Ben Elliott is a man of many talents. Not only has he acted with us for five seasons, but once again, he has taken on the role of Musical Director – this time for Daryl Cloran’s adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost. This summer you’ll find him as one-half of the Antipholus twins in The Comedy of Errors on our BMO Mainstage and as Holofernes, the resident pianist (and resident know-it-all) at Navarre in Love’s Labour’s Lost. All of this while also working on his own music, co-writing the music and lyrics for a new show and preparing to star in another. Find out more about Ben below…
Bard: How many seasons have you been at Bard and what were your first productions with us?
This is my fifth season. My first productions at Bard were Henry VI: The Wars Of The Roses and Richard III.
Bard: You play one of the Antipholus twins in this season’s production of The Comedy of Errors. What kind of preparation did you go through with Jay Hindle in order to convincingly play twins?
Jay and I worked with choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg to discover the vocabulary of movement that we would share in the show. We did movement games like follow the leader and “mirroring”. During rehearsals I would watch Jay and see what sorts of things he would do on stage that I could implement into my character.
Bard: You’ve acted as Musical Director for Bard productions before (this year for Love’s Labour’s Lost) – can you explain a bit about the process you go through with a director when you are the Musical Director for a show?
With regards to Johnna Wright’s Merry Wives of Windsor, John Murphy’s Measure For Measure and Daryl Cloran’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, each director had a complete concept of the song list and their placement in the show before I was brought on board (and in John’s case, he actually wrote the music!). Once I’m brought in, my job is to figure out how to orchestrate each song using the available actors and their given abilities. It’s always interesting because sometimes there’s an actor who I’d love to play an instrument in a song, but alas, they are already acting on stage. We’re always finding creative ways to make the music happen. In some cases I’ll teach a brave actor how to play an instrument. For example, this summer, the ever talented Lili Beaudoin stepped in on drums even though she had never played them before and she rocks!
Bard: Why do you think the steampunk aesthetic works so well for The Comedy of Errors?
Steampunk brings with it all the necessities that the play asks for in a concept: Comedy requires a world where there is a slave/master relationship and that is very much in existence in the Victorian era (steampunk’s favourite era), Comedy requires that there be characters with special abilities like soothsaying and so with steampunk you can rely on the science fiction side for those qualities. For example, our Dr. Pinch (Jeff Gladstone) has a special “pulse checker” contraption that he uses in order to gain insight as to whether our Antipholus of Ephesus (Jay Hindle) is possessed. And finally, the aesthetic of steampunk is a boon to designers!
Bard: Do you have a favourite moment in The Comedy of Errors or Love’s Labour’s Lost?
The Comedy Of Errors: The whole boxing match sequence in the second act. I get to moonwalk.
Love’s Labour’s Lost: Dropping stuff on Andrew Cownden’s head.
Bard: What do you think makes Bard on the Beach special?
So much makes this place special and unique, but here are three things:
The setting: Seeing Shakespeare in Vanier Park in clear view of the coastal mountains and False Creek can’t be beat! The Volunteers: these amazingly generous and devoted people donate their time to ensure that the Bard experience is top notch for all of the guests. And finally, the types of shows that Bard puts on are always innovative, fun and challenging for the actors and the audience. Bard continues to evolve and grow, and bring new and fun ways to entertain!
Bard: What’s next for you after the season finishes?
On September 19, while I’m still at Bard, The Best Laid Plans: A Musical, a show that I have co-written the music and lyrics for with Bard alumnus Anton Lipovetsky, will open here in Vancouver at the York Theatre on Commercial Drive and run until October 3. It’s based on the novel The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. And once Bard finishes, I’ll be heading straight into rehearsals for Are We Cool Now? a musical featuring the work of Vancouver’s own Dan Mangan which is due to open at The Cultch on September 29 and runs until October 10. Come and see both of these shows!
See Ben in The Comedy of Errors on the BMO Mainstage and in Love’s Labour’s Lost on the Howard Family Stage until September 26. Buy tickets online at bardonthebeach.org or call the Bard Box Office at 604-739-0559.
Header photo credit: Luisa Jojic, Andrew Cownden and Ben Elliott, The Comedy of Errors, 2015 (Photo by David Blue)