Gregory Prest has been a staple of Soulpepper for the past few years. His immense talent and passion shines through onstage.
To kick off their 2013 season, Soulpepper is staging Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" beginning tonight, February 7.
This comedic play follows the two leading characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as they are told by the Danish court to find out what is wrong with Hamlet (who is played by Gregory Prest). Tom Stoppard ingeniously blends a few short scenes from William Shakespeare's "Hamlet", where dramatic events of both plays coincide, with his own clever use of language.
Gregory sat down with BWW before a rehearsal to talk about his character in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", his time at Soulpepper so far, and being an actor.
BWW: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, Gregory. How does it feel to be a part of one of Tom Stoppard's most well-known plays "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead"?
GREGORY: It's great! I've never seen or read the play before I found out that we're doing it, so it's great because rehearsals are a discovery. Some shows you go in knowing the show, and so there is a different kind of energy, so it's great because I'm discovering it as we go and I'm getting to watch Jordan Pettle and Ted Dykstra and Ken Welsh work, and sort of discovering the text is amazing. It's great - it's really smart and funny, and very difficult so it's fun to watch people figure it out.
BWW: Is this your first time tackling a Tom Stoppard play?
GREGORY: Yeah! I've seen a couple. I saw the "Travesties" they did here, and I saw "Rock 'n' Roll" they did at CanStage a few years ago. I saw those and I read "The Coast of Utopia". So it's my first time being in it [a Tom Stoppard play]. You know, mind you, the stuff that I have to do is all Hamlet - all my text is Shakespeare, not Tom Stoppard, but it's really great.
BWW: Tell us about the character you play in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", that being Hamlet (Prince of Denmark)
GREGORY: The play is sort of the backdoor version of "Hamlet" where we follow Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, which is the very simplistic overview - we follow those two characters; versus Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude, Claudius they're all sort of minor characters in the bigger journey of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. So it's Hamlet! Some of the text is from Shakespeare, and some of the stage directions are descriptions of text later on in the play. Like my first entrance with Ophelia is what Ophelia comes in to describe to Polonius, where I find her in her closet and I take her and I shake her and I look at her face at arms length - so it's fun! It's Hamlet! It's a weird thing to play Hamlet, but I'm not really playing Hamlet. But I'm playing Hamlet, but it's not really Hamlet. So what's kind of great is that I've got a great resource for my moment before. But that's sort of all taken care of by Shakespeare. There's a great moment where I have my back to the audience and I'm essentially doing "To be or not to be" - I'm in that moment. But! The action of the play that the audience is watching is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern trying to figure out how they're going to interrupt to talk to me. So that's fun.
BWW: What's the most exciting and the most challenging part of playing Hamlet so far?
GREGORY: I think letting go of it all and just doing this play: "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead". There's only so much - I thought "oh what a great opportunity! I'll learn Hamlet at the same time." So when I'm backstage I can sort of be looking over that, which I'm sure I'll still do. And Joe [Ziegler] has played it [Hamlet], directed it twice. Ted has played it. Ken has played it. So I have people who I could talk to about it, and I was like "I'll still do that!" But I have to let all that go and try to serve this play that we're doing - the story that we're telling here to not take on too much of that.
BWW: When did you decide you wanted to be an actor? What/who inspired you?
GREGORY: I wanted to be an actor since I was a kid, since I was probably, I imagine maybe ten - I don't have that defining moment where I was like "this is what I want to do". But when I was growing up, my dad did community theatre. I'm from a small town in Nova Scotia and my dad did community theatre through the rotary club and things like that. And I was in grade five, and one day he just took me along, and I loved it. I loved the people - I think that's what it was: the event, the people - it was really really fun! As a kid growing up in a small town, [community theatre was] like a group outside of your family and outside of your school. It was really really nice. As a teenager, I really grew to love that - the community, the theatre, the people - it was a fun place to be where people were great, and people who were fun. In a way, for me growing up, it was like a safe place to be, and then I loved it. And we started going to theatre - it was always something I've been interested in. But it was in community theatre where I started liking the people. I was doing summer recreation programs and meeting great people from other towns, because it was such a small town, that I only knew very few people. That I would say was the beginning.