BWW Interview: The Stars of Stratford Festival's ROMEO AND JULIET Discuss Their Show's Jump to the Big Screen

BWW Interview: The Stars of Stratford Festival's ROMEO AND JULIET Discuss Their Show's Jump to the Big Screen

In 2015, the Stratford Festival of Canada, under the leadership of Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Executive Director Anita Gaffney, committed to capturing the entire Shakespeare canon in HD. Several stage productions have been filmed and released in cinemas and on DVD in the past few years, and this past season, it was ROMEO AND JULIET's turn. One performance of this much lauded production, starring Sara Farb as Juliet and Antoine Yared as Romeo, was filmed late in the 2017 season. Its cinematic release is now upon us. It will be coming to select Cineplex theatres nationwide on March 3rd. Broadway World had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Farb and Mr. Yared about their experience playing these characters and what this jump to the big screen means to them.

Broadway World: Thank you so much for chatting with Broadway World. I know I am excited to see your production of ROMEO AND JULIET again. How do you two feel about your performances living on beyond the show's run at the Stratford Festival?

Antoine Yared: It's always exciting and always a little scary because it's always a bit of a surprise. My career has been about doing theatre, so it's always an experience to watch yourself on film-especially when it's filmed theatre, which is its own thing. But I think it's great that the production was filmed because we were so excited to be a part of it and I really do think that it's a wonderful production and so I'm glad that it's being recorded and that it will be available for people to see it in years to come.

Sara Farb: We are lucky enough to do a production where the whole experience is extremely positive. This is such a rare opportunity to get to watch it anytime if we so choose, or to [just] know that it exists. It is a particularly wonderful experience in both of our careers.

BWW: This is probably the play that is guaranteed to be studied in every high school...So I have a feeling that the two of you are now going to pop up in a whole lot of high schools for years to come. Have you given any thought to that in terms of the educational element of this, and to your performances being the ones that young people might see when discovering "Romeo and Juliet" for the first time?

SF: I haven't really given that much thought to it. That didn't really enter my mind! I think just getting through watching the whole thing for now is what...I'm preparing for. But you're right, it is, if not the most, one of the most studied pieces of literature in the English language, and certainly in Canada, what I imagine is the Stratford Festival's aim is to get it in the hands of as many educating bodies as possible, so ya, I guess a lot of Canadian students are going to become acquainted with our faces...but also, the Baz Luhrmann movie is still really good! (Laughs)

BWW: Ya, I guess you'll be competing with Leo and Claire (Laughs)

AY: It helps that we don't look anything like them! That'll give a nice other option for young students to maybe find themselves in the production if they don't necessarily relate to Leo and Claire Danes. But I think the cool thing about this is that it is a whole bunch of Canadian talent being showcased in a Canadian production to a Canadian audience. That's a wonderful opportunity and it is great that Canadians get to see, support and promote their own work.

BWW: Speaking to the actual production and your performances-Despite it being such a well-known story, you both provided performances that were so fresh. Audiences were so invested even though they knew what was going to happen and had maybe already seen other productions. Can you speak to finding that freshness and to the performances themselves?

AY: I think, first and foremost, (director) Scott Wentworth guided us through this process. On the first day of rehearsals he invited all of us in the company to investigate and question all of our choices, and our first impressions and the things that maybe we had absorbed from having seen the play or the movie so many times. He invited us to second guess our choices-from a line reading, to what a scene is about, to what the play is about, to who your character is. He really invited us to ask ourselves 'Is this a choice that I am just assuming because I've seen the play so many times that I know that this moment is about one thing, this character is about that, this scene is about this, and this is what's going on here?' and we were really diligent about doing this for the entire play, moment to moment and I think that led us to make new discoveries without trying to be clever, or to reinvent the wheel. At times our first instincts were right, and at other times we made some beautiful discoveries but those were only available to us because we were all sort of doing the same kind of work-The same sort of investigation of Shakespeare's words and what our characters wanted at any given time.

SF: I can't answer that any better!

BWW: I attended the evening where you filmed 'pick-ups' for the production and observed such a seamless interaction between Scott Wentworth and the film director (Barry Avrich). What was it like for the two of you the day that the performance was filmed? Were you aware of the cameras? Was there some prep ahead of time with the film director?

SF: Our interaction with the director of the film was sort of minimal. He would pop in every now and then. Mostly it was Scott reminding us of the roots of what we were trying to achieve of the production in anticipation of a really heightened day of watching. It was an interesting performance in itself because it was actually a student matinee and I think the kids were a bit excited about the prospect of being caught on camera themselves, or being part of something sort of monumental. And of course we were used to student matinees, but there was a certain energy that we had to rein-in ourselves, that was a combination of being aware of the camera, and a very special brand of self-consciousness, while also dealing with a rambunctious student audience. But when we would get feedback from either director, Scott or Barry, it was all strictly positive and it really didn't feel like we were on a movie set, which really helps. It felt as purely theatrical as they could manage, which I think made it a lot more palatable.

BWW: Now that you've been away from these roles for several months, and you've both moved on to new and exciting projects, how do you reflect on your time as these characters and the production as a whole?

AY: This whole experience holds a really special place in both our hearts. It was a best-case scenario from start to finish. Getting to do this together, and the cast we were in, and the director-everything from day one until we closed the show...I wouldn't change anything about it.

SF: Me either!

AY: And so I feel really really fortunate and grateful that I got to do this with Sara and everyone else involved. It changed me for the best-in terms of what I thought I could do.

SF: Me too. It elevated everything I ever hoped I could achieve. It pushed the boundaries of that for me. I'm still sort of coming to terms with its 'bigness' as far as how I see it. I spent a long time watching in awe of people at Stratford playing these parts. Being a part of that legacy is sort of beyond comprehension and it's not something I think I'll ever be able to digest. It's nice to know that it happened! (laughs).

BWW: The production to me, felt like magic in a bottle, and if I as an audience member felt like that, I can only imagine how you felt about it!

AY: The response was so overwhelmingly positive and we were just so grateful to do it and that people connected. Audiences of every generation-People who had seen it before who felt it was fresh and that they were seeing it for the first time, and people who were seeing it for the first time felt it was relatable and that these were characters that they could connect with. And that's what you want. You can't ask for more than that.

BWW: And now how wonderful that more people will be able to see it and those people who loved it will be able to see it again!

Both: Ya.

BWW: Thank you taking the time to chat with me. Was there anything either of you wanted to add about your experience or about the cinematic release of this production of ROMEO AND JULIET?

SF: I guess just...I hope people watch it! (laughs)

AY: Ya, I hope people get a chance to go and see it!

BWW: I'm sure they will!

SF: It's incredible work by so many people on display. It's an exciting thing going on for theatre in Canada!

This HD production of ROMEO AND JULIET will begin playing at select Cineplex Theatres nationwide on March 3rd

Photo Credit: Lynda Churilla

Video Credit: Stratford Festival

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From This Author Lauren Gienow