I’ve long been grateful to my high school English teacher for having us memorize some of Shakespeare’s monologues. At different times of my life, I’ve found myself reciting these poems aloud as a kind of balm, and they’ve only become more powerful over time. Different lines radiate meaning, depending on when and why I’ve called upon them.
A passion for characters, scenes, and monologues from Shakespeare’s works is at the heart of Shakespeare in the Ruelles. At different locations in St. Henri, 20 artists from all disciplines are performing short works from plays such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Henri V, Richard III, and Titus Andronicus. Matt Enos and Michelle Cajolet-Couture conceived the idea several years ago.
According to Enos and Cajolet-Couture, “We had seen Shakespeare in the Park at a great outdoor venue and were taken with the backdrop of architecture that was already in place. We wanted to do something outdoor, but more site specific and use the city landscape as an important part of the production.”
The non-traditional venue of the city has special appeal for Enos and Cajolet-Couture. “It’s important to bring theatre to non-traditional venues because the mask of the playing space is lifted” Further they note that the benefit of this is attracting a non-traditional audience. “What we like about this style of presentation is that it’s up close and personal, interactive, and the audience will be able to see the reactions of, well, the audience. It’s a different way to participate in theatre.”
Audiences are led along two alleyways north of St. Jaques street. At different points, the audience encounters a piece, ranging from 5 to 15 minutes “It’s far from traditional Shakespeare,” they say, noting that Monteverdi and Rhianna are used. Hardly the stuff of olde England. Also, given that this is Montreal, the pieces are bilingual. Both Enos and Cajolet-Couture consider this extremely important. “Montreal is a place where most people operate in two different languages simultaneously, so why should there be any divide in the theatre?”
Although vetted by Enos and Cajolet-Couture, the artists participating are largely a self-selecting group, and in many cases chose their own scenes or wrote their own. Enos and Cajolet-Couture met with the performers to give a bit of guidance and arranged the locations so the show “would flow well and have pieces that compliment each other.”
In its first day, the event has been a success and well received. Enos and Cajolet-Couture say that in the future, they will do this again “in different ruelles, in different quartiers, with different artists and audiences.”
Shakespeare in the Ruelles runs on September 8 and 9 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.in St. Henri. Departure point is Lionel Groulx metro. Tickets can be found HERE.