‘Vivid, intelligent and complex characters.’ That’s how Shaw Festival actor Julia Course describes all three roles you’ll find her in throughout 2015’s spectacular summer line-up.
Now in her 6th season in Niagara-on-the-Lake, she suits up to play multiple parts in You Never Can Tell (until Oct. 25 at the Royal George Theatre) and Top Girls (until Sept. 12 at the Court House Theatre).
Not only does she get a thrill breathing life into characters, she’s finds deep gratification in listening for audience laughter, gasps and sometimes even a dead silence when the moment calls for such.
Julia Course is well aware of the essentials in creating memorable theatre. From the classics to the contemporaries, this gal is what performance pleasure is all about.
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What fascinates you most about the acting craft?
Every show, every cast, every character is so radically different. And because every experience is so different I think it encourages a new process in me; to solve the puzzle in a new fashion.
Similarly, every night the show shifts slightly, nothing is exactly the same—and then the show is gone. I love that ephemeral quality.
Is acting a craft that anyone can succeed at with training or are there natural traits one must possess to excel in this discipline?
I think there’s probably a natural impulse to tell a story.
I met my best friend during our undergrad in an acting class. She pursued journalism, and now she makes documentaries. She works in a different medium, but she’s still a storyteller.
Marlon Brando once stated that acting is the expression of a “neurotic impulse.” Do you believe this is true?
For me, it’s closer to an expression of curiosity. A curiosity about the person I’m playing, the world they live in, their relationships to other people and to themselves—how and why and what motivates a character.
Which I think is an extension to a curiosity about people in general; what it is to be human, to struggle.
Who is more important to the production, the actor or director?
Historically speaking that’s a pretty interesting question!
As for 2015, (actor and director aside) I think we sometimes forget the sheer number of people involved in the making and running of a production—the writer(s), designers, stage managers, artistic directors, dressers, running crew, building crew, front of house, etc, etc—all these people are absolutely necessary to the production.
It really is a collaborative process, and in that sense I don’t think one can be more important than another. We need everyone working together as a team. That’s partly what makes theatre so special.
When you flip through a script searching for a character that you may audition for, what criteria catches your eye?
I find myself really wanting to play a character when I fall in love with their words—their struggle, what they have to say to the other people in the play.
I take notice when I really want to learn their words and make them a part of me. I think I’m also drawn to characters that will teach me something about vulnerability and bravery.
Tell me about a role that you played where something went horribly/laugably wrong on stage.
At theatre school I was responsible for lowering a noose during a blackout, but one night it got caught in some piping and didn’t lower properly. During the blackout, an actress would get harnessed to the noose so that it looked like she had hung herself.
It was really a heart wrenching moment in the play. When the lights came up on opening night she was just standing on top of a table with her head lowered.
I was devastated, I felt like I had ruined the show. Later an audience member told me they just thought it was a cool post-modern choice.
Name one stage actor that tops your list of all-time favourites.
Too many to name!
What do you think the secret is to longevity in this business?
Ha! I have no idea, please someone tell me if there is a secret out there that I don’t know about.