Leon Interviewed By The Star Phoenix

Shakespeare Festival has it all
Bard’s plays thrill area’s pro actors

By Cam Fuller, The StarPhoenix July 6, 2011

It’s hard to think of winter on a hot summer day. But Cheryl Jack will change your mind in one respect.
“The Winter’s Tale is a fascinating play, and people should come out to it,” says the Saskatoon actor.

Magic and Mirth is the theme for this year’s Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan Festival. After previews tonight and Thursday, the season opens with Love’s Labour’s Lost on Friday and The Winter’s Tale on Saturday.

These are not the most famous plays William S. ever devised, but they definitely have charms, says secondyear company member Leon Willey.

“It’s going to be a fun year. Tragedy and comedy in one play and sweet romance in the other. I’m hoping that will get people out on a nice summer evening.”

Each actor plays three roles this season. Willey does heavy lifting in both plays, but Jack’s main focus is on The Winter’s Tale. She plays Hermione, falsely accused of adultery by an unreasonably jealous husband. She’s condemned, her infant daughter is taken away and it’s pretty much woe-for-all and all-for-woe. Or is it?

“The Winter’s Tale has always fascinated me because he plays with form,” Jack says of the fellow who wrote it. The play has an abrupt, tragic start but then turns to comedy – uproarious comedy, in fact. When she sees the antics of jailer Joshua Beaudry and shepherd Ralph Blankenagle, Jack is powerless to resist.

“They are just so funny. I laugh every time.”

Willey will be causing some gales himself, particularly as the rogue Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale.

“He lies to everybody except for the audience. He allows everyone to understand what he’s thinking.”
Meanwhile, as Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Willey gets to wax poetic. He’s part of a trio of students which swears off women in favour of academia, only to fall in love, of course.

“Berowne is a huge role and it’s so great. He has some of the most beautiful speeches that justify life and love as opposed to book-learning.”

He also has the honour, in the smaller role of Antigonus, of being the subject of Shakespeare’s most bizarre stage direction: “exit, pursued by a bear.”

“I’m the exit-ee. It’s awesome. I love it. It’s so much fun.”

Hermione happens to be a role Jack has always wanted to play, because of the language. “They’re the best speeches for women he’s ever written.”

Being part of the festival is one of the most coveted jobs in Saskatoon theatre. Actors enjoy the long run, the chance to do the Bard and the camaraderie.

“I love doing this,” Jack says. “This is a great festival to be a part of. It’s summer camp for actors. It’s fantastic.”

Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Winter’s Tale

July 6 to Aug. 21

Tickets: $16 to $32

Box office: ticketmaster.ca, 652-9100 and on-site

Location: Spadina Crescent near the Mendel Art Gallery

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