw their nail polish, they were removed, and joined the protests.

Remembrance Day service marks 100th anniversary of Soldiers’ Tower

Flying Officer Edwards of Victoria College remembered as first RCAF pilot to lose life in combat

Remembrance Day service marks 100th anniversary of Soldiers’ Tower

Amidst heavy snowfall and below-freezing temperatures, more than a hundred people gathered at the foot of Soldiers’ Tower to take part in U of T’s Service of Remembrance. This year’s service marks the 100th anniversary of the laying of the first cornerstone of Soldiers’ Tower.

The Soldiers’ Tower Committee has been holding Remembrance Day services since 1924, when the tower was officially unveiled. In her opening remarks, Michelle Alfano, Chair of the Soldiers’ Tower Committee, said “to those who served and all their families, we see you, we acknowledge the courage of your actions, and as long as the Tower stands, we will honour and remember your sacrifices.”

While the ceremony honours the 16,000 U of T community members who served during World War I, World War II, and other military conflicts, this year, tribute was paid to one serviceperson in particular.

Flying Officer Robert Lesley Edwards is remembered not only for being a part of the No. 1 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), but also as a BA graduate from Victoria College who resided in Burwash Hall. Edwards was killed during the Battle of Britain on August 26, 1940. He was the first RCAF member to lose his life in the service of his country.

St. Michael’s College student, Master Corporal Isaiah Samson of the 32 Service Battalion read a brief description of events during the Battle of Britain. Two days after the German air force launched an aerial assault on London, an Allied patrol engaged German bomber planes, known as Dornier 215s.

“Flying Officer Robert Lesley Edwards of Cobourg, Ontario, opened fire at very close range and shot the tail off a bomber but his aircraft was hit by heavy crossfire from the enemy gunners, and it followed the Dornier to earth.” At 28 years old, Edwards left behind a mother and a wife.

Memorial prayers were given throughout the service, first by Rabbi Julia Appel who recited El Ma’alei Rahamim, and then by Imam Yasin Dwyer of the Muslim Chaplaincy of Toronto. The service came to an end with Major The Reverend Richard Ruggle’s prayer of remembrance, followed by the playing of the Last Post and a two minute silence.

“In Flanders Fields,” the iconic Canadian poem, was also recited during the service. The author of the poem and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was a U of T alum who served in combat, graduating from the Faculty of Medicine as a member of the Zeta Psi Fraternity. His poem was read by a fellow Zeta Psi Fraternity member, Second Lieutenant Tom Ellard.

In an interview with The Varsity, Ellard spoke about his own experiences as a serviceperson. Reflecting on loss and sacrifice, he recounted how a fellow soldier and friend lost his life in Afghanistan. He said that was the moment “it really came home that what we do is dangerous, and people do pay a price.”

When asked about the ceremony, Ellard expressed how proud he was with the student body for continuing the legacy of honouring Canada’s servicepeople. “There’s a lot of people that arrived to stand in the snow and inclement weather, because I think there’s a recognition that both their grandparents, their brothers or sisters, or they [themselves] might be called upon to do something similar.”

“That’s an important commitment, this freedom we enjoy isn’t free. There are prices to be paid and sometimes it’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

Members of the U of T community, along with overseas visitors, laid wreaths beside Soldiers’ Tower during the service. President Meric Gertler, Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr, Chancellor Rose Patten, and Chair of the Governing Council Claire Kennedy laid the wreath for the university.

Federal MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, MPP Jessica Bell, and City Councillor Mike Layton, all elected representatives for University—Rosedale, laid the wreath for the government. The Honourable Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, was also in attendance and laid the wreath for the Commonwealth.

In conversation with the cast of Portia’s Julius Caesar

How a Hart House play redefines the role of women in Shakespeare classics

In conversation with the cast of <em>Portia’s Julius Caesar</em>

In the cozy lobby of the Hart House Theatre, The Varsity sat down with two of the cast members from its newest production: Portia’s Julius Caesar. The play is inspired by Shakespere’s Julius Caesar, but takes on an “unapologetically feminist take” on the classic tale. In the conversation were the fantastic Whitney Ampadu — who plays Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife — and Athena Trinh — who plays Portia, Brutus’ wife. Both brilliantly imported their characters to a contemporary audience. Join The Varsity to explore what makes this production unique, its characters fresh, and its excitement palpable.

The Varsity: Hart House has done so many fantastic plays, but [it] often doesn’t have this unique, play-written glean to it. My first question was actually about the way that you as actors are making your characters.

Whitney Ampadu: Well, the writing, it helps a lot because the way [our playwright] Kaitlyn [Riordan] has written Calpurnia. [Calpurnia] is not — and not to diss the older works — but she’s not as passive as before. She is active in her support for Julius, and even after his death we see her take on a role, a persona that we don’t see in the earlier works. And [from] the beginning of the play, it’s like a whole 360 [degrees] for her.

TV: She grows?

WA: She does. She does. And it’s so fun to play it with a kickass monologue. Even as an oppressed woman in ancient Rome, she’s strong and bold and will do all she can for what she thinks is right.

TV: People often put Calpurnia and Portia against each other in characterization. Portia is always considered to be very active. She’s the one who stabbed herself in the leg, she swallows the hot coals. She is so adamant telling Brutus what she thinks and then you have Calpurnia who is like, “I’ll do anything for you.” I think it’s fantastic that there’s this sort of liveliness added to it. Did you find that there is a change in the way that Portia is portrayed, or the way that you would like to portray Portia?

Athena Trinh: I don’t necessarily think there’s a change in the route that Portia was already going on. I think Kaitlyn does a really beautiful job of digging deep for this character because after [the play ends], we don’t really know what happened.

I think Calpurnia and Portia’s relationship is such a beautiful balance of womanhood, of what it means to be a woman. We do have these juxtaposing positions of course, because we are our own people, and Portia and Calpurnia are their own people.

But I think it’s interesting how we can [use] their emotions, [use] their status. It flips our idea of what it means to be the ‘crazed woman.’ Because sometimes that can be seen as a weakness. But in the case of Portia and Calpurnia, especially the way Kaitlyn has written and put together Shakespeare’s work, really shows their growth and their strength, and using these things that we have and using how the world sees us.

WA: And it’s so open and intelligent, and we don’t see a lot of — or I personally haven’t seen a lot of — women in classical plays talk about their situation, the way they do in-depth, and openly.

TV: Do you find that Shakespeare is often contemporized appropriately? Is it enough in this day and age, to just do Julius Caesar? Would it be enough for you guys to just be Calpurnia and Portia on stage without it being reasserted in the way this production does?

WA: You know, I’m tired of seeing the same things when it comes to Shakespeare. Seeing casts that are not diverse, or seeing it not relate to issues we’re dealing with now, because it’s great entertainment, but then, why are we doing this? With theatre, I think the goal should always be to push forward, to bring new ideas and new perspectives — because that’s what we do with art. That’s the beauty of art, that’s the necessity of art. And with this play it’s just amazing to look at our cast and see how diverse it is, and to see things from a different lens. It’s not enough to just do the same thing.

TV: Do you think there’s a place in our day and age for a Portia as she’s been portrayed since the sixteenth century? Or do you think that our Portias have to be like yours?

AT: I think that’s an interesting question because it’s multi-tiered. I think the stories that Shakespeare told, he had the privilege of being a white man, right? He had the privilege to have his voice heard and stories told through his lens.

The reason why they’re transcendent is because they come down to the basic necessities of life, whether it’s love, friendship, what we need from each other. [We] can dive into the human condition; we’re able to transport ourselves to feel the rhythm in those beats — the heartbeat that’s behind the iambic pentameter.

Any show that we do is a statement. But it’s not to say that [we’re] going to switch up the lines; it’s still going to be Shakespeare’s words. Sometimes it’s not going to be how Kaitlyn changes and rearranges things. It’s going to be through the body, voice, and mind experience of [someone] completely different than if it were to come from me, or from a white male perspective.

We perform Shakespeare now, being able to tell these stories through unique voices. So putting a person of colour in Hamlet, or putting Whitney as Calpurnia instead of a white woman, putting me as Portia instead of a white woman — it says something without having to change any words.

This would be a completely different show if it was an all-white cast, but we have Yusuf [Zine] as Julius Caesar ­— that says something. We have Hardi [Zala] as Mark Antony — that says something. Being able to tell these stories and acknowledge the diversity that’s already in our day-to-day lives. It can still be the same words. It can still be Shakespeare, but it’s completely different coming from our mouths and our experiences.

TV: Do you see this production as the ‘words’ of Shakespeare? Is it still Shakespeare, at its core?

WA: There are a lot of texts from Shakespeare’s works, as well as Kaitlyn’s own words that she’s added. And it’s still that heightened text. It still lives in that world of heightened [prose], of poetry, of big feelings, images, and emotions. So I’d say it’s Shakespeare in that sense. And with that idea in mind.

AT: Kaitlyn’s really nailed that thing that Shakespeare had: that gut, that animosity, that juxtaposing gentleness. Without taking the credit away from Kaitlyn, she has embodied, chased fear, and like you said, heightened [Shakespeare] in some ways, and has really made it her own. And in her doing that, it gives us the agency to make it our own.

With Kaitlyn and [our director] Eva spearheading this whole thing, especially with the women in our cast, I feel like owning these words is so important because [these characters] don’t [normally] get the chance to have big monologues aside to the audience: deep pondering questions of twenty minutes asking “To be or not to be.” Because Kaitlyn claims this work, we’re able to — as actors — enter the work so easily, just like if it were Shakespeare.

TV: Do you think that for the viewers of this production, there’s going to be that opportunity to be like, “oh, I get Shakespeare”? Did she [help] you unlock the potential of Shakespeare’s prose?

WA: Absolutely. Working with Eva and Kaitlyn has been a great experience because I went to theatre school and I’ve done Shakespeare, but it’s still difficult. It’s hard to take on the language and the images and the world of it all. I’ve been able to really sit down and dig deep into the language and build the images in a way that others can understand. I really believe that when you bare it all on stage, it’s not hard to understand. We’ve been lucky to have [Eva] and Kaitlyn to guide us.

AT: And I think it ties back to what we were saying before, about the reason why [Shakespeare] transcends things. It’s because his themes come down to those basic things that all humans can understand. When we are on stage, and we get to fully do those intentions and fully feel those things, it’s so exciting to be able to share this with people.

WA: Come and see this play! It’s good. It’s interesting. It’s professional. It’s amazing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Portia’s Julius Caesar plays at the Hart House Theatre from Wednesday through Saturday, until November 30.