For her final assignment we sent UBC co-op student Shannon Hogan down to the Festival to interview actor John Voth to find more about his ‘amazing summer’ debuting at Bard. Here is their interview!
Shannon Hogan: So this is your first season at Bard on the Beach. Is it what you expected?
John Voth: Ah, yes definitely. Well… at first I was thinking it was going to be really intimidating working with all these actors I’ve seen on stage. I mean they’re so good right? So I thought it was going to be great but also intimidating just being around them and learning from them. But that kind of went away in the very first week because they’re all really down to earth and very fun and honest people and that’s what I appreciate you know? I don’t know if we got lucky with this cast but I’ve never been in such a large cast and you can just go to anyone and just have a laugh or share some kind of moment with, it’s been a very good summer! And being able to have my days free to enjoy the sun and then come here in the evening and do Shakespeare on stage it’s… amazing. It’s really amazing.
SH: That’s great I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much! So in terms of the intimidation part, I hear you just beat out your mentor for a Jessie Award?* Or one of your long time professors and teachers was in the same category as you?
JV: Oh! Oh yeah, that was crazy. I didn’t even prepare a speech because I was up against these four guys I respect immensely and then they said my name and I was like ‘what?’ – I couldn’t believe it. So I went up there and just said something. But, yeah it was a really great surprise and mostly it’s just a huge honour and I hope to keep doing it justice by just keeping on putting great work out there.
SH: Well congratulations! And you’re also a big ‘improviser’ I hear? You’re in the Rookie Improv League at Vancouver Theatre Sports League?
JV: Yeah, we do shows every second weekend at Vancouver Theatre Sports.
SH: So has improv helped you with Bard acting as well?
JV: Tons. Yes it has. Just because… I mean… if you watch Scott (Bellis) for example, in the ‘play within a play’ during Dream and actually everyone involved in that scene, they’re all playing around; they’re all responding to whatever happens in the moment. And I guess before, when I was approaching Shakespeare, I always thought, you said something, you make a choice and you stick to it, and you know even blocking too. I was thinking a bit more rigidly towards my approach to Shakespeare but now being around them and seeing how they handle it… you know it’s not that different from any other play in how you approach it. Also the dynamic and the energy between people, they just let whatever’s there happen and then they go with it and this amazing moment happens. I’d been using improv in the other plays I’d been a part of but I think somehow there was a lock in my brain when I was approaching Shakespeare – you know like (said in English accent) ‘it’s Shakespeare and all very rigid!’ But over the summer I’ve been having fun and trying stuff differently and it’s so much more fun when you do it that way.
SH: Yeah, especially when you’ve got shows every night and sometimes twice a day for four months. Is that hard do you find, to act in something where you’re doing it for four months straight?
JV: Yeah, it’s a new thing for me, for sure. It’s kind of, or at least how I’ve experienced it, is that it’s been a weird arc, where at the beginning everything’s fresh and exciting and you’re nervous because you’re doing it for the first time for audiences and it’s scary right? You want to get everything right or you’re worried about forgetting a line. And then you fall into a groove where it’s like ‘yeah I got this, it’s fun.’ And then there was actually a while where I’d been saying it so often it felt like I was starting to go through the motions and it was hard to find the connection again. So that’s when I decided to find a way to make it fresh again.
SH: So that’s where the improv helped, I guess?
JV: Improv, yeah, and just random smaller choices that change things slightly or bring a new dynamic into it. I think that’s what they’re doing too. I mean, Scott (Bellis) has been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream about four or five times and he’s played Bottom – um, this is the second time I think – and you can constantly see he’s making those kind of choices right? And that’s where I’m learning to just find new approaches every night or just always discovering. I think that’s important. That is, always to discover new things in a scene or in your scene partner or in your thinking – it makes you think freshly again.
SH: So to wrap up, do you have any funny stories from the season that you can tell us about?
JV: Oh there are so many! During the ‘play within a play’ one night, Allan Zinyk tripped and fell down and instead of standing up, he just dragged himself off the stage just using his arms, that was a lot of fun. Umm, let me think, what else, there’s a … umm… I’m not going to say who it is but apparently there’s a bubble prank where umm Bernard Cuffling, well, he keeps seeing bubbles appear around him and he doesn’t know where they’re coming from.
JV: He’s accusing everybody in the cast but I don’t know if there’s actually someone who’s doing it?
SH: Really? You’re very certain it’s not you? Given that sneaky look in your eye?
JV: Oh (laughing) Very, very certain.
Shannon: Ok, so for the record…
JV: Yes for the record…
SH: It’s not you. So this is like bubble mix? Like blowing bubbles in the air?
JV: Yep bubble mix.
SH: So we should tell our audiences to bring bubbles to the show?
JV: That would be amazing – yes – please do!
*John Voth won his Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role, in The Foreigner, by Pacific Theatre.
Enjoy the rest of the season John!
[Header image: Todd Thomson, John Voth, Lili Beaudoin & Luisa Jojic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by David Blue]