Canadian College of the Performing Arts instructor Adrienne Smook and Alexa MacDougall perform in Henry V in Victoria as part of the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival.

Oak Bay actor brings Shakespeare outside

In her outdoor debut, professional actor, instructor tackles Taming and Henry V

The magical light of sunset amps up the magic of Shakespeare says actor Adrienne Smook.

Smook, who shares her knowledge with students at the Canadian College of the Performing Arts in Oak Bay, is among those performing during the 24th Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival that features Henry V and The Taming of the Shrew until Aug. 16 on the grounds of Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus.

“It’s a beautiful venue. Experiencing these words out in nature is particularly affecting I think,” says Smook, who not only teaches at CCPA but spent her early years living in Oak Bay. “When you’re out there with the elements it makes it all the more real and exciting. There’s something about the little bit of breeze in your hair or little bit of rain.”

The long shadows and shifting colours of sunset along with the evening breeze are something the actors enjoyed during rehearsals heading into the start of the festival this week.

Smook portrays Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Fluellen in Henry V and works alongside two of her CCPA voice students, Alexa MacDougall and Ursina (Sina) Luther.

“It’s exciting to watch them use the skills they’ve been developing at the school,” Smook said of the students entering third year. “It’s a new level of appreciation for what training does for performers. To have known these students in class and then seeing them in the context of rehearsal … it’s very rewarding and inspiring.”

Henry V is about a new king determined to prove his right to rule a kingdom torn apart by strife. Insults from France lead Henry to make a rash decision to go to war. But his moving speeches, bravery and leadership lead his army to victory over the French, ending in his marriage to the Dauphine of France.

The Taming of the Shrew is about a merchant with two daughters, one who is sweet and mild-mannered, the other who is bad-tempered and cantankerous. Their suitors try everything to win their hearts, leading to false identities, secret weddings and hilarious fiascos. The festival’s acting company performs both plays led by classically trained professional mentor actors – Smook and Julian Cervello.

“We work with the director and artistic director to provide mentorship, education and professional formation for the rest of the cast, which includes acting students, community actors and two junior company members. The GVSF is a professional festival with an educational commitment to its grassroots in Victoria’s budding talent,” said Smook, who trained at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London. Both festival plays are directed by long-time society associate and festival founder, Clayton Jevne. “As an instructor I work primarily with students. In this context we’re all together as student, as professionals, (and) all exploring this work and then taking that work directly onto stage and into rehearsal performance,” Smook added.

Tickets are available online at ticketrocket.org, The Papery, Ivy’s Bookshop and at the festival. Tickets range from a $19 single play ticket to a $42 festival pass.

“This is a festival for everyone,”  said Karen Lee Pickett, artistic director. “Shakespeare’s works aren’t antiquated – they’re exciting, moving and engaging experiences, particularly in the open park setting of Camosun. Parents bring their children to our shows because they connect with the stories on stage.”

Henry V runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday while The Taming of the Shrew is Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday until Aug. 16 at Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus. Picnic dinners, musical performances and pre-show presentations kick off most evenings.

“I’m looking forward to sharing these stories with audiences,” Smook said. “I’m looking forward to standing on stage, looking out and seeing all those faces and being able to share these beautiful words and beautiful stories that are hundreds of years old but still have so much relevance.”

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