BWW Interviews: Philip Riccio Talks Speaking in Tongues

You talk about how you don't stage your shows in a traditional way.  How do you speak to that as a director?

I’m fairly new at it, I certainly have a lot of influences and I try and create a rehearsal atmoshere that allows the actors to feel like they can explore and try everything.  That way they start to weed out the choices that don't work for the show or that take them in the wrong direction, and they end up feeling confident in the characters they're playing. My job as a director is to be someone who will encourage the actors to be brave and bold.  The tendency for an actor if they sense an audience is to have a natural human reaction of fear, and that can inhibit a performance.  I want them to fight against that and realize that they are allowed to fail, and that they might fail, but that's the only way they're goin to allow for something spontaneous that could also be great.

So basically if someone were to come see Speaking in Tongues every night of the run, they could see something slightly different each night?

In a way, yes.  Every play has its own set of challenges and rules that we figure out through rehearsal.  This play in particular has some technical challenges that we've never worked with before, including having some parts of the story where there is very little movement.  The play demands that structure and it wouldn't work if we didn't adhere to that. 

On the flip side we've got the first two scenes of the show which happen simultaneously and where the actors share a lot of dialogue.  The timing and the dialogue has to be very precise but we haven't blocked those scenes so the movement can be different every night and how the actors find their performance can be different as well.  The character may feel comfortable with something one night and more reticent another, causing the show to unfold differently even though you are bein told the same story each night.

Is there a 'safety net' in place in case things do go awry?

We've been lucky to work with actors who are really amazing, talented people.  In this cast we've got four incredible talents and they are super experienced.  Even when things go awry, it doesn't mean the whole show is going to go down.  That moment can pass and maybe it wasn't the greatest moment, but you move on.  And then you get to have those nights where something extraordinary happens.  With this type of performance, the cast has been rehearsing for weeks so they're truly experts at their characters and the story they're telling.  They have what they need, they have the talent and the knowledge which becomes their safety net. In fact, the great thing about working this way is that if something does go wrong, our actors are almost better prepared to handle it.  In a completed blocked and traditional show you can begin to lose that instinct.

The subject matter of this show is quite mature, but what would you say to encourage a younger demographic to come and check it out?

Our shows seem to resonate really well with younger people and I think it's because we aren't that much older than them and we're trying to create the type of theatre that we would want to see.  Allan and I were in our late twenties when we created the company, so our esthetic and our taste seems to gel with a younger audience and that flows into our performance style.  Plus in this show you've got four extraordinary Canadian talents, and I think it's worth seeing just to watch them.

When and Where?

Speaking in Tongues

Oct 29th - November 24th

The Berkeley Street Theatre

Tickets range from $22 to $49 and are available in person at the box office, but phone at 416-368-3110 or online at

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Kelly Cameron Kelly Cameron's love affair with the theatre began when she was just five years old, on an outing to see the Original Canadian Cast of Les Miserables at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. She instantly fell in love, and is honoured to be representing the Toronto contingent of BroadwayWorld as Senior Editor overseeing the GTA region.

Her writing career started almost by accident, though it has always been in her blood as her Mom was an English teacher who firmly believed in the importance of being able to turn a phrase. She also loved sharing her love of theatre with her students (and her children), and was a staunch supporter of the arts in Toronto.

When not at the theatre, you can usually find Kelly with a Starbucks in one hand and her BlackBerry in the other, tweeting, reading or doing something quirky and clumsy for the sake of getting that next big story.

She's incredibly grateful to the amazing Toronto theatre community who have embraced her with open arms, giving her the greatest gift a little redheaded theatre geek could ever ask for - getting to be a part of this vibrant arts and culture scene. She may have never had the skills to be on the stage, but is thankful every day she gets to write about the inspiring people who do.

Headshot photo by Racheal McCaig

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