Q+A: SnB director Emily Grant
With Sock ‘n’ Buskin’s production of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) set to premiere on Thursday, The Charlatan sat down with director Emily Grant to learn all about the play, talking Shakespeare, feminism, and turtles.
The Charlatan (TC): Let’s start with why Goodnight Desdemona? What drew you to the play?
Emily Grant (EG): I actually first read the play in my Grade 11 English class, and as I was reading through it the first time I kind of started staging it myself as I was reading through it. It’s so full of different kinds of scenes and scenarios that you don’t find in many other plays. I love that it parodies Shakespeare shows not necessarily in a reflective way. It makes Romeo and Juliet seem very childish, negative and stupid almost, and Othello seems very bloody. So, looking through it that way it just brings to light so many different things I wanted to bring to life onstage.
TC: What kind of things are you talking about?
EG: There’s some cross-dressing, there’s a lot of blurring the lines between what’s expected and what’s normal. I don’t want to give too much away because some of this stuff is surprises within the show. But there’s a lot of themes that are touched upon that you don’t really see, especially in a play written in the 1980s. It’s very different.
TC: What got you into theatre?
EG: I actually went to a performing arts high school back home where I specialized in drama. That’s where I first started working backstage for shows, and not just acting. I got a chance to stage manage a couple of productions in high school as well as direct a couple of show, one which went on to the Sears Festival. From there, when I left high school I knew I wanted to continue theatre, so I actually looked into Sock ‘n’ Buskin before coming to Carleton in first year. I got in touch with them and stage managed a show last year, The Crucible. After that I knew I wanted to propose my own production, so when I was trying to look through it I was like, “Goodnight Desdemona, love this show.”
TC: Is there an element of the show you wanted to emphasize?
EG: With the main character Constance, the journey she takes, while it first just seems to be in her academic pursuits [it] actually turns out to be a very eye-opening personal experience for her. She has a lot of self-revelation and comes to conclusions about things in her life she wouldn’t have been able to do had she not fallen through a trash can into these worlds. There’s a lot of strong feminist undertones as well with the show.
TC: Got any behind-the-scenes stories?
EG: A lot of what happens behind the scenes plays a lot off what happens in the show. People will see on our posters there’s a turtle. The turtle’s name is Hector. There’s a lot of jokes surrounding Hector that happen within the cast. Hector doesn’t have a great time in our play, the poor boy. Again, I don’t want to ruin what happens, you’ll just have to come out and see.
TC: Do you have a favourite Shakespeare character?
EG: I’m not a big Shakespeare fan, despite the fact I’m putting on a show that has a lot to do with Shakespeare. But I’m a big fan of Hamlet, both the show and the character . . . The character of Hamlet is just so beautifully flawed and he knows it . . . Another one of my favourite characters who is brought to life in a very particular way in our show is Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet. Lauren Stiers, who plays Tybalt in the show, brings this character to life in a way I could have never imagined, and the way she plays it makes me love the character even more.
TC: Describe your Sock ‘n’ Buskin experience to me.
EG: Sock ‘n’ Buskin is one of the best things that’s happened to me coming to Carleton. It’s just such an amazing community. People within the company call it a friendship company and that’s truly what it is. I’ve met so many great people through the Sock ‘n’ Buskin community, some of my closest friends at Carleton have come through there. But the best thing about Sock ‘n’ Buskin and working on any productions with the company come from the fact that the moment you step into rehearsal or step into a show, you forget about everything else . . . The atmosphere changes the moment you step into a rehearsal room or step on stage, and it brings a sense of calmness, but also warmth and a lot of love within the company. I would not trade the experience for anything.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
– Photo is provided.