Transcript: Rod Beattie | Oct 17, 1999

(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 Richard Ouzounian and a guest talking on a stage, behind the scenes: “Rod Beattie. Actor.”

Then, Richard appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a black suit, and a black T-shirt.

He says WELCOME TO DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
FROM PERSEPHONE TOWNSHIP
TO THE HALLS OF DUNSINANE,
YOU'RE ABOUT TO MEET SOMEONE
WHO HAS BEEN PLYING
HIS CRAFT AND DELIGHTING
CANADIAN THEATRE AUDIENCES
FOR MANY YEARS NOW.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS
WITH ROD BEATTIE.

Rod is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short wavy gray hair. He’s wearing a dark purple shirt.

Richard continues SO, ROD, WELCOME.
I GUESS WE'LL EVENTUALLY
TOUCH ON WHAT YOU'RE DOING
NOW, WHICH IS MACBETH,
AND WHAT EVERYBODY
KNOWS YOU FOR, WHICH
IS WALT WINGFIELD.
BUT I WANT TO START
OUT; LET'S GO WAY BACK.
BECAUSE I'VE ALWAYS WANTED
TO KNOW THIS: WHAT MADE ROD
BEATTIE WANT TO
BE AN ACTOR?

Rod says I DON'T KNOW; I THINK
I'M LIKE A LOT OF ACTORS.
I NEVER REALLY
DECIDED TO DO IT.
I DRIFTED INTO
IT AS A TEENAGER.
I GUESS THE SEMINAL
TURNING POINT FOR ME WAS,
I WAS AT AN ALL
BOYS' HIGH SCHOOL,
AND THE ONLY REAL CHANCE
YOU HAD TO MEET GIRLS
WAS TO BE IN A PLAY.
AND SO, THIS WAS A
POWERFUL INCENTIVE.

[laughing]

Richard says DID YOU EVER GET TO DO
ROMANTIC SCENES WITH THEM?

Rod says NO, WELL, ACTUALLY, I
PLAYED THIS PART, MACBETH,
IN HIGH SCHOOL, WHICH IS
THE CLOSEST I GOT TO IT.
I MANAGED TO PERSUADE THEM
TO CAST MY GIRLFRIEND
OF THE TIME AS
LADY MACBETH.

Richard says A PROCESS THAT HAS BEEN
CONTINUING TO THIS DAY.

Rod says I RECOMMEND IT.

[laughing]

Richard says I'LL GET INTO THAT
LATER, BECAUSE I THINK
IT MUST BE ODD, BRINGING
ALL OF THOSE ONSTAGE
MURDEROUS TENSIONS
HOME LATER.
YOU STARTED OUT AS
HIGH SCHOOL ACTOR,
AND YOU FIRST HIT THE
STRATFORD FESTIVAL
WHEN, IN 1973?

Rod says '74 WAS MY FIRST YEAR.

Richard says AT THAT POINT, THE
FESTIVAL WAS ALREADY
WELL RENOWNED AND EVERYBODY
THOUGHT HIGHLY OF IT.
HOW DID YOU FEEL TO
BE LANDING IN HERE?

Rod says I THOUGHT I HAD DIED
AND GONE TO HEAVEN.
IT WAS THE LAST
YEAR OF JEAN GASCON,
AND THEN ROBIN PHILLIPS IS
ALREADY AROUND THAT YEAR,
AND HE, IN FACT,
TOOK SOME REHEARSALS
OF
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.
AND THEN THE FOLLOWING
YEAR, HE STARTED
AS ARTISTIC DIRECTOR,
AND DURING THAT TIME,
IT WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY
PLACE TO BE.
ROBIN WAS - STILL DOES...
DIRECTED BY TEACHING,
REALLY, AND HE'S AN
EXTRAORDINARY TEACHER.
I NEVER HAD A THEATRE
SCHOOL EDUCATION,
BUT I GUESS I FELT AS IF
THAT WAS KIND OF THE BEST
POSSIBLE EDUCATION YOU
COULD HAVE AS AN ACTOR.
AND I REMEMBER JUST
BEING UTTERLY IMMERSED
IN IT FROM FEBRUARY.
WE ACTUALLY STARTED EARLIER;
WE STARTED SOMETIMES
IN JANUARY, SOMETIMES
IN DECEMBER.

Richard says THAT'S ANOTHER MEMORY
OF THOSE PHILLIPS' YEARS,
IS THAT STRATFORD DID SO
MUCH; IT SEEMED SOMETIMES...

Rod says YEAH, AND HE
DID SO MUCH, TOO.

Richard says HE WAS OFTEN
DIRECTING, WHAT,
NINE SHOWS A YEAR OR SOMETHING
RIDICULOUS LIKE THAT?

Rod says I THINK, IN FACT, IT WAS
UP TO 12 OR SOMETHING
ONE TIME, YEAH.

Richard says AND EVERYBODY WAS IN ALL
THESE DIFFERENT PROJECTS
AND THINGS WERE OPENING
ALL OVER THE PLACE.
NOW, THAT HAD A GREAT
SIDE, WHICH WAS THAT
THIS SEEMED LIKE THIS
HUGE KETTLE OF ACTIVITY.
WAS THERE A DOWNSIDE
TO IT AT ALL?

Rod says I DON'T THINK
SO, REALLY.
I SUPPOSE THAT ONE OF THE
DOWNSIDES WAS THAT WHEN
IT WAS OVER, ONE FELT A
TREMENDOUS SORT OF LETDOWN.
BUT WHILE IT WAS ON, I
REMEMBER THERE WAS ONE
SEPTEMBER WHEN I WAS DOING
EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK AND THEN
STARTED EARNEST -
THE
IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST...
AT WHAT WAS THEN
THE THIRD STAGE.
AND FOR THEN TWO
WEEKS I DID, I THINK,
14 SHOWS A WEEK...
AT LEAST 12.
AND I COULDN'T
GET ENOUGH OF IT.
I THOUGHT, THIS
WAS JUST HEAVEN.

Richard says NOW, A LOT OF THE
SHOWS THAT WERE ON
AT THAT PERIOD
WERE REMARKABLE.
I LOOK BACK 20-ODD
YEARS IN MY MEMORY
AND I CAN SEE THEM
AND REMEMBER THEM.
AS A PERFORMER, DID THEY
HAVE THAT SAME IMPACT
ON YOU AS WELL?

Rod says THEY ABSOLUTELY DID,
ALTHOUGH I GUESS
THEY DIDN'T
FOR EVERYBODY.
I REMEMBER SITTING IN
THE DRESSING ROOM
BEFORE THE OPENINGS OF...
NOW, I GUESS THIS WAS 1975,
SO THE THREE OPENINGS
WOULD HAVE BEEN
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
AND
SAINT JOAN
AND
TWELFTH NIGHT.
AND AS HAPPENS IN DRESSING
ROOMS - THIS WAS A GROUP
DRESSING ROOM, AND
PEOPLE WERE DISCUSSING
THE VARIOUS MERITS
OF EACH SHOW.
AND WHICH ONES THEY
THOUGHT WOULD DO WELL AND
WOULD BE EVENTUALLY REGARDED
AS IMPORTANT SHOWS.
AND TO ME, ALTHOUGH I LIKED
THE
SAINT JOAN
AND
THE
TWELFTH NIGHT
VERY MUCH,
THEY WERE NOT PRODUCTIONS
OUTSTANDING IN THE
HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL.
BUT MEASURE FOR MEASURE
WAS A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME,
ONCE-IN-A-CENTURY
PRODUCTION.
AND I COULD SEE THAT.
I WAS ASTONISHED THAT THE
OTHER PEOPLE COULDN'T.

Richard says THAT'S AMAZING.
DO YOU THINK IT MIGHT
HAVE SOMETHING TO DO
WITH OLDER VIEWS
VERSUS YOUNGER VIEWS?
BECAUSE WHAT ROBIN DID
WAS VERY REVOLUTIONARY,
IN THAT HE STRIPPED
AWAY A LOT OF...
TO BE HONEST, AT THE
TIME HE TOOK OVER,
A LOT OF PEOPLE
WERE DOING THINGS,
SOMETIMES REPEATING THINGS
THEY HAD DONE BEFORE,
GETTING INTO
CHARACTER RUTS.
AND HE MADE EVERYONE
APPROACH EVERYTHING NEW,
WITH TRUTH.
DO YOU THINK MAYBE PEOPLE
FROM THE OLDER GENERATION
MIGHT HAVE RESENTED
THAT A BIT?

A caption appears on screen. It reads “Rod Beattie. Actor.”

Rod says I GUESS THERE MAY HAVE
BEEN AN ELEMENT OF THAT,
BUT I DON'T THINK, IN FACT,
IT WAS THE OLDER PEOPLE
THAT WERE NOT
ASTONISHED BY HIM.
I THINK THE OLDER
PEOPLE - OR, AT LEAST,
THE PEOPLE THAT HAD
BEEN IN THE BUSINESS
FOR A LONG TIME, PEOPLE
LIKE BILL HUTT AND MY WIFE,
MARTHA HENRY - FOR
THEM, THE ADVENT
OF ROBIN WAS
LIKE A REBIRTH.
I REMEMBER THINKING
THIS EVEN MYSELF,
WHEN I WAS JUST REALLY
A KID AT THE TIME,
BUT I REMEMBER
THINKING...
ONE OF MY FIRST REACTIONS
TO HIS REHEARSALS WAS,
YES, THAT'S WHAT THE BACK OF
MY MIND HAS BEEN SAYING,
SINCE I WAS BORN.

Richard says WHAT IN PARTICULAR ABOUT
THE PROCESS DID THAT FOR YOU?
WHEN YOU SAY THAT
YOU'D WORK WITH HIM
AND YOU'D SUDDENLY GO, YEAH,
THAT'S WHAT I WANT TO BE DOING.

Rod says IT WAS MOSTLY
THAT HE DEMANDED...
THERE WAS EXACTLY ONE
STANDARD FOR ROBIN
IN ACTING, AND THAT
WAS ABSOLUTE TRUTH.
AND ANYTHING LESS OF
ANY KIND WAS INSTANTLY
RECOGNIZABLE TO HIM, AND
INSTANTLY DISMISSIBLE.
AND BY TRUTH, HE MEANT THAT
IF WE WERE DOING A DIALOGUE
IN A PLAY RIGHT NOW, THAT HE
SHOULDN'T BE ABLE TO TELL
A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THAT
DIALOGUE WE WERE DOING
AND WHAT WE'RE DOING NOW.

Richard says RIGHT.

Rod says AND THAT, OF COURSE, COMES
FROM THE BOTTOM OF YOUR FEET
ALL THE WAY UP.
IT'S IN THE MUSCLES,
IT'S IN THE BREATHING.
THINGS LIKE, HE TAUGHT US
THAT THE BREATH YOU TAKE
IS THE BREATH THAT'S
REQUIRED FOR THE THOUGHT
YOU'RE TO UTTER.
AND THAT SOMETIMES,
AS I JUST DID THEN,
YOU DON'T TAKE QUITE ENOUGH
BREATH TO DO THE SEQUEL.
BUT THAT'S REAL.
WHEREAS WE'D BEEN SORT
OF INSTRUCTED - I MEAN,
THE PREVAILING WISDOM BEFORE
WAS, YOU TAKE A DEEP BREATH,
AND THEN YOU VOCALIZE,
AND YOU SAY...
IN FACT, AT VARIOUS
TIMES BEFORE THAT,
STRATFORD HAD BECOME KIND
OF, ANYTHING YOU CAN SAY,
I CAN SAY LOUDER.

Richard says I WILL SAY NO LINE
BEFORE ITS TIME, YES.

Rod says I HAD HEARD THE PHRASE,
THE STRATFORD WAWA.
[laughing]
BEFORE I GOT HERE,
AND CERTAINLY,
THERE WAS A LOT OF THAT.

Richard says THERE WAS A LOT OF THAT.
I ALSO HEARD A STORY ABOUT
ROBIN IN THE EARLY YEARS -
MAYBE YOU CAN VERIFY THIS.
HE WAS WORRIED ABOUT PEOPLE
GETTING MECHANICAL ABOUT
PERFORMANCES, AND SO HE
SWITCHED OFF A LOT OF THE
MICROPHONES, THE BACKSTAGE
SPEAKERS AND THINGS,
SO YOU HAD TO BE RIGHT
THERE BY THE STAGE,
LISTENING AT ALL TIMES,
AND GETTING READY TO
MAKE YOUR ENTRANCE AND
LEAP ON - TRUE?

Rod says TRUE.
ONE OF THE THINGS I'VE
OFTEN THOUGHT SINCE
IN OTHER SITUATIONS
IS THAT THAT ISN'T
VERY COMMON IN THEATRE.
ROBIN'S IDEA WAS THAT
EVERYBODY IN THE BUILDING -
NEVER MIND EVERYBODY
IN THE COMPANY;
EVERYBODY IN THE BUILDING...
IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE
SUSTAINING OF THIS THING.
AT ONE POINT DURING
REHEARSALS OF,
I THINK THIS WAS ACTUALLY
MACBETH
YEARS AGO WITH
DOUGLAS RAIN AND
MAGGIE SMITH,
HE BROUGHT THE WHOLE COMPANY
ON THE STAGE BEFORE
THE REHEARSING OF
ONE OF THE ACTS,
AND HE MADE US ALL
COLLECTIVELY RESPONSIBLE
FOR IMAGINING AN
ENORMOUS BALLOON,
WHICH WE CONSTRUCTED
MENTALLY ON THE STAGE.
AND THEN HE HAD US ALL
COLLECTIVELY LIFT IT
ABOVE THE STAGE.
AND THEN, HIS INSTRUCTION
WAS THAT WE WERE TO DO
THIS ACT, AND WE WERE TO
KEEP THAT BALLOON UP THERE.
AND EVERYBODY ON THE
STAGE WAS RESPONSIBLE
FOR KEEPING
THAT UP THERE.
AND WHEN THE ACT WAS OVER
AND WE ALL GATHERED
FOR NOTES, HE ASKED
US WHEN IT FELL.
AND EVERYBODY IN THAT
ROOM KNEW EXACTLY
WHEN IT HAD FALLEN.

Richard says REALLY?
SO, IT WASN'T ALL MUMBO
JUMBO; IT REALLY DID WORK.
HE UNDERSTOOD A
GROUP PSYCHOLOGY
AND HOW TO USE IT
AND MANIPULATE IT.

Rod says THAT'S RIGHT, YES.
AND AT TIMES SINCE THEN,
WHEN I'VE BEEN STANDING
BACKSTAGE AND SOMEBODY WITH
THE BEST INTENTIONS
IN THE WORLD - AN
A.S.M. OR SOMEBODY -
HAS BEEN DOING
SOMETHING,
OR TALKING ABOUT
SOMETHING ON THE HEADSET,
MESSING WITH SOMETHING,
OR, IN THE WORST CASES,
DOING SOMETHING ELSE
OTHER THAN THE SHOW.
AND I FIND MYSELF RETREATING
FURTHER AND FURTHER
AND FURTHER, TRYING TO
KEEP THE CONCENTRATION,
TRYING TO KEEP THAT.
WHERE I AM, WHERE
I'M FOCUSED,
TRYING TO KEEP THAT.
I'VE THOUGHT, IF
ROBIN WERE HERE...

Richard says THAT WOULDN'T BE HAPPENING.

Rod says NO.

Richard says YOUR PERSONAL MEMORIES
OF ALL THE YEARS,
THE FIRST WAVE OF PHILLIPS'
YEARS AS AN ACTOR,
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORY
YOU KEEP AND RETURN TO?

Rod says OH, GOLLY, THERE'S REALLY
LOTS AND LOTS OF THEM.
I GUESS ONE OF
THE FIRST ONES
IS ONE THAT I
ALWAYS REMEMBER.
HE WAS DOING A
REHEARSAL IN WHICH
HE WAS BLOCKING
A SCENE.
AND AFTERWARDS, WHEN WE
WERE GATHERED AGAIN
FOR THE NOTES, AN ACTRESS
ASKED HIM IF SHE COULD DO
THE SCENE THIS TIME JUST
ONCE, GOING THROUGH IT
THE WAY SHE FELT LIKE
MOVING, RATHER THAN THE WAY
HE WAS INSTRUCTING
HER TO MOVE.
AND HE SAYS, CERTAINLY.
BUT, HE SAID, I DON'T
INSTRUCT YOU TO MOVE.
AND SHE SAID, WELL...
WELL, YOU DO,
YOU CLEARLY DO.
AND HE SAID,
WELL, GO AHEAD.
AND THEY STARTED THE
SCENE, AND AT ONE POINT
SHE BEGAN TO
GO DOWN LEFT.
AND HE SAID, NO,
GO DOWN RIGHT.
AND SHE SAID,
YOU SEE?
AND HE TURNED TO THE REST
OF THE COMPANY AND SAID,
NOW, WHO DECIDED THAT
SHE SHOULD GO DOWN RIGHT
INSTEAD OF DOWN LEFT?
WAS IT ME OR HER?
AND EVERYBODY HAD BEEN
ABLE TO SEE THAT SHE,
SOMEWHERE IN THE
BACK OF HER HEAD,
HAD KNOWN THAT DOWN RIGHT
WAS WHERE THAT PERSON
WAS GOING THEN.
BUT IN ORDER TO
MAKE A PICTURE,
IN ORDER TO MAKE HER PLACE
ON THE STAGE STRONGER,
IN ORDER TO MAKE HER
POSITION VIS-A-VIS
THE OTHER ACTORS,
SHE THOUGHT BETTER.
SHE THEN, WITH THE
FRONT OF HER HEAD,
DECIDED TO GO LEFT.
AND ROBIN'S POINT HERE WAS
THAT HE SAID HE'S TRAINED
HIMSELF AND TOOK A LONG TIME
AND A LOT OF HARD TRAINING;
HE TRAINED HIMSELF TO LISTEN
NOT TO THAT, BUT TO THAT.
AND TO PAY
ATTENTION TO THAT.
AND EVERYBODY, AGAIN, IN
THE ROOM COULD SEE THAT
THAT'S WHAT HE'D DONE,
AT LEAST IN THAT CASE.

Richard says FROM YOUR OWN PERSONAL
POINT OF VIEW,
YOU GOT TO PLAY SOME
VERY INTERESTING PARTS.
WE WERE TALKING JUST BEFORE
THE CAMERA STARTED ROLLING
ABOUT PLAYING BOLINGBROKE
IN THE FAMOUS PRODUCTION
OF
RICHARD II, WHERE
THERE WERE THREE RICHARDS
AND ALL THESE COMPLICATIONS
AND THINGS.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST
STRETCH THAT ROBIN
GAVE YOU IN THE
YEARS HERE?
BECAUSE HE LOVED
STRETCHING PEOPLE.

Rod says YES, HE DID; HE ALWAYS
THOUGHT THAT YOU SHOULD PLAY
SOMETHING EACH YEAR WHICH
WOULD TAKE YOU SOMEWHERE ELSE.
IN A WAY, I GUESS, THE
BIGGEST STRETCH FOR ME
WAS ONE OF THE SMALLEST
PARTS I EVER PLAYED,
WHICH WAS LANE IN
EARNEST.

Richard says BECAUSE THE ARCHETYPAL
BRITISH MANSERVANT...

Rod says YEAH.

Richard says ISN'T EXACTLY WHAT
LEAPS TO MIND FOR YOU.

Rod says NO, AND I HADN'T
DONE ANYTHING...
I HAD DONE COMIC ROLES,
BUT HAD NOT DONE ANYTHING
THAT KIND OF LAID BACK
COMIC, AND ANYTHING
THAT HAD TO BE THAT
SUBTLE, I GUESS.
THAT'S PROBABLY WHAT HE
WAS TRYING TO TELL ME.
[chuckling]
WELL, JEEZ, IT
DIDN'T WORK.

Richard says HE MESSED UP.

Rod says YES, HE ALWAYS...
HE'S ALWAYS TRYING TO GET
MOST PEOPLE TO DO LESS.
IT'S ALMOST ALWAYS A GOOD
THING TO DO LESS THAN YOU
THINK YOU SHOULD DO, BUT
ALSO ONE OF THINGS, AGAIN,
IN HIS PRODUCTIONS, DOING
LESS OFTEN WORKS BETTER THAN
IN OTHER PRODUCTIONS BECAUSE
HE SAW HOW I WAS ABLE
TO MAKE THAT READ.

Richard says I WAS GOING TO SAY, YOU
RAISED A GOOD POINT:
HE'S ALWAYS LOOKING FOR TRUTH
AND HONESTY AND SIMPLICITY,
BUT THE PRODUCTIONS
THEMSELVES ARE OFTEN VERY
EFFECTIVELY THEATRICAL.
DO YOU THINK HE CAN ALLOW
PEOPLE TO BE SO HONEST AND
FOCUSED BECAUSE HE KNOWS
HE'S GOING TO BE GIVING THEM
A VERY INTERESTING-LOOKING
SUPPORT AROUND THEM AS WELL,
SO IT WON'T EVER GET DULL?

Rod says I GUESS SO, BUT I DON'T
UNDERSTAND THAT WELL.
ANOTHER STORY ABOUT ROBIN
IS - THIS IS MARTHA'S - SHE
DECIDED AT ONE POINT THAT
SHE WAS GOING TO FIND OUT
HOW HE DID THIS.
AND SO, SHE ARRANGED WITH
ROBIN AND WITH THE STAGE
MANAGER - NORA
POLLEY - TO SIT IN
ON ALL THE REHEARSALS.
I THINK THIS IS
OF JUST ONE SCENE,
BUT SHE WAS GOING TO FIND
OUT HOW HE DID THIS.
AND SO, SHE DID THIS; EVERY
TIME THE SCENE WAS CALLED
SHE MANAGED TO
GET TOLD ABOUT IT.
AND SHE SAT IN THERE FOR
EVERY SINGLE REHEARSAL,
UNTIL SHE CAME TO A
REHEARSAL AND SHE HAD BEEN
SITTING THERE FOR NOW WEEKS...
BECAUSE, OF COURSE, YOU
ONLY REHEARSE THE THING ONCE
EVERY FOUR DAYS OR SOMETHING.
AND FOR WEEKS, SHE HAD BEEN
SEEING THE SCENE OUT
OF BALANCE, AND SOME THINGS
IN IT SHE COULD SEE
WERE OBVIOUSLY
CORRECTABLE.
AND IT'S HARD TO UNDERSTAND
WHEN YOU WATCH THIS,
WHY DOESN'T ROBIN
SAY, JUST DO THAT;
OR, JUST DON'T DO THAT?
AND THEN ONE DAY, SHE
CAME TO REHEARSAL
AND ALL THOSE THINGS
WERE CORRECTED.
AND THE BALANCE
WAS MAGNIFICENT,
AND SUDDENLY THE SCENE
LEAPT OFF THE STAGE.
AND SO, SHE THOUGHT, I
WENT TO ALL THIS TROUBLE
AND I MISSED THE ONE REHEARSAL
THAT I SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT,
OR THE ONE REHEARSAL
WHERE ALL HAS HAPPENED.
SO, SHE WENT TO
NORA AND SHE SAID,
HOW ON EARTH
DID I MISS THIS,
AND WHEN WAS THIS DONE?
AND NORA SAID, OF COURSE,
YOU DIDN'T MISS ANYTHING.
AND SO, MARTHA HAD
SEEN THE WHOLE PROCESS,
BUT SHE STILL
MISSED THE MYSTERY.
AND SOMEHOW, ROBIN KNOWS;
SOMEHOW HE KNOWS THAT
AT SOME POINT, THAT'S
GOING TO FALL THERE,
AND THIS IS
GOING TO GO HERE.
HE DOESN'T HAVE TO
TELL ANYBODY TO DO IT;
IT'LL JUST HAPPEN,
BECAUSE OF WHAT HE BUILT.

Richard says AFTER THE
PHILLIPS' YEARS...

Rod says AND THEY SAY
THIS ISN'T MAGIC.

Richard says YES, IT IS; IT'S LIKE,
THERE'S NOTHING
UP MY SLEEVE, RIGHT?
BUT IT WORKS.
AFTER THE PHILLIPS'
YEARS AT STRATFORD,
WHICH WAS A HEADY
EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE,
AND ENDED WITH KIND OF A
WELTER OF HIGH-DRAMA ONSTAGE
AS WELL AS OFF, AND MANY
SUBSEQUENT COMPLICATIONS HERE.
WHERE DID YOU FIND
YOUR OWN SELF TUGGING
TO WANT TO GO AND DO?

Rod says I DON'T KNOW.
I DID WHAT CANADIAN
ACTORS DO THEN,
I WENT AND WORKED
WHERE THE WORK WAS,
AND I SPENT A COUPLE
OF YEARS DOING THAT.
AND I DID SOME STUFF
WHICH I THOUGHT WAS VERY
INTERESTING, AND, OF COURSE,
I FOUND OUT THAT THERE IS
LIFE AFTER STRATFORD, WHICH
IS AN IMPORTANT THING TO LEARN.
AND I SUPPOSE I
NEVER, SINCE THEN,
HAVE THOUGHT OF MY EMOTIONAL
LIFE AND STABILITY AS BEING
DEPENDENT ON STRATFORD, OR
ANY ONE PLACE SINCE THEN.
I GUESS I FOUND OUT YOU DON'T
DO THAT IN THIS BUSINESS.

Richard says TWO WORDS TO OPEN UP A
WHOLE CAN OF WORMS HERE:
WALT WINGFIELD.
I HAVE READ AND HEARD YOU
TALK ABOUT HOW YOU NEVER
KNEW THIS WAS GOING TO
BE THE LIFE-CONSUMING
OBSESSION IT TURNED
OUT TO BE FOR YOU.
CAN YOU RECALL THE VERY
FIRST TIME YOU WERE AWARE
THAT THE PROJECT WAS
GOING TO EXIST AND YOU
MIGHT BE A PART OF IT?

Rod says OH, YES, BECAUSE IT
WAS FROM THE BEGINNING.
IN FACT, MY BROTHER, DOUG,
WHO WAS THE DIRECTOR,
WAS LOOKING FOR IT, OR HE
WAS LOOKING FOR A PROPERTY
TO DEVELOP FOR ME TO DO
AS A ONE-PERSON SHOW.
COMPANIES BEFORE, WE
HAD WRITTEN A SCRIPT,
WHICH WE HAD WORKSHOPPED
A COUPLE OF TIMES,
ABOUT THE MURDER
OF D'ARCY MCGEE.
WHICH DIDN'T SEE VERY MUCH
LIGHT OF VERY MANY DAYS,
OR, AT LEAST, HASN'T YET.
I SAY HASN'T YET BECAUSE
I THINK THERE STILL
IS AN INTERESTING
THING THERE.
BUT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
CAME OUT OF THAT WAS THAT
I QUITE LIKED DOING THIS
ONE-PERSON THING,
WHERE I PLAYED A
NUMBER OF CHARACTERS.
IT HAD ALWAYS BEEN MY
FAVOURITE THING ABOUT
WORKING HERE AT STRATFORD,
THAT YOU GOT TO PLAY MANY
DIFFERENT CHARACTERS -
NOT AT THE SAME TIME,
BUT IN THE SAME SEASON.
AND WITH THIS SHOW
AND WITH WINGFIELD,
IT BECAME A MATTER OF HAVING
THE CHARACTERS IN THE
REPERTOIRE AND DOING THEM
FROM MOMENT TO MOMENT,
RATHER THAN FROM
DAY TO DAY.
AND SO, DOUG WAS THERE
LOOKING FOR A SHOW
THAT WE COULD
DEVELOP THAT WAY.
AND WE THOUGHT ABOUT THESE
NEWSPAPER COLUMNS THAT
OUR FRIEND DAN NEEDLES HAD
WRITTEN SOME YEARS BEFORE
CALLED
LETTER FROM
WINGFIELD FARM,
ABOUT AN
EX-STOCKBROKER-TURNED-FARMER.
AND DOUG GOT TOGETHER
WITH HIM AND SAID,
DO YOU THINK YOU CAN
DO THIS AS A PLAY?
AND DAN SAID, IF YOU GUYS
WILL HELP, I'LL TRY.
DAN HAD KIND OF A
CONSTITUTIONAL AVERSION
TO THE THEATRE BECAUSE OF
HAVING GROWN UP IN A THEATRE
FAMILY; HIS FATHER, OF
COURSE, IS WILLIAM NEEDLES,
WHO'S BEEN HERE
SINCE THE BEGINNING.
AND I THINK, IN FACT, DAN
BEGAN BLAMING THEATRE
FOR HIS DAD'S ABSENCE
EARLY IN LIFE.
AND THEN, BY THE TIME IT
GOT TO UNIVERSITY DAYS
AND WE DID A COUPLE OF SHOWS,
WHICH DAN FOUND LESS THAN
FULFILLING, HE TURNED HIS
BACK ON THE WHOLE THING.
BUT, OF COURSE,
IT'S IN HIS BLOOD,
AND HE EVENTUALLY CAME
AROUND TO BEING ENTHUSIASTIC
ABOUT THE PROJECT.
BUT INDEED, WE JUST
STARTED IT FOR FUN.

Richard says IT STARTED ON A VERY, VERY
SMALL SCALE, I REMEMBER,
IN TORONTO.

Rod says YEAH, THEY DON'T GET
ANY SMALLER, IN FACT.
FIRST TIME I DID IT WAS IN
THE ORANGE HALL IN ROSEMONT,
WHICH IS SORT OF AS CLOSE
TO THE PHYSICAL SOURCE
OF THE WINGFIELD
LEGEND.
INDEED, AS DAN LATER SAID,
SOME OF THE CHARACTERS
WERE IN THE FRONT ROW.

[chuckling]

Richard says AND THEN AFTER THE FIRST
ONE WENT ON AND WAS
ENORMOUSLY SUCCESSFUL, HOW
SOON DID YOU THINK SEQUEL?

Rod says I THOUGHT SEQUEL AFTER I
HAD GONE TO THE WEST COAST
AND DISCOVERED
THAT MILES POTTER,
WHO WAS THE DIRECTOR OF THE
BELFRY THEATRE IN VICTORIA,
CAME AND SAW US AT THE EXTRA
SPACE IN THE TARRAGON.
AND HE TOOK A FLYER
ON US; HE SAID,
THIS IS A SHOW THAT I THINK
WILL GO AT THE BELFRY,
AND I WANT TO DO IT THERE.
AND HE ASKED US
OUT, AND I THOUGHT,
AN EPISTOLARY PLAY ABOUT
A FARMER FROM SOUTHERN
ONTARIO, ON THE WEST
COAST, IN THE RETIREMENT
COMMUNITY OF VICTORIA?
FORGET IT.
HOWEVER, IT WENT
LIKE GANGBUSTERS.
AND I CAME BACK FROM THAT
AND I REMEMBER I SAT DOWN
WITH DOUG AND DAN AND
I SAID, OBVIOUSLY,
WHAT DAN HAS DONE HERE IS
SOMETHING WHICH IS MUCH
BROADER IN ITS APPEAL THAN
WE HAD ENTERTAINED BEFORE.
A) WE NEED MORE STUFF, AND
B) I THINK WE SHOULD
RUN WITH THIS.

Richard says WHAT WAS THAT VEIN, BECAUSE
I'VE ENJOYED ALL OF THE SHOWS.
I'VE SEEN SOME OF
THEM SEVERAL TIMES.
AND YET, I'M NOT ROOTED
IN THE FARM COMMUNITY;
I WOULD THINK IF YOU'D ASKED
ME IF I'D LIKE A PLAY ABOUT
RURAL ONTARIO FARMING,
I WOULD HAVE SAID NO.
WHAT CONNECTS?
WHY DO WE LIKE
THESE SO MUCH?

Rod says I GUESS, AFTER ALL,
IT'S A PRETTY CLASSICAL
IDEA, THIS RETREAT
FROM THE CITY TO...
WHEN YOU SAID, THEY THOUGHT
IT MUST BE BECOMING QUITE
TOPICAL, BECAUSE THEY HEAR
IN DISCUSSIONS AROUND
THE FINANCIAL
DISTRICT IN TORONTO,
THEY HEAR PEOPLE ON THE
STREET CORNERS AND IN BARS
SAYING THEY WISH THEY COULD
JUST SHOVE ALL THIS AND
GO AND LIVE IN THE COUNTRY
AND RAISE TURNIPS.
AND IT SEEMS TO ME,
PROBABLY, IF YOU SAT AROUND
BARS AT THE BASE OF THE
ACROPOLIS IN ANCIENT GREECE,
YOU WOULD'VE HEARD
THE SAME THING.
IT'S NOT A NEW THEME, THIS
PASTORAL QUEST THING.
AND, OF COURSE, WALT
HIMSELF IS A CITY PERSON,
SO HE SITS ON A FENCE
BETWEEN THE RURAL
AND THE URBAN LIFE.
AND SO, THERE'S KIND OF A
BUILT-IN APPEAL FOR BOTH SIDES.
BUT I GUESS WHAT IT IS, IS
DAN HAS SUCH A WEALTH
OF RESPECT AND AFFECTION FOR -
ESPECIALLY FOR THE FARMING
COMMUNITY, BUT REALLY FOR
BOTH SIDES OF THIS THING.
THAT PEOPLE EVERYWHERE
CAN RELATE TO IT.
I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME
WE DID IT IN THE STATES,
WE WERE TALKING TO THE
DIRECTOR AND THE GENERAL
MANAGER OF THE THEATRE THAT
WE WERE GOING TO GO TO,
AND DOUG SAID, DO YOU THINK
THAT YOUR URBAN AUDIENCE
IN CINCINNATI WILL
COTTON ONTO THIS?
AND THE DIRECTOR SAID,
WELL, I'M FROM NEW YORK,
MY FRIEND HERE
IS FROM BOSTON.
WE'VE NEVER BEEN ON
A FARM; WE LIKE IT.

Richard says AND THAT'S IT.
AGAIN, IT'S NOW BEEN
THROUGH FOUR, RIGHT?
THERE'VE BEEN FOUR PLAYS.
AND WHAT'S BEEN FASCINATING
IS AS THEY'VE GONE ON,
THERE'S BEEN SOME FAIR
DRAMA IN IT, AND DARKNESS.
AND IT'S NOT ALL BEEN
A SERIES OF JOKES,
AND THERE'S BEEN AN
OPPORTUNITY FOR A BIT OF
HEARTBREAK AND SOME WARMTH
AND SOME KNOWLEDGE AND STUFF.
WHEN DID YOU START TO FIND
YOU COULD STRETCH
THE ENVELOPE EVEN
A LITTLE FURTHER?
WAS IT AROUND
THREE, OR...?

Rod says IT WAS WHEN WE DID
THE SECOND PLAY
AND I REMEMBER SITTING
WITH DAN AND SAYING
THAT TOWARDS WHEN WE WERE
DOING THE SCENARIO OR
AT LEAST WE WERE TELLING
THE STORY THE FIRST TIME.
AND I REMEMBER SAYING TO HIM
THAT WE WILL HAVE GONE ALONG
NOW FOR A PLAY AND THREE
QUARTERS AND THE AUDIENCE
WILL FEEL AS IF THEY KNOW
WHAT WE'RE DEALING WITH
AND WHAT THE
BOUNDARIES ARE.
AND WE NEED TO GO - PFFF!
AND DAN SAID...
I SAID, YEP,
THAT'S RIGHT.
AND HE SAID, HOW
DO WE DO THAT?
I SAID, THAT'S
YOUR JOB.
I SAID, BUT I THINK
WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN
IS JIMMY HAS TO DIE.
AND DAN SAID, NO,
YOU CAN'T, NO.
THIS IS COMEDY, WE
DON'T DO THAT HERE.
AND I SAID, IT'S COMEDY, BUT
THE FIRST THING YOU SAID
TO ME WHEN WE WERE TALKING
ABOUT THE SECOND PLAY
WAS THAT YOU FELT THAT
THE FIRST PLAY HAD BEEN
A SLIGHTLY ROSEYFIED EDITION
OF THE SEVENTH LINE,
WHEN YOU WERE A KID.
AND THAT THE REAL-LIFE
VERSION OF THAT - ESPECIALLY
NOW - WAS THAT A LOT OF
THOSE LIVES WERE HARD
AND PREMATURELY SHORT.
AND I THINK IF WE'RE GOING
TO DO THESE PEOPLE JUSTICE,
WE NEED TO TELL THAT STORY.
AND DAN SAID, NO, AND HE
RESISTED AND RESISTED
AND RESISTED, UNTIL VERY
LATE ON IN REHEARSALS
FOR THAT PLAY -
AND THEN...
AND IT STILL TAKES
MY BREATH AWAY.
THEN, ONE AFTERNOON,
HE SAT DOWN
AND IN 10 MINUTES,
HE WROTE THAT.

Richard says IT'S AN AMAZING SEQUENCE.

Rod says IT'S AN AMAZING THING.
THIS IS NOW 12 YEARS
LATER, AND EVERY TIME
IT TAKES ME BY
SURPRISE LIKE THAT.
AND IT GETS ME EVERY TIME,
AND IT'S THE ONE THING
IN ALL FOUR PLAYS OF
WHICH NOT ONE SYLLABLE
HAS BEEN CHANGED
FROM THAT.

Richard says YOU HAVE JUST ANSWERED
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN
THE NEXT QUESTION,
WHICH IS, HOW CAN YOU
KEEP DOING THIS
MATERIAL ALL THE TIME?
IT'S OBVIOUS YOU
STILL CONNECT TO IT,
AND YOU RELATE TO IT
ON A VERY VITAL LEVEL.
SO, YOU COULD KEEP
DOING IT INDEFINITELY.
BUT THIS SUMMER WE HAVE YOU
AT THE STRATFORD FESTIVAL.
BECAUSE WE'RE TAPING
THIS INSIDE A THEATRE
WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO
MENTION THE PLAY BY NAME,
BUT I GUESS WE'LL HAVE TO
BEG THE GODS FOR INDULGENCE.

Rod says I THINK WE'RE IN FOR A
PENNY OR IN FOR A POUND HERE.

Richard says OKAY, LET'S SAY IT TOGETHER.

They both say
MACBETH.

[laughing]

Rod rolls his eyes sarcastically.

Richard says NOW, YOU MENTIONED THAT
ONE OF THE FIRST PLAYS
YOU EVER DID WAS
MACBETH,
AND YOUR THEN GIRLFRIEND
WAS PLAYING LADY MACBETH.
NOW, YOUR WIFE,
MARTHA HENRY,
IS PLAYING
LADY MACBETH.
I HAVE TO ASK YOU,
WHAT DOES THAT DO,
IF YOU'RE INVOLVED IN
THIS CAULDRON OF MURDER
AND INTRIGUE AND RAGE AND
MANIPULATING EACH OTHER
ALL DAY, AND THEN YOU
GO HOME AT NIGHT?

Rod says WE DON'T QUITE KNOW YET,
BECAUSE THIS IS VERY EARLY ON.
BUT YESTERDAY, WE HAD
OUR FIRST REHEARSAL
OF A SCENE TOGETHER, AND
IT WAS KIND OF FUN.
AND WE WENT HOME AND WE SORT
OF LOOKED AT EACH OTHER.
AND MARTHA SAID, DO
YOU THINK IT'S JUST
GOING TO BE LIKE THIS?
AND I SAID, I DON'T
KNOW, I GUESS
THERE'S BOUND TO
BE ROCKY TIMES.
BUT WE HAD A REALLY,
REALLY GOOD TIME.
AND THE OTHER THING
ABOUT THIS PLAY -
I CAN'T REMEMBER
WHO WROTE THIS...
I READ THIS RECENTLY.
THEY ARE REALLY
PRACTICALLY SHAKESPEARE'S
ONLY HAPPY COUPLE.
[laughing]
I MEAN, IT ENDS BADLY
FOR THEM, BUT, IN FACT,
THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE A
TREMENDOUSLY CLOSE,
HARMONIOUS RELATIONSHIP.

Richard says THEY'RE WELL MATCHED, AREN'T THEY?

Rod says YEAH, AND THIS TIME,
DOING THE SCRIPT,
I HAVE SEEN THAT
THEY ECHO EACH OTHER,
THEY PICK UP EACH
OTHER'S RHYTHMS.
HE SAYS THINGS TO HER
THAT SHE HAS SAID TO HIM.
THE INCANTATIONS THAT
THEY TRY TO INVOKE,
THE SUPERNATURAL
ASSISTANCE FROM HER THING
ABOUT “UNSEX ME HERE,”
AND ALL THAT STUFF.
AND HIS, “COME,
SEELING NIGHT,
SCARF UP THE TENDER
EYE OF PITIFUL DAY.”
THEY'RE EERILY SIMILAR.
THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE A
TREMENDOUS WEALTH
OF COMMONALITY
AND THAT STUFF.

Richard says ROD, WHAT I'M HEARING, THE
WAY YOU TALK ABOUT
MACBETH,
IS MUCH THE SAME WAY YOU
TALK ABOUT WALT WINGFIELD -
IS THAT YOU'RE LOOKING
FOR SOME TRUTH AND YOU'RE
LOOKING FOR REALITY AND
YOU'RE LOOKING FOR A WAY
TO COMMUNICATE THE ESSENCE
OF CHARACTER TO US.
IS THAT HOW YOU
APPROACH EVERYTHING?

Rod says YEAH, I GUESS IT GOES
BACK TO BEING ABOUT ROBIN,
THAT THE TEACHING STICKS.

Richard says AND I'M GLAD IT DOES.
ROD, WHATEVER YOU'RE
DOING, I WILL SHOW UP
AND WATCH IT FOR A
LONG TIME TO COME.
THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

Rod says THANK YOU, RICHARD.

Richard faces the screen and says
FOR
DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Special thanks to the Stratford Festival.”

Dialogue. A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1999, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Rod Beattie