Transcript: Richard Monette | Feb 18, 1997

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of a production assistant giving finishing touches to Richard Ouzounian’s makeup: “Richard Monette. Artistic Director.”

Richard and Monette sit on chairs in a park in daytime.

Then, Richard appears facing the screen as a caption reads “Richard Ouzounian.” He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a blue coat, beige trousers, and a blue shirt.

He says I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
YOU'RE ABOUT TO MEET A MAN
WHO'S HAD A VERY VARIED CAREER.
PERSONALLY, I'VE SEEN
HIM AS A DANISH PRINCE,
AN EGYPTIAN QUEEN, AND NOW
AS A JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES
AND MASTER OF MOST
OF THEM, BECAUSE NOW
HE'S THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
OF THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS WITH
RICHARD MONETTE.

Monette is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with receding gray hair. He’s wearing a black t-shirt.

Richard says SO, RICHARD, WHEN YOU
CAME HERE AND YOU STARTED
DIRECTING, AND THEN THE
DAY YOU WERE TAPPED ON THE
SHOULDER, I REMEMBER READING
SOMETHING YOU SAID ABOUT
YOU WENT OUT AND YOU WISHED A
PRAYER TO THE MOON THAT NIGHT?

Monette says I PHONED MY BROTHER TO TELL
HIM I WAS OFFERED THIS,
AND AT FIRST, I
TURNED IT DOWN,
AND THEN I
RECONSIDERED.
AND FINALLY,
WHEN I SAID YES,
I REALIZED THE
ENORMITY OF IT,
AND I WAS IN MY
BEDROOM AT MY DESK,
AND I LOOKED UP AND
THERE WAS A FULL MOON.
AND I JUST PRAYED TO
THE MOON AND SAID,
I HOPE I GET
THROUGH THIS.
BECAUSE IT'S AN ENORMOUS
RESPONSIBILITY,
NOT JUST TO THIS GREAT
THEATRE, BUT TO THE TOWN,
BECAUSE THE THEATRE BRINGS
IN 100,000 dollars TO THE TOWN.
THIS IS MY TUNE -
THE FANFARES.

Richard says IT'S ONE OF THE THINGS
PEOPLE LONG FOR,
TO COME TO STRATFORD, IS
THAT YOU HEAR THE TRUMPETS
GOING, AND LOGICALLY ALL
THE PEOPLE COME WITH IT.

Monette says THAT'S RIGHT, YEAH.

Richard says I THINK THE REASON A LOT OF
PEOPLE HAD HOPES RIDING ON YOU,
AND HAVE HOPES
RIDING ON YOU STILL,
IS THAT YOU'RE THE FIRST
CANADIAN-BORN ARTISTIC
DIRECTOR OF THE
STRATFORD FESTIVAL.

Monette says THERE WAS JEAN GASCON.

Richard says IN RECENT YEARS
HERE, YEAH.
AND YOU'RE THE FIRST
FROM OUR ENGLISH CANADA
GENERATION ACTOR.
YOU'RE PERCEIVED AS
BEING ONE OF THE FAMILY
WHO MADE IT TO THE
TOP OF THE BUSINESS.
AND UNLIKE
THE LITTLE FOXES,
THE PLAY YOU JUST DIRECTED,
WHERE THE FAMILY WILL CUT
EACH OTHER'S THROATS,
HERE, THE FAMILY WERE
ANXIOUS TO HAVE YOU SUCCEED.
DO YOU FEEL THAT GOODWILL
STILL RIDING WITH YOU?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Richard Monette. Artistic Director."

Monette says YES, I DO, I DO.
IT WAS, AS YOU SAY, I WAS
SORT OF CHARACTERIZED
AS THE CHILD OF STRATFORD
BECAUSE I DID BEGIN HERE
WHEN I WAS 20 AND GREW UP
THROUGH THE COMPANY,
WHICH IS WHAT THIS KIND OF
THEATRE IS MEANT TO DO.
SO, I WAS THE EXPERIMENT,
THE FIRST FRUITS
OF THIS EXPERIMENT.
SO I THOUGHT THERE
WAS GOODWILL.
AND, YES, I THINK
THERE IS GOODWILL.

Richard says I REALIZED I KNOW
A LOT ABOUT YOU,
BUT I DON'T REALLY KNOW
THE VERY FIRST BEGINNINGS
OF RICHARD MONETTE
IN THE THEATRE.
I DON'T MEAN THE FIRST
PROFESSIONAL JOBS,
BUT WHAT WAS THE FIRST
ACTING RICHARD MONETTE
WANTED TO DO, OR
THOUGHT OF DOING?

Monette says I THINK I WAS INTERESTED
IN THE THEATRE WHEN
I WAS YOUNG BECAUSE
I WAS LONELY.
I DIDN'T HAVE MANY
FRIENDS, AND LONELY KIDS
HAVE A GREAT FANTASY LIFE.
SO, I HAD AN IMAGINATIVE
BRAIN, AND THAT LED,
WHEN I WENT TO GRADE SCHOOL,
WE HAD IRISH PAGEANTS -
ST. PATRICK'S DAY PAGEANTS
AND I GOT INTO THOSE,
AND I ENJOYED DOING
THAT, AND THEN...

Richard says WITH THAT FINE
IRISH NAME MONETTE.

Monette says THAT'S RIGHT, THAT'S RIGHT,
WITH THE ITALIAN SIDE
ON THE OTHER HALF.
SO, I JUST GOT INTERESTED
AT A VERY YOUNG AGE,
AND THEN I LIKED FILMS, AND
I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL.

Richard says WAS THERE AN ACTOR YOU
WANTED TO BE LIKE
AT THAT PERIOD?

Monette says NOT REALLY; I THINK
THE FIRST ACTOR
I EVER WANTED TO BE
LIKE WAS MARLON BRANDO,
HIS EARLY MOVIES,
WHICH I FOUND HIM -
AND STILL DO FIND
HIM - REMARKABLE.
AND HE CHANGED, OF COURSE,
THE WHOLE STYLE OF ACTING,
AND NEXT TO HIM, THERE
WAS NO ONE ELSE,
IN MY OPINION, WHEN
I WAS A YOUNG PERSON.

Richard says SO, YOU WERE GROWING UP, AND
YOU DECIDED YOU LIKED THIS,
AND YOU HAVE THESE
FEELINGS ABOUT THE THEATRE
AND ABOUT FILM AND THAT.
WHERE DO YOU GO
AT THIS POINT?

Monette says THEN I GOT INTERESTED
IN SHAKESPEARE,
AND I DON'T KNOW HOW I GOT
INTERESTED IN SHAKESPEARE.
NONE OF MY FAMILY
WENT TO THE THEATRE,
NONE OF MY FOUR GRANDPARENTS
COULD READ OR WRITE,
SO THERE WAS NOTHING
IN THE FAMILY
THAT WAS LEADING
ME TO THIS.
I THINK THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL
AND THROUGH READING -
BECAUSE I HAD A VERY GOOD
EDUCATION - I JUST
GOT INTERESTED IN THE CLASSICS
AND IN SERIOUS STUFF,
AS IT WERE.

Richard says CAN YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST
SHAKESPEARE THAT MADE
AN IMPRESSION ON YOU?

Monette says I THINK THE FIRST
SHAKESPEARE THAT MADE AN
IMPRESSION ON ME WAS HERE.
I CAME UP, I SAVED
UP MY PENNIES,
AND I CAME UP ON THE TRAIN
FROM MONTREAL AND STAYED AT
THE Y, AND I SAW
AS YOU
LIKE IT
WITH IRENE WORTH.
AND IT WAS MAGICAL; THIS
SPACE HERE WAS THEN NEW.
IT WAS THE ONLY
ONE IN THE WORLD,
AND IT WAS SO
EMBRACING AND ENGAGING,
AND I WAS TAKEN AWAY.

Richard says I JUST CAME BACK
RECENTLY FOR LIKE MAYBE
THE 5,000TH TIME
HERE TO SEE A SHOW,
AND YET THE FIRST TIME YOU
WALK INTO THAT THEATRE
ON A NIGHT THAT A PERFORMANCE
IS GOING TO HAPPEN,
IT ALWAYS SEEMS NEW AGAIN.
I DON'T KNOW IF
IT'S THE SPACE,
BUT IT SEEMS COOL AND
FRESH AND SOMETHING NEW
IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
NOW, YOU'RE HERE EVERYDAY;
DOES THAT STILL STRIKE YOU
WHEN YOU WALK IN?

Monette says ABSOLUTELY.
THE SPACE ITSELF, THERE'S
SOMETHING JUNGIAN
ABOUT THE SPACE.
IT'S ROUND AND
IT'S MUTED.
IT'S A PLATFORM,
REALLY.
IT'S NOT LIKE A THEATRE;
IT'S LIKE A PLATFORM
WHERE MAGIC THINGS
CAN HAPPEN.
AND IT'S NOT STRUCTURED
WITH THE PROSCENIUM ARCH,
ALTHOUGH THERE'S BEAUTIFUL
THEATRES IN THAT STYLE,
BUT THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT
IT WHICH INVOLVES
THE AUDIENCE SO THAT
WHEN YOU WALK IN,
YOU CAN'T JUST SIT BACK.
YOU LOOK ACROSS THE
STAGE TO OTHER PEOPLE,
YOU'RE ENGAGED IN A SOCIAL
ACTIVITY, IT HAS A DYNAMIC.
BUT IT'S ALSO CLEAN,
SO IT'S AN EMPTY SPACE,
TO USE PETER BROOK'S
WORD, THAT YOU FILL UP.
SO, I THINK THE
BUILDING HAS SOMETHING
VERY SPECIAL ABOUT IT.

Richard says THAT FIRST TIME YOU CAME
HERE AND SAW AS YOU LIKE IT,
DID YOU UTTER THE
TIME-HONOURED PHRASE:
I'LL BE UP THERE ONE DAY?

Monette says NO.
WELL, I DIDN'T THINK
I HAD ANY TALENT THEN.
IT WAS ONLY LATER WHEN I
STARTED TO WORK IN PLAYS
IN HIGH SCHOOL AND IN
COLLEGE THAT I REALIZED
I WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR, AND
I AUDITIONED THREE TIMES
AND WAS TURNED DOWN THREE TIMES
I MUST HAVE DONE EVERY
SOLILOQUY IN SHAKESPEARE;
THREE OF THEM, I MUST HAVE.
I WAS RUNNING
OUT OF CHOICES,
BUT I FINALLY GOT A
CHANCE TO WORK HERE,
AND WHEN I DID, I
DIDN'T REALLY WANT
TO WORK ANYWHERE ELSE.
I HAVE, OF COURSE.

Richard says BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT FIRST
SEASON YOU SPENT HERE?
MEMORIES OF THAT?

Monette says I WAS JUST IN AWE.
PEOPLE LIKE KATE REID AND
BILL HUTT AND MARTHA HENRY -
THESE PEOPLE WERE
JUST AWESOME TO ME,
TO USE AN OVERUSED WORD,
AND I WAS VERY QUIET,
AND I CALLED EVERYBODY
MISTER SO-AND-SO
AND MISS SO-AND-SO.

Richard says WHAT ARE THEIR MEMORIES
OF YOU AT THAT TIME?

Monette says I HAVE NO IDEA,
I HAVE NO IDEA.
ALL I KNOW IS I HARDLY
SPOKE FOR NINE MONTHS.
I DON'T MEAN ON THE STAGE,
WHERE I HAD ONE LINE.

Richard says WHAT WAS IT?

Monette says WHAT, I, MY LORD?
IN JULIUS CAESAR, WHICH I
HAD TO ADDRESS TO BILL HUTT.
AND EVERY NIGHT I
APPROACHED HIM, I THOUGHT,
I'M GOING TO DRY NOW.
I'M GOING TO
FORGET THIS LINE,
BECAUSE THERE WAS ONLY
ONE, BUT I NEVER DID.
AND I WAS LONELY; I DIDN'T
HAVE MANY FRIENDS, AGAIN.
I'VE COMPLETELY CHANGED, AS
YOU SEE; I'M NOT THE SHY,
RETIRING LITTLE
BOY I ONCE WAS.
BUT I JUST ABSORBED,
I JUST ABSORBED...
MOSTLY I ABSORBED THESE
EXTRAORDINARY ACTORS
USING THE LANGUAGE
OF SHAKESPEARE.
AND NIGHT AFTER NIGHT,
IN OUR DRESSING ROOMS,
THERE'S A TANNOY.

Richard says THE LOUDSPEAKERS, RIGHT.

Monette says AND I WOULD JUST LISTEN
TO DOUGLAS RAIN
SPEAK THESE LINES.
AND WHEN I GOT TO DO THE
ROLES LATER ON IN MY CAREER
THAT I'D HEARD EXECUTED
WHEN I WAS A YOUNG MAN
BY THESE GREAT ACTORS,
I CAN STILL REMEMBER
HOW THEY DID
THOSE LINES.
AND I STOLE FROM THEM WHEN
I GOT TO PLAY THESE PARTS.

Richard says STEAL FROM THE BEST.

Monette says ABSOLUTELY.
SO, I THINK THAT WAS
THE MOST IMPORTANT
LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

Richard says YOUR PARTICULAR
CAREER AT STRATFORD,
WAS IT ONE OF THESE SLOW AND
INEVITABLE THINGS - YOU HAD
ONE LINE ONE YEAR, AND
A SMALL PART THE NEXT,
AND A BIGGER PART THE
NEXT - OR HOW DID IT GO?

Monette says I THINK THAT'S A GOOD
WAY OF CHARACTERIZING IT.
I MEAN, IT WASN'T
A METEORIC RISE,
BUT I LEFT, I
WENT ELSEWHERE.
I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT
TO GO ELSEWHERE,
I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO
GO TO OTHER COUNTRIES
TO DO DIFFERENT
STYLES OF ACTING.
AND I LEARNT A GREAT DEAL
WHEN I WENT AWAY SO THAT
WHEN I CAME BACK, I'D LEARNT
STUFF AND I COULD OFFER MORE.
BUT IT WAS PRETTY
SLOW AND STEADY.

Richard says NOW, DURING THE PERIOD
SOMEWHERE AROUND HERE,
THERE'S A STORY I'VE ALWAYS
BEEN MEANING TO ASK
YOUR REACTION TO.
YOU DID A PERFORMANCE
OF HAMLET IN TORONTO.
I WAS NOT IN CANADA YET; I
HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS LIKE,
BUT I UNDERSTAND
THAT NATHAN COHEN
PARTICULARLY
DIDN'T LIKE IT.
AND THE NEXT DAY, HIS
REVIEW BEGAN: IF YOUR NAME
IS RICHARD MONETTE,
READ NO FURTHER.
DID YOU READ FURTHER?

Monette says OF COURSE!
OF COURSE,
WOULDN'T YOU?
BUT IT WASN'T NATHAN COHEN;
IT WAS WHAT WAS THEN
THE TELEGRAM, AND IT
WAS ANOTHER WRITER.
BUT IT DID BEGIN: IF YOU
HAPPEN TO BE RICHARD
MONETTE, STOP
READING RIGHT HERE -
WAS THE OPENING
PARAGRAPH.

Richard says AND IT WAS A SCATHING
REVIEW, OBVIOUSLY.

Monette says YES, IT WASN'T...
YES, IT WAS NOT
A GOOD REVIEW.
BUT THE FIRST PARAGRAPH
WAS SO AMAZING.
I MEAN, IT'S ONE OF THOSE
HORRENDOUS THINGS THAT
YOU DREAM OF, THE ACTOR'S
NIGHTMARE: YOU'RE PLAYING
HAMLET, IT'S YOUR FIRST
PROFESSIONAL JOB,
AND YOU GET THIS
PARAGRAPH.
I WAS 19 AND I THOUGHT,
MAYBE THIS PERSON IS RIGHT.
AND IF HE IS RIGHT, I
WON'T HAVE A CAREER IN
THE THEATRE, BUT I'M GOING
TO LEARN AS MUCH AS I CAN
TO DISPROVE THIS OPINION.
AND SO, I HAD TO ABSORB IT
SOMEHOW AND GET ON WITH IT.
IT'S ONE OF THE FEW TIMES I HAVE
EVER LISTENED TO A CRITIC.

[laughing]

Richard says I WAS GOING TO SAY, I
WONDER IF THAT'S THE REASON
BECAUSE SO FAR - TOUCH WOOD
IN YOUR CAREER HERE,
YOU HAVE HAD THE LEAST
CONTENTIOUS RELATIONSHIP
WITH THE TORONTO DRAMA
CRITICS OF ANY ARTISTIC
DIRECTOR IN
RECENT MEMORY.
THEY USUALLY ALL WIND
UP SCREAMING AT THEM,
OR FIGHTING THEM,
OR REVILING THEM,
OR ALTERNATELY LOVING
THEM OR HATING THEM.
AND YOU SEEM TO HAVE KEPT:
YOU'RE HERE, I'M THERE;
I DO MY WORK,
YOU DO YOUR WORK.
IS THAT A MASSIVE
BALANCING ACT?
BECAUSE SOMETIMES, THEY
SAY THE STUPIDEST THINGS,
OR THEY EVEN LIKE YOU
FOR THE WRONG REASONS.

Monette says WELL, ALAN BATES,
WHEN HE WAS HERE,
WAS ASKED ABOUT THE
CRITICS, AND HE SAID
SOMETHING THAT I REMEMBER.
HE SAID, WHEN THE CRITICS
LIKE ME, I LIKE THEM;
WHEN THEY DON'T LIKE
ME, I DON'T LIKE THEM.
BUT BESIDES THIS EMOTIONAL
RESPONSE TO THE CRITICS,
AS AN ARTISTIC DIRECTOR,
THEY'RE VERY IMPORTANT TO SALES.
PEOPLE BELIEVE THE CRITICS,
WHETHER THEY ARE INFORMED,
NOT INFORMED.
I KNOW, AS A DIRECTOR OR
WHEN I SEE A PRODUCTION,
FROM MY PROFESSIONAL
EXPERIENCE,
EXACTLY HOW TO RATE
IT; I'M NOT BLIND.
EVEN WITH MY OWN
WORK, I THINK, OH,
THAT WAS A MISTAKE,
AND THIS ISN'T GOOD,
AND THAT COULD HAVE
BEEN BETTER; OR,
THIS IS MARVELLOUS.
SO, I HAVE MY OWN
OPINIONS OF THIS,
BUT WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT IS
THE PRESS IS CONVEYING
THIS INFORMATION
TO THE PUBLIC.
AND WHEN THEY'RE NEGATIVE,
THEY SHOULD BE NEGATIVE
HONESTLY; THEY SHOULDN'T JUST
BE NEGATIVE TO SELL PAPERS.
IF THEY DIDN'T
LIKE SOMETHING,
THERE SHOULD BE HONEST
REASONS WHY THEY DIDN'T,
NOT POLITICAL REASONS, NOT
REASONS OF THEIR OWN EGO,
WHERE THEY WANT TO
BE CONTENTIOUS,
AS SOME CRITICS ARE, OF
COURSE; THEY MAKE THEIR NAMES
ON JUST BEING CONTENTIOUS
AND DIFFICULT.
SO, IT MATTERS TO ME
FROM THAT POINT OF VIEW.

Richard says BUT YOU DON'T REALLY
FEEL THEY HAVE A STAKE
IN YOUR ARTISTIC SOUL.

Monette says NO.

Richard says MAYBE THAT'S WHY
YOU DON'T GET MAD.

Monette says MAYBE.
WELL, YOU KNOW...
TO BE AN ARTIST, YOU
HAVE TO BE AN IDEALIST.
YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE
IN THE WORLD,
AND YOU HAVE TO
BELIEVE THAT THE ART
IS GOING TO MAKE
A DIFFERENCE.
THE MOST NIHILISTIC OF
WRITERS OR PLAYWRIGHTS
STILL IS CREATING A WORK
OF ART THAT THEY HOPE
WILL CHANGE PEOPLE, WILL
GIVE YOU A WORLD VIEW,
NO MATTER HOW
NEGATIVE IT IS.
IT'S A VIEW OF THE WORLD
THAT YOU CAN HANG ONTO,
SO THERE'S AN
INNOCENCE TO CREATING,
AND YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN
THAT INNOCENCE.
I'M SOUNDING AS IF I'M
UNTOUCHED BY THE REVIEWS,
AND THAT IS NOT TRUE.
I HAVE RAVED, I
HAVE SCREAMED,
I'VE PULLED OUT MY HAIR,
I'VE BEEN INCREDULOUS
AT THE STUPIDITY.
HOWEVER, WHEN THE
NIGHT IS OVER,
YOU'VE GOT TO LOOK AT
YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK,
AND I FEEL GOOD
ABOUT THAT.
EVEN THE BAD WORK, YOU KNOW
THAT IT IS BAD FOR A REASON:
YOU COULDN'T GET
THE CAST YOU WANTED,
OR IT WAS A LATE
SUBSTITUTION,
OR SOMEBODY WAS ILL
AND YOU DIDN'T HAVE
ENOUGH REHEARSAL TIME.
YOU CAN JUDGE IT,
AS A DIRECTOR.
AND THE PRESS HAS TREATED
MY TENURE HERE VERY WELL,
FOR THE MOST PART; THERE
HAVE BEEN ONE OR TWO
THAT WERE JUST SOAPBOX, AND
I DON'T UNDERSTAND THAT.
BUT FOR THE MOST PART,
THEY'VE BEEN VERY BALANCED,
VERY BALANCED,
AND THAT'S GOOD.
ALSO, IT'S VERY
IMPORTANT TO ME BECAUSE
THIS ISN'T MY THEATRE.
IT'S ON LOAN, AND I WANT
TO LEAVE IT HEALTHIER
IN EVERY WAY THAN
WHEN I FOUND IT.
NOT THAT IT WAS ILL
WHEN I FOUND IT;
I DON'T WANT PEOPLE
TO LOOK BACK AND SAY,
WHAT A DREADFUL TENURE
THAT WAS - IT SET US BACK.
I WANT TO GO FORWARD.
AND, OF COURSE, I
LOVE IT; IT'S MY LIFE,
AND I THINK THIS THEATRE
IS ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT CANADA HAS
DONE RIGHT.

Richard says NOW, RICHARD, UP TILL NOW,
WE'VE BEEN TALKING HIGH ART:
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE,
STRATFORD FESTIVAL.
THERE'S OTHER THINGS YOU'VE
DONE IN YOUR CAREER.
WHAT ABOUT THE RICHARD
MONETTE WHO DID
OH CALCUTTA?

Monette says AH, THIS WAS A YOUNGER
RICHARD MONETTE.
AS I TOLD YOU, I WAS
VERY SHY AS AN ACTOR,
AND I REMAINED SHY
UNTIL WAS, YOU KNOW...
ABOUT 24, 25.
AND I REALIZED
THAT AS AN ACTOR,
YOU HAVE TO CONTINUALLY
EXPOSE YOURSELF,
OPEN YOURSELF
UP, AND GROW.
IT'S ONE OF THE PLEASURES
OF BEING AN ARTIST
AND NOT AT A JOB WHICH
DOESN'T ALLOW YOU TO GROW.
SO, I WAS IN ENGLAND AND
I HAD AN OFFER FROM
THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE
COMPANY TO DO SMALL PARTS,
AND I HAD ALWAYS
WANTED TO GO THERE.
I HAD AN OFFER TO PLAY PUCK
IN REGENT'S PARK IN LONDON,
AND THEN THIS
FRIEND OF MINE,
WHO HAD DIRECTED
ME IN CANADA,
WAS DIRECTING
OH CALCUTTA...
CLIFFORD WILLIAMS...
AND HE SAID, DO YOU
WANT TO BE IN THIS?
AND I THOUGHT
THIS WAS AMAZING.
I SAID, WON'T I
HAVE TO AUDITION?

Richard says WON'T I HAVE TO TAKE
ALL MY CLOTHES OFF?

Monette says ALL MY CLOTHES OFF -
WHAT ABOUT MY TALENT?
PERHAPS YOU WON'T
APPRECIATE MY TALENT!
SO, HE SAID, NO, NO,
I'D LIKE YOU TO DO IT.
AND IT TURNED OUT TO
BE ONE OF THE MOST
INTERESTING THINGS THAT I
HAVE DONE IN MY CAREER.
BECAUSE AT THE COST OF DOING
THIS - BECAUSE, AS I SAID,
I WAS SHY - THERE WAS
SO MUCH EFFORT AND SO
MUCH THINKING ON MY
PART AS TO WHO I WAS,
WHAT I WAS DOING
IN THIS NUDE REVIEW,
THAT LATER ON
IT HAD DIVIDENDS.
I COULD NOT HAVE PLAYED
HOSANNA IF I HADN'T DONE THAT,
AND I COULDN'T HAVE
PLAYED MY SECOND
HAMLET
IN THE WAY THAT I DID WITHOUT
HAVING EXPOSED MYSELF
LITERALLY IN THAT WAY.
SO, IRONICALLY, IT WAS
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
ARTISTIC DECISIONS
I MADE AS AN ACTOR.
THERE WERE OTHER
CONSIDERATIONS THAT WERE SERIOUS
ABOUT
OH CALCUTTA, THOUGH
IT WAS JUST A BURLESQUE,
AT THE TIME, YOU COULDN'T
IMPROVISE ON THE BRITISH STAGE;
YOU WEREN'T
ALLOWED TO DO THAT.
THERE WERE LAWS
ABOUT NUDITY;
IT CHALLENGED A LOT
OF POLITICAL THINGS.
OF ITSELF, IT WAS
SIMPLY AN ENTERTAINMENT.

Richard says BUT IT WOUND UP BEING
IMPORTANT TO YOU.

Monette says EXTREMELY, SO
YOU NEVER KNOW!

Richard says YOU MENTIONED HOSANNA,
WHICH I THINK IS ONE OF
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT THINGS
BEFORE STRATFORD YOU'VE DONE.
AMAZING PERFORMANCE; YOU
CREATED THIS GREAT PART
IN ENGLISH BY MICHEL
TREMBLAY AND THEN TOURED IT
ALL OVER CANADA.
THERE WAS SUCH EMOTIONAL
HONESTY AND EMOTIONAL PAIN
GOING ON THERE.
WHEN I HEAR YOU TALKING NOW
ABOUT BEING THE LONELY BOY
WHO IS STILL INTO
BEING A LONELY ADULT,
I'M SURE YOU MUST HAVE
PLUGGED INTO THAT WHEN YOU
GOT INTO HIM SITTING THERE,
WONDERING WHAT WAS GOING
TO HAPPEN TO HIM
AT THE PARTY.

Monette says I DID, I DID.
AS AN ACTOR, YOU TAKE
YOUR OWN LITTLE STORY
AND YOU MAGNIFY IT
WHEN YOU PLAY ROLES,
BECAUSE YOU'VE GOTTA FIND
SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF
IN EACH OF THESE ROLES.
AND THE LONELINESS AND WHY
THIS CHARACTER DRESSES UP
AND PRETENDS TO BE SOMEONE
ELSE AND BECOMES AN ACTOR,
REALLY, WITH A PERSONA
OF ELIZABETH TAYLOR,
THE REASONS ARE THIS
PERSON, AS A CHILD,
THE KID IN HIM
THAT HE DIDN'T LIKE,
THAT HE FOUND UNATTRACTIVE,
THAT WAS LONELY -
THAT WAS LONELY.
SO, YOU'RE RIGHT.

Richard says IT'S FUNNY, 20 YEARS LATER,
I ZERO IN ON THE ONE MOMENT
IN YOUR PERFORMANCE WHEN
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT WHAT
IT WAS LIKE TO SEE ELIZABETH
TAYLOR, AND YOU SAID,
THE REAL ELIZABETH TAYLOR.
BECAUSE TO YOU, IT WAS
IMPORTANT THAT THE FANTASY,
WHEN YOU'RE PICTURING
WHAT SHE WOULD,
WHEN SHE RODE IN
TRIUMPH, REALLY BE LIKE.
AND I HONESTLY BELIEVED
THAT WHAT I WAS SEEING
THERE WAS NOT JUST RICHARD
MONETTE PERFORMING,
BUT SOMEBODY
BELIEVING TOTALLY
IN THE IMPORTANCE
OF FANTASY.

Monette says YES.
WHEN I ACTED, I DON'T KNOW
WHAT IT CAME ACROSS - WELL,
IN THIS CASE, IT DID COME
ACROSS THAT I WAS TOTALLY
ABSORBED - BUT WHEN
I WAS AN ACTOR,
I COULD PROJECT
WALLS IN THE THEATRE,
LIKE THE IMAGINARY
WALLS; I COULD SEE
WHAT PICTURE WAS ON
THIS IMAGINARY WALL.
SO, I WENT INTO THE PLAY
ACTING QUITE COMPLETELY.
I DON'T KNOW, I THINK I
WAS SORT OF THOUGHT OF
AS A VERY TECHNICAL ACTOR.
I DON'T KNOW, BUT I WASN'T.
FOR ME, I WAS COMPLETELY
LOST IN THIS FANTASY WORLD,
WHICH WAS FUN.

Richard says WE WERE TALKING ABOUT A
MOMENT OF TRIUMPH AS AN ACTOR.
YOU RAN INTO A STUMBLING
BLOCK A FEW YEARS LATER
WHEN YOU ACTUALLY FELT
YOU COULDN'T ACT ANYMORE.
IT ALMOST BECAME A PHYSICAL
IMPEDIMENT TO YOU,
YOU WERE SO TERRIFIED OF IT.
DO YOU WANT TO
TALK ABOUT THAT?

Monette says SURE.
I LOVE AUDIENCES.
MANY ACTORS DO NOT
LOVE AUDIENCES;
THEY FEAR THEM OR THEY'RE
CHALLENGING OR THEY'RE
DISDAINING TOWARDS THEM.
I LOVE AUDIENCES.
MAKE 'EM LAUGH, MAKE 'EM
SING - I LOVE AUDIENCES
BECAUSE THAT'S WHY
I'M IN THE THEATRE.
SO, I WASN'T ONE OF THOSE
ACTORS THAT THOUGHT,
OH, MY GOD, I'M SCARED
OF GOING OUT THERE.
WHETHER I WAS GOOD OR BAD,
I WAS GIVING OUT 100 PERCENT.
SOME NIGHTS IT WAS
100 PERCENT BAD,
BUT IT WAS THE
BEST I HAD.
SO, I LOVED THE AUDIENCE,
I LOVE THE THEATRE.
SOME ACTORS DON'T
LIKE THE THEATRE;
THEY THINK IT'S LESSER.
BUT I DIDN'T, SO
EVERYTHING WAS RIGHT
WHEN I WAS PERFORMING.
AND THEN I JUST
GOT STAGE FRIGHT.
AND BILL HUTT SAID, I'M
SHOCKED THAT YOU GOT THIS
BECAUSE, LIKE ME, THE
STAGE IS YOUR HOME.
AND I SAID, YES, I FEEL
MORE AT HOME ON A STAGE
THAN I DO IN MY OWN HOUSE.
IT SOUNDS PREPOSTEROUS, BUT
IN A WAY, ONE IS MORE ALIVE,
THERE IS MORE CONTROL.
SO, HE SAID THIS TO ME,
AND I AGREED WITH HIM
WHEN HE SAID THIS.
JUST RECENTLY HE
SAID THIS TO ME,
AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY
THAT HAPPENED TO ME.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS
AFTER YEARS OF WORK
THAT IT SUDDENLY
BECAME UNBEARABLE.
I ENDED UP IN THE HOSPITAL
AFTER ONE PERFORMANCE
BECAUSE THE SYMPTOMS WERE
SO PHYSICAL I THOUGHT
I WAS HAVING SOME, I DON'T
KNOW WHAT, A HEART ATTACK,
OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
IT WAS THAT SERIOUS.
AND I OFTEN WONDER
WHY THAT HAPPENED.
PERHAPS IT WAS A WAY OF
GETTING ME OUT OF ACTING -
SUBCONSCIOUSLY, OF COURSE -
AND INTO DIRECTING.
PERHAPS I WANTED, AS I SAY,
MORE CONTROL OF THE EVENTS,
PUTTING ON A PLAY.
BUT I THINK THAT'S AN EXTREME
WAY OF GOING ABOUT IT.

Richard says BUT YOU'VE BEEN KIND
OF TIPTOEING AROUND
BACK TO ACTING AGAIN.

Monette says WELL, I HAVEN'T
DONE IT FOR TEN YEARS.

Richard says YOU DID A RADIO
PLAY, RIGHT, ON CBC?

Monette says I DID THE
RADIO PLAY,
BUT THAT'S KIND
OF DIFFERENT.
BUT I HAVEN'T GOTTEN
UP ON A STAGE,
AND I THINK I SHOULD SO I
CAN GET BACK ON THE HORSE,
BECAUSE I THINK
THAT'S VERY IMPORTANT.
ALSO, IF YOU'VE BEEN AN
ACTOR AND YOU'RE NOT ACTING,
YOU THINK
EVERYTHING'S EASY.
BUT IF YOU'RE AWAY
FROM IT FOR TEN YEARS,
YOU SUDDENLY REALIZE HOW
DIFFICULT IT IS JUST
TO TAKE A DOOR, OPEN IT,
SAY YOUR LINE, AND SHUT IT.
AND I'VE GOT TO BE REMINDED
OF THAT SO THAT I CAN SEE,
ONCE AGAIN, IN MY BONES,
IN MY BLOOD, VISCERALLY,
HOW DIFFICULT THE CRAFT OF
ACTING IS - NOT THAT I DON'T
RESPECT IT, BUT I ALWAYS
THINK, OH, I COULD DO THAT.
WHY ISN'T THIS
ACTOR DOING THIS?
SO, I THINK I WILL CERTAINLY
TRY IT ONE MORE TIME.

Richard says AS A DIRECTOR, YOU'VE BEEN
COVERING THE WATERFRONT.
YOU'RE GOING TO DO A BIG
MUSICAL NEXT SEASON;
YOU'VE TACKLED ONE OF THE
BIG TRAGEDIES,
KING LEAR,
IN THIS CURRENT
SEASON AT STRATFORD.
BUT WHAT FIRST BROUGHT YOU
TO EVERYONE'S ATTENTION
WERE THE COMEDIES -
IN PARTICULAR,
A SPARKLING
TAMING OF
THE SHREW
AND THEN VERY
INVENTIVE WORK WITH
COMEDY
OF ERRORS
AND AN OUTRAGEOUS
AS YOU LIKE IT, AND
ALL OF THESE THINGS.
BUT DO YOU FEEL NOW THAT
RICHARD'S THE BOSS,
THAT RICHARD SHOULDN'T BE
QUITE SO LARKY SOMETIMES?

Monette says OH, NO; OH, NO, I
DON'T FEEL THAT AT ALL.
I JUST WANT BALANCE IN MY
DIRECTORIAL WORK, THAT'S ALL.
THIS YEAR I'VE DONE A
MELODRAMA IN
THE LITTLE FOXES;
A FARCE,
A FITTING
CONFUSION,
CAN'T GET SILLIER THAN THAT;
A COSTUME DRAMA,
AMADEUS;
AND A TRAGEDY,
KING LEAR.
AND THIS IS INTERESTING
BECAUSE ONE PLAYS
OFF AGAINST EACH OTHER
IN THE FOUR REHEARSALS.
YOU'RE BRINGING A LITTLE BIT
OF THE SERIOUSNESS OF
LEAR
INTO
FITTING CONFUSION...
NOT LITERALLY.
IT'S LIKE A MEAL: YOU
HAVE SOUP, YOUR MEAT,
YOUR POTATOES, YOUR
STARCH, AND YOUR DESSERT.
SO, IT'S GREAT, AND I'LL
NEVER GET THE CHANCE
TO DO THIS AGAIN.
ONCE THIS JOB IS OVER, I'LL
NEVER HAVE THE CHANCE.
I DIDN'T INTEND TO DO AS MANY
PLAYS AS I HAVE THIS YEAR.
IT'S JUST ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT HAPPENED IN THIS JOB.
BUT I LOVED IT, AND I LOVE
BEING IN THE REHEARSAL.
IT'S THE OFFICE
I CAN'T STAND.

Richard says BUT YOU LOVE BEING
IN THE THEATRE.
ONE OF THE THINGS I'M
CURIOUS ABOUT IS,
EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT THE
JOB OF BEING AN ARTISTIC
DIRECTOR OF STRATFORD IS
AN ALL-CONSUMING JOB
AND IT TAKES UP
SO MUCH TIME.
AND SINCE YOU ARE
SO BUSY IN HERE,
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO
THAT LONELY KID
FOR THE REST OF THE TIME?

Monette says THIS IS VERY FORTUITOUS
BECAUSE NOW I'M LONELY AGAIN,
BUT I KNOW EXACTLY
WHAT IT WAS LIKE.
WITH THIS JOB, THAT'S
THE ONLY THING I DO;
I DON'T DO ANYTHING.
I DON'T HAVE DAYS OFF.
IF I GO ON A TRIP,
IT'S ALWAYS TO READ,
AS I DID LAST YEAR:
TWO WEEKS, 28 PLAYS.
THIS IS THE ONLY TIME
I HAVE TO READ PLAYS.
NOW, WE'RE HAVING, AS
YOU CAN SEE IN THE BACK,
A RENOVATION PROJECT, SO
THAT'S ABSORBED A LOT OF
MY TIME BECAUSE WE'RE RENEWING
THE OUTSIDE OF THE BUILDING
AND THE INSIDE OF
THE AUDITORIUM.
AND THAT IS A VERY IMPORTANT
THING THAT'S HAPPENING HERE,
AND I DON'T WANT TO
BE KNOWN AS THE MAN WHO
WRECKED THE AUDITORIUM,
THE SACRED SPACE.
SO, I'VE PUT IN A LOT
OF TIME WITH THAT,
SO THAT'S AN ADDED JOB,
WHICH IS CONSUMING.
SO, THERE'S SOMETHING -
GRANTS ARE CUT,
YOU'RE NOW SCRAMBLING,
YOU'RE CHANGING SEASONS.
YOU'RE CONTINUALLY GOING,
BUT IT'S A VOCATION.

Richard says BUT WHEN YOU LEAVE THAT
PLACE AND YOU GO HOME
AND YOU OPEN THE KEY AND
YOU TURN ON THE LIGHT,
DO YOU OFTEN GO, HUH!
OR DO YOU GO, I'M SCARED?

Monette says “ARE YOU AFRAID, MAMA?”
AS THEY SAY AT THE END
OF
LITTLE FOXES.
I'M NOT SCARED, BUT
THERE'S A FEELING
IN THERE THAT'S CORRECT.
I'M STIMULATED AT
WHAT WILL FOLLOW.
BECAUSE THIS JOB
IS SO IRREGULAR,
SO MANY THINGS HAPPEN
IN A DAY THAT YOU'RE
NOT EXPECTING, AT ALL.
THAT'S ONE OF THE
THINGS I'VE LEARNED,
THAT NO DAY IS THE SAME, AND
IT'S BOUND TO GET WORSE.
SO, I KNOW THAT, BUT EVEN
WHEN YOU HAVE A SUCCESS,
YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT
THE NEXT OPENING.
WE HAD FIVE IN THE OPENING
WEEK; WE HAD THE REST TO GO.
BECAUSE IT'S ART, AND
YOU NEVER KNOW
HOW IT'S GOING TO TURN OUT.
IT'S LIKE COOKING A MEAL:
SOMETIMES YOU PUT IN THE
SAME INGREDIENTS AS YOU DID
LAST TIME, AND IT'S LOUSY.
THERE'S NO FORMULA
TO THIS JOB AT ALL;
YOU'RE AT THE MERCY OF...
WHEN THEY WERE HAVING
THE REFERENDUM,
I WAS GLUED TO THIS
BECAUSE I THOUGHT,
IF THERE IS A REFERENDUM,
I'M GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE
MY SEASON BECAUSE WE WON'T
BE ABLE TO DO MANY PLAYS,
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO
SIT ON THEIR MONEY.
SO, EVERYTHING - I
READ THE BUSINESS PAGE,
A THING I HAVE NEVER
DONE, JUST TO FIND OUT
HOW THE ECONOMY IS.
40 PERCENT OF OUR AUDIENCE
COMES FROM THE STATES.
IF OUR DOLLAR IS LOW,
THAT'S GOOD FOR THEM
BECAUSE THEY CAN...
IT'S NEVER-ENDING, AND
I CAN'T SHUT IT OUT.
THE ONE THING, HOWEVER,
IS THAT I DO SLEEP WELL
BECAUSE I PASS OUT.
[chuckling]
I'M SO TIRED.
MY PREDECESSOR, DAVID
WILLIAM, WHEN I ASKED HIM,
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?
HE SAID, GET GOOD
SLEEPING PILLS.
BUT I DON'T NEED THEM;
I'M JUST EXHAUSTED.
IT'S NOT A JOB THAT
YOU CAN DO FOREVER.
YOU CAN DO IT
FOR A WHILE.
BECAUSE OF BURNOUT, I
IMAGINE ALL ARTISTIC
DIRECTORS FEEL THAT.
YOU HAVE BEEN IN SEVERAL
THEATRES, RIGHT,
SO YOU KNOW HOW
EXHAUSTING IT CAN BE.

Richard says BECAUSE NOT JUST ALL
THE STAGE IS A WORLD,
ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE,
ANY WAY YOU SPIN IT;
IT COMES OUT
THAT WAY, RIGHT?

Monette says THAT'S RIGHT,
THAT'S RIGHT.
YOU MUST HAVE FELT THIS!
YOU MUST KNOW EXACTLY
WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.

Richard says BUT YOU'RE
SITTING THERE NOW.
[laughing]
RICHARD MONETTE,
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Monette says THANK YOU, RICHARD.

Richard says FOR
DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1997, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Richard Monette