Get to know #theaTO: Greg Campbell, candid lively complex

NOW Digital Residency: Soulpepper Spotlight

Inspired by ongoing #theaTO conversations on social media, we’re featuring some of NOW’s and Soulpepper Theatre Company’s favourite theatre artists working in Toronto. Experience more of the company’s 20th anniversary season here.

What’s your favourite Toronto restaurant?

I love Spring Rolls and Ginger for cheap and cheerful, and Coach House at Yonge and Wellesley for great retro brunching.

Where would we find you on a typical Sunday morning?

In bed. After late breakfast, you’d find me preparing to go see a Sunday matinee of a play, anywhere from a Fringe show to the Princess of Wales.

Best place in Toronto for a post-show celebration?

I rarely go out post-show, but I’ve been to Betty’s and the Imperial Pub on Dundas.

What was the last book you read?

Finished? Scarlett, Rhett, and a Cast of Thousands (The Filming of Gone With the Wind) by Roland Flamini.

Describe yourself in three words.

Candid, lively, complex.

What travel destination is on your bucket list and why? 

Ireland, especially Northern Ireland. I was born in Bangor, near Belfast, and want to revisit my hometown and surrounding district and show it to my partner. Also the Greek Islands. I promised myself in 1984 I’d return there some day.

What are you looking forward to most in 2017? 

The run of the Confederation Project at the Young Centre!

What was your first professional role in theatre?

I played Frenchie – or as this production named him, Emile – in You’ll Get Used to It: The War Show at the Gryphon Theatre, Barrie in 1984, directed by James B. Douglas. He gave me the role right at the audition, and I was ecstatic because I knew I’d get my Equity card. I’m still playing French Canadian characters, as well as many others, in the Confederation Project.

Last great #theaTO show you saw? 

The last GREAT show was Robert Lepage’s autobiographical one-man show, 887, which I saw twice. Lepage is my favourite theatre artist, unmissable. The last great show I saw was Prince Hamlet at the Theatre Centre, amazingly directed by Ravi Jain.

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever rehearsed a role?

I think THE strangest place was when I was rehearsing A Brood Of Doves by Death Waits, one of the Four Play series at Buddies back in the ’80s. The newish director, Orly Vasserzug, scheduled a rehearsal at the – er, what do you call the place in a public park where kids put on their ice skates before jumping onto the ice rink? The chalet? Anyway, it was this domed building with no door and sand on the ground, and people coming in to go the washroom. It was free, you see.

We spent the afternoon having papier mache applied to our faces to create masks that covered our eyes and noses, half-masks, which we never ended up using in the show. I wish we had. Some audience members booed us on opening night. I still have my half a mask. And my memories.

Do you have any backstage traditions?

I have rituals. And I always turn the performance over to my higher power just before the lights go down.

I used to say, “Oh, I’m not really superstitious,” but came to realize that I never do anything that might remotely bring bad luck: no going under ladders, no two shoes on the same table, I throw the salt over my left shoulder (to blind the devil) if I’ve spilt it, I never say good luck to an actor, I never whistle backstage even though seafaring stagehands have gone the way of the eight-track, I knock a table for luck three times (not two) and I try not to say the name of the Scottish play or any two consecutive words of the script in a theatre. If I do, I immediately do the remedy to counteract the bad luck, and get the stage manager to let me back in. And yet, I’m not superstitious.

What are you working on?

I am working on The Confederation Project with VideoCabaret. We are performing four one-act plays, two per night, at the Young Centre until August 19. Because it is officially the 150th anniversary since Canada became a nation, we are doing the plays Confederation, Riel, (the CPR) Scandal and Rebellion.

There are eight actors playing scores of characters, such as prime ministers, politicians, Métis leaders, bankers, bishops, bumboaters, lovers, warriors, soldiers, bartenders and a cow. If you haven’t seen a VideoCabaret show, the style will blow you away: pin-spot lighting that makes it feel like you’re watching a film in close-up, gorgeous costumes and outrageous wigs, oversized props, atmospheric music and a take on our history that exposes and wallows in the vices and cravings and conflicts of our founding peoples.

NOW Digital Residency: Soulpepper Spotlight

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