Two stars cross

An actor's career is unpredictable. Take a look at the different paths taken by Liisa Repo-Martell and Steven Sutcliffe. With credits ranging from Broadway musicals to experimental projects, they've arrived at the same place. Both kick off Soulpepper's th


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BEGINNINGS

First theatre memory?

Liisa Repo-Martell: Seeing a very vivid witch in a puppet show when I was five. She was so intense I had to leave. I knew she was a puppet, but there was a palpable sense of evil in the theatre.

Steven Sutcliffe: I remember a beautiful tree in a production of As You Like It at Stratford.

What made you want to act?

Repo-Martell: I’ve always been super-curious about people. My idea of a good time is to spend hours analyzing someone — what their parents are like and why they do what they do.

Sutcliffe: I like making people think, feel and laugh.

When did you think, “Wow, I might be good at this”?

Repo-Martell: I made a triumphant debut as the Wicked Queen in a contemporary version of Snow White in grade 4. For my family, it’s become the benchmark against which all my performances are judged.

Sutcliffe: I’m still waiting. One day you’re onstage thinking you nailed a part, and the next day the theatre gods bite you in the ass.

the work

Describe your current role — in one sentence.

Repo-Martell: NOW described my character as “an uptight chemistry student with hidden passions.” I like that. Or you could say I’m a paranoid romantic with a persecution complex.

Sutcliffe: I’m a sensitive, loving, large-souled young man who has a passionate but unrequited love for the protagonist.

This is your second shot at the character in less than a year. What’s different?

Repo-Martell: The things that felt solid last year feel deeper now. The things I glossed over seem more glaring. There’s stuff to work on.

Sutcliffe: We’re doing some tech stuff, which we didn’t really get a chance to do the first time.

Besides yourself, who’s your

favourite performer?

Repo-Martell: I get theatrical crushes all the time. Last week I began rehearsing Molière’s The School For Wives and saw Joe Ziegler onstage for the first time. It’s dreamy to watch him. He’s so relaxed. He says the play’s rhymed couplets like he’s improvising.

Sutcliffe: The list is too long. The actors I love make bold choices — people like Brent Carver and Nicola Cavendish.

What’s your dream role?

Repo-Martell: All the Chekhov ladies.

Sutcliffe: I’d like to create something no one else has done, as I did in Ragtime.

Last play you saw and loved?

Repo-Martell: Boxhead: metaphysics and high-fuckin’-powered entertainment at the same time. And Recent Experiences, a real intimate theatre experience. Kristen Thomson presented three 10-minute turns from her show I, Claudia at the Tarragon Spring Arts Fair. I wept all the way through them.

Sutcliffe: The Real Thing, in New York. It was like I was eavesdropping instead of watching a play.

the career

You’re an agent. How would you describe yourself?

Repo-Martell: “Can she play Magic Johnson? Sure. Why not? Don’t you have any imagination?”

Sutcliffe: “Steven’s a character actor who doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed.”

Best career move?

Repo-Martell: The whole notion of career planning in the theatre is fictional.

Sutcliffe: I’m still waiting.

TV/film vs. theatre?

Repo-Martell: If I were independently wealthy I wouldn’t do film. The process doesn’t excite me as much. You can play someone’s wife and not meet your husband until the day you film.

Sutcliffe: There’s just as much bad crappy theatre as bad crappy TV.

Is the biz hard on your

personal life?

Repo-Martell: No. My boyfriend and I are both in the business. We can stay up until 3 in the morning talking about Shakespeare.

Sutcliffe: Theatre can give you a personal life. I just got back from New York, where I spent a week with Marin Mazzie, who played my sister in Ragtime. Then I went up to Stratford and spent a week there. What’s great is you get to befriend people of all ages.

second thoughts

If you weren’t doing this, what would you like to be doing?

Repo-Martell: A sculptor or a teacher.

Sutcliffe: Social work.

Worst stage moment?

Repo-Martell: I’ve had other bad moments, but the Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Hamlet (opposite Keanu Reeves) eclipses them all.

Sutcliffe: When you realize the audience hates the play and you still have two hours to go.

Toronto — too big? too small? too incestuous?

Repo-Martell: I hate all these fucking moose.

Sutcliffe: Just right.

What pisses you off about the theatre?

Repo-Martell: Savage underfunding.

Sutcliffe: Opening nights. They’re so false — the audience is false, and actors can’t just do our job.

glenns@nowtoronto.comBorn: Toronto — Trained: local acting classes — Profile: Intense young actor is equally good at drama and comedy — Career highlights: After two Oscar-winning films (The English Patient and Unforgiven) and the ill-fated Keanu Reeves Hamlet (see below), she’s devoted herself mostly to indie theatre, including Dora-nominated turns in Easy Lenny Lazmon and Chekhov’s Shorts, in which she played (among other characters) a heartbreaking lost dog — What: Platonov, Chekhov’s early play, previews July 4 and 5, opens July 6 at the du Maurier Theatre (231 Queen’s Quay West, 973-4000) — Buzz: Expectations are high, especially among those who missed Soulpepper’s sold-out trial run of the show last year even in an A-list cast Repo-Martell should stand out.

Born: Lindsay, Ontario — Came to Toronto: 1985 — Trained: Ryerson Theatre School — Profile: Versatile singing actor has mastered the art of playing high-strung characters — Career highlights: After a stint at Shaw, he originated the role of Younger Brother in the musical Ragtime, and has put superb spins on various foppish baddies at Stratford — What: The Mill On The Floss, an adaptation of the George Eliot novel, previews June 29 to July 3, opens July 4 at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen’s Quay West, 973-4000) — Buzz: Tongues wagged after director Robin Phillips’s premature unveiling of the show at World Stage this spring, but even in that chaos Sutcliffe stood out his performance should be even more nuanced now.

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