Archive by Author | Soulpepper Theatre Company

Artist Experience: Waleed Abdulhamid on the Music and Meaning of The Brothers Size

Waleed Abdulhamid is working with the three guys in The Brothers Size  to incorporate beautiful vocal and musical work into the show. We asked him what he is planning and where this inspiration comes from. He shared a bit about his vision, and how meaningful the experience of working on this show is to him.

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Can you share any thing about the music you are creating for The Brothers Size?

This piece is not going to only be percussion; it’s going to have flute, marimba, likembe (African thumb piano) and chanting vocals. Today I discovered I have three really strong singers which is great. Even, I checked some harmonies and I’m thinking to myself “whoohoo! I’m so excited”. I gave them different harmonies, I checked their range – I can be very comfortable and safe to experiment musically.

We’re going to use everything on that stage; there are going to be drums are going be created with skin on both sides, and they’re going to be huge, they’ll be a part of the set as well as an instrument. I will also have this huge marimba almost the size of the tables in the atrium, and likembe, an actual flute, and a vocal processor to create more vocals.

We’ve started to create it already, we’ve translated some of the words to Yoruba, and I did a little bit of a song with a choir and we’re going to be doing it in the play as well.

Where does the inspiration for the compositions come from?

I have over thirty years of music in theatre, and a lot of the music is inspired from the text. This text is inspired by a lot of African stories and spiritual figures and traditions. I was born in Sudan so that will also give me the experience of  both worlds – I will get inspired by the script, but the script is inspired by the traditions of Africa. It’s almost like melting both worlds together. You’ll hear a lot of influences from the Blues, and Yoruba, Nigeria, through different origins, through the Nile, all the way to Harlem, to different places in Alabama, Mississippi, and in church. A lot of that is combined between the past and present of today.

What excites you about working on The Brothers Size?

I’m a father, I have a teenage girl who is 16 and a dreadlocks boy who has always been asked why he looks different. Going back to look at the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s story, it’s almost the same. He’s picked on as a different – even when he was the smartest in the class, there are always questions. As a father, a black guy, and an African person, somebody who lived in both worlds because the story has the three spiritual figures, to be the directors of those three guys in the hardship of America, I feel like I belong to that in a lot of different ways. A story like this is speaks to what I think, today and in the past. When I say the past, I mean as a young African man who came to America. Even though I’m not young, I’m 50 years old, I still try to understand what this world is all about. That is why I am really excited to do something like this, especially in a city like Toronto.

For me the winning card when I do work like this at the Young Centre, different people from different corners of the world can come into the Michael Young theatre to watch the story about three young men having really hard time but bridging that story with the past and the three different spiritual figures is what really excites me and is really important to me.

One of the reasons we are refusing each other is because we don’t know each other. You smile at me that’s an invitation to get to know you. If you say hello, that is the first step. If you hug me that’s another big humanity step. I think that’s most important thing. Art always reflects the true colours of humanity. To share that is going to bridge the gap, and then people will know what is happening. When we create art we have the privilege of being on stage and reflecting what humanity is.

Artist Experience: Kyra Harper on stepping into Margrethe Bohr’s shoes

Kyra Harper, who is playing the role of Margrethe Bohr in the upcoming production of Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, delves into who Margrethe truly was, and what it takes for her to step into her shoes. Read what Kyra has to say about who this intelligent and observant woman was. 


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Who was Margrethe Bohr…

As I do my homework on Copenhagen, I attempt to demystify the physics and metaphors in Mr. Frayns often daunting script, but it’s clear to me this is one I’ll never fully comprehend and I have the uneasy realization that I have to be okay with that. This does not sit well in my actor brain, my instinct is to uncover the meaning behind every word on the page, how else can I possibly do justice to my role? But the paradox is that I can actually use the unknown to draw on in playing Margrethe Bohr, wife to Neils Bohr the famous Danish physicist. It becomes clear to me that Margrethe is a woman with great intelligence and a searching mind, and though she is not a physicist or mathematician she has an understanding of the principles and theories explained to her in ‘plain language’ that neither her husband or Werner Heisenberg possess. Margrethe’s gift is going beyond and beneath the language of the equations to the application of the theoretical in the tangled and bittersweet relationship between Neil’s and Werner, to hold a mirror to them in an effort to have them actually see their behaviours. And in so doing I think she acts as a conscience in the play, at least as a voice to be heard and considered. Her path is direct and rooted in the truth and consequences of humanistic behaviours.

Margrethe is a mother, wife, friend and shrewd observer of the world around her,and now as she  probes the depths of the unanswered question put to Heisenberg she fulfills her role as mother bear and protector of Neils, her great love and partner in all things.

Artist Experience: Judith Thompson on Her Newest Collaborative Piece Welcome To My Underworld

Soulpepper is excited to be partnering with RARE Theatre Company for a fifth time. Performances of this brand new play, Welcome To My Underworld begin May 8.  Judith Thompson directs and dramaturges this new play, working with texts from nine diverse playwrights. We asked two time Governor General award-winner Judith Thompson to share a bit about the upcoming production.

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Can you describe the process of working with 9 playwrights and bringing their individual pieces together into one play.

It has been one of the greatest joys of my 35 year career in the theatre to collaborate with nine brilliant and unique emerging playwrights. Most of the playwrights bring a wealth of experience to the project as theatre-makers, but for Welcome to my Underworld I have asked them to focus only on their writing.  Writing means ideas, it means reinventing what a play is, it means bringing shifting meanings of identity and language to the stage. Writing is a form of archeology,  a creative documentation of a particular time in our history. Each of these short plays is a calling card from its playwright, and I look forward to seeing all nine of them flower into full length masterpieces.

What excites you about the text(s) and the show?

As a director and dramaturge I am excited by the challenge of weaving nine very different plays into one plausible and exciting journey. Working together we have found striking commonalities between the plays, and these become the golden threads which tie the pieces together as if it were always meant to be.  I am thrilled to have Olivia Shortt compose and perform original music for the piece, and the great Monica Dottor responding to both the text and the music and creating another choreographic masterwork.

Can you share anything about your approach or your vision of the piece?

I plan to create a riveting, joyous, and authentic piece of theatre with the extraordinary texts of each of the writers and the centre. A country is defined in no small part by its artists and its writers. When the play is over, the text remains, and tells us who we are underneath the surface. Canada is not maple syrup and Mounties and intolerable cold. Canada is a complex, multi-faceted country with a population far too diverse to be pigeon-holed. Welcome to My Underworld is a warm introduction to nine of our best new writers.


ODSP Accessible Tickets are available for $25 for all performances. Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) ID required at ticket pick-up.

 Live ASL interpretation is provided on the Saturday, May 25 (8:00 PM) performance. Live Audio Description for the visually impaired is provided on the Saturday, May 18 (2:00 PM) performance.