Friday, June 3, 2016

Robin Phillips and Shakespearituality

Just heard from my student Kathy, a university psychology professor in her day job, that after I sent a contest outline to her class, she decided to send in a piece she'd read at So True. And she was a finalist. She did not win, but just entering is a feat, let alone placing in the top finishers. This is the second student whose So True piece was a finalist for a prize - Grace's was too. Brava to you both! Kathy wrote:
Of all the instructors I have had, you have been the one that has truly moved me forward, so most of the credit goes to you. Thanks for your continued mentorship. 

My great great pleasure.

Perfect days - not muggy and too hot, as it was last week, but fresh and sunny and breezy. Good to be alive, thank you June! And on top of that, I ran into a male friend yesterday. "Beth, you're still a hottie," he said. "What's going on?"

I have to tell you that of all the things I aspire to in my life, being a good teacher and editor is high on the list, and being a hottie is pretty far down, if not at rock bottom. And the "still" - well, I guess that means, "at your age." He made me laugh - I had barely brushed my hair, was in old yoga pants, my favourite "Stop Stephen Harper" t-shirt and Birkenstocks; if that's his idea of a hottie, so be it. But still. It means I'm alive, and it's June.

Yesterday, I went to see the documentary "Robin and Mark and Richard III," at the Bloor, made by my friend Martha Burns and her friend Susan Coyne. And all I could think, as I watched this brilliant man illuminate the play, was, "Why didn't someone do this before? Why wasn't Robin Phillips filmed as he directed at Stratford, in his prime? Why isn't there a full-scale documentary about him?" This is one hour of Robin near the end of his life, going over two speeches of Richard's with an actor famous for goofball comedy. And yet it's riveting, supremely moving, to hear the passion and detailed knowledge in Robin's words, and to watch Mark McKinney transform under his focussed guidance. It's a master class for actors. "Half an actor's job," he says, "is to recall all the emotions."
"Technique is the pathway to the emotion," he says, as he talks about "Shakespearituality," what a brilliant word. At the end, he gives his favourite line from Shakespeare: "It is required you do awake your faith." I Googled - it's from "Winter's Tale." "The line takes my breath away," says Robin. "When I hear it, my heart stops."

He was a very difficult man, no question. My ex-husband worked with him, on and off, for years, and there were nights when the phone rang at 3 a.m. with yet another hysterical Robin demand. He was nearly impossible sometimes. But he was worth it, because he cared so deeply about what he was doing, and most of the time, he did it so very well. He knew so very much. We see a parade of great Canadian actors - Brent Carver, Martha Henry - and the great Maggie Smith speak with enormous affection and respect about his work and his person. His time at Stratford encompassed the flowering of Canadian culture. Thank you, Robin, for all you gave. You are much missed.

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