|Pam Patel and Marc Bendavid are performing as Romeo and Juliet for the >Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Artistic Director Steven Schipper has chosen to set the play in modern Jerusalem, with the Montagues as Jews, the Capulets as Muslims and the friars, Mercutio and Prince as Christians.|
How are rehearsals going?
Marc It feels right for the two weeks it’s been. The play is starting to take shape. We have lots of work to do but time to do it in.
Pam The blocking is fluid. It has room to develop, even during the run and I appreciate that. I’m sure everyone does.
How does it feel playing these celebrated roles?
Marc It doesn’t serve to think of it that way. I haven’t felt like I’m conjuring some ancient actor’s spirit. I try to approach the text thinking about how they would be my words and not think about their history.
Pam I’m not thinking about other Juliets, although I sometimes use them for reference. Primarily I’m trying to connect with Juliet personally, find what it is in myself that makes me her and be genuine on stage.
How do you connect with your character?
Pam It didn’t feel I was getting her until we got up on our feet and were blocking the scenes, interacting with other characters. My realizations came based on the way that she moves in the space and the relationships with other characters. Now that I have that, I’m just starting to feel her in my body.
Marc For me it’s all about the text – the relationships that he has are all in there. They’re in the metre, they’re in the character’s lines. I look for a way that I would say the things that he says and do the things he does – find different meanings for a word, ask someone with more experience for advice. It has to do with my relationship with the text. If there are real mysteries I try to bring in my life to the work and make it as personal as possible, but the basic understanding is in the text.
Do you find the story hopeful?
Marc As a story it has an enormous amount of hope - I don’t think it necessarily ends on a hopeful note. It’s a director’s choice; there is room for a director to shape the end. Prior to this rehearsal, I would have thought it was a play full of joy that ends terribly. This director has chosen to end hopefully, that’s how the play makes sense to him.
Pam When I’m in it, I’m not thinking “the audience needs to feel this or that.” This is me being as true to the character as I can be – this is me telling a story. The individual watching it – they’ll feel whatever they feel. I’m not hoping they’ll walk away with this or that, I hope it triggers something, that we are able to trigger some reaction in them. If I was an audience member, I’d think there was a great amount of hope and a great amount of pain.
How has doing this play affected you?
Marc I never have any idea where I am, what I’m doing, where to be, when to be there. I’ve become some muttering, insane person… which hopefully will go away.
Pam This experience is a bit wild for me. I never thought I would be doing a Shakespeare play. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate language before, but now – I appreciate so much of the language that I use. It’s something I hope I can bring to my other work.
Marc I had a teacher at National Theatre School; when he directed our second year Shakespeare play, he became this confused, bumbling, disjointed man. We loved making fun of his befuddlement. Now his behaviour makes perfect sense.
Has the concept (setting the play in Jerusalem) influenced your choices?
Marc Not really. It’s a basic premise. The themes are there and they happen to fit with a particular part of the world, but they could fit with many places, Rwanda -
Pam Or here.
Marc It affords us details, but it doesn’t do anything other than slightly contextualize it for people who might think it’s not a pressing or important play.
Pam What’s amazing to watch in this process is how these different bodies – with varying backgrounds, ethnicities and histories – how they come into the space and inform one another. It shows that we hold history in our bodies. It’s what I love about this casting – these bodies coming together and informing each other. I think you can see that we bring our own languages, cultures and histories to the stage
Romeo and Juliet runs November 24 through December 17 at RMTC.