SIA ‘Artist Feature’ April 2016

We’ve decided to start doing an “Artist Feature” segment on SIA’s blog once a month to highlight the actors working with SIA and the good works that they are doing for the community.

Neil Silcox is SIA’s Managing Producer. Neil has extensive training in theatre and education. He holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting and Directing with and Emphasis on Education from York University. Neil has worked as an actor and director for more than 10 years, working with companies like Humber River Shakespeare, Hart House Theatre, the U.C. Follies, and the Toronto Youth Theatre. Neil served as Artistic Director for the Toronto Youth Theatre from 2011-2013. Neil has worked with Sheridan College, Centennial College and York University and teaches and coaches private students.

We sat down with Neil to get an deeper insight on his passion for acting, his love for Shakespeare and what has brought him to pursue youth education.

What attracted you to wanting to work with youth in the community?

I love the energy and vitality that comes from working with young people in the theatre. All things are possible when you’re working with them, and there is an almost unlimited amount of creativity and problem solving. I’m also very keen to help foster in young people an understanding of the importance of live performance in order to foster the future creators and consumers of theatre.

What is your acting philosophy or method?

My acting philosophy is built around two quotations from the amazing Jim Henson. The first is “Simple is Good”. Although complexity and virtuosity are important there is something very powerful about simplicity in the theatre. A simple thing done clearly and cleanly has the ability to touch something deep within us. The second quotation is “Listening is the first step and the last step.” This applies just as much to performing a scene or a monologue—where one must always be listening to one’s scene partner—but it’s also very important in the creative process, where if you don’t really listen to the other people on the team the whole process can fall apart quickly.

What is your favourite Shakespearean Play?

My favourite Shakespearean play is Romeo & Juliet. I love Shakespeare’s nuanced understanding of the ups and downs that come with love, and the ways that romantic love can cause great pain alongside great joy.

What advice would you have for a youth or even an adult who wants to try and break into acting and the industry?

It’s important to train. Talent can carry you a certain amount, but having a real understanding of how the craft of acting and making theatre works is important. You don’t necessarily have to go to school for theatre, but there’s no other way to get as much experience in as short an amount of time. If you do go to school, find the one that’s right for you. Meet with students and teachers and talk about their priorities and what they believe.

Who are your favourite playwrights other than Shakespeare?

I love Tennessee Williams, Suzan-Lori Parks, Bertolt Brecht, and Samuel Beckett

What Shakespearean roles have you played?
I’ve played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macduff in Macbeth, Edgar in King Lear, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Oliver in As You Like It, Antipholus of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors, Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Buckingham in Richard III.

Which was your favourite?

I really loved playing Edgar in Lear, he has amazing growth and discoveries throughout the play (and he gets to be the king in the end!)

Do you have any dream roles you haven’t had the chance to play?

I always wanted to play Romeo, but I think my ship has sailed. At 35 I’m just too old for the role.


“Shakespeare’s People”

“Front Row asks actors, directors and writers to give their personal take on a favourite Shakespeare character, to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death.”

BBCRadio4 has a wonderful collection of audio snippets of famous actors describing their experiences of playing their favourite Shakespeare character. The actors describe how they come to engage, connect and portray with their character. It includes audio extracts of the scenes that they are describing.

400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still a delight for actors to continue playing, discovering and reinventing.  Who is your favourite character? Who would you love to play on stage? Comment and let us know!

If you would like deeper insight into these famous actors portrayals of Shakespeare’s characters take a listen after the jump!

BBCRadio 4 Front Row “Shakespeare’s People”





400 Years of Shakespeare – Why it is still relevant.

This week marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. All over the world theatres, arts organizations and literature lovers unite and reflect on the work of William Shakespeare and how it continues to be relevant force within academia, arts and contemporary culture.

Many Shakespeare organizations and non-profits like our own have been in participating in literary discussions, debates and promotional campaigns to mark the death of a man and the collection of work we still love dear. The Guardian posted a great article this week reflecting on how Shakespeare continues to resonate. They state in the article that “Every generation continues to be in his debt” (McCrum, 2016). This statement indeed rings true for us.

Here at Shakespeare In Action, we are continually reminded of how the work of Shakespeare transcends time, language and cultural differences. For over 25 years, we have seen numerous children, teens and adults discover and re-discover the text of Shakespeare. There is a kind of magic that is produced when the lines have been learned and spoken in perfect Iambic Pentameter. When those who otherwise may not have had the self-confidence shed their shyness and perform with enthusiasm and love for the story.

Our philosophy at Shakespeare in Action is to give access to Arts and Culture to those who might otherwise be denied. Too often systemic systems of class dictate who might be exposed and taught Shakespeare, acting and art. We believe that access to art and Shakespeare’s works are fundamental in promoting literacy and exciting the next generation of those who might work in the industry. Everywhere Arts and Culture organizations and non-profits like us, attempt to rethink Shakespeare and present in a new form that will speak to different audiences. Our new program Shakespeare Meets Hip Hop is a perfect example of a 400-year-old text finding common ground and relevance with contemporary culture to a new young audience.

Shakespeare is still relevant because the themes within them are universally human. They speak the nature of love, ambition, violence and pride. Shakespeare’s work is continually loved through whatever lens it appears through; be it a play, a book or even rapped over a beat from Jay Z’s “The Blueprint” album. Shakespeare will connect with whatever audience it reaches because as it speaks to the human condition, and what it means to be fundamentally flawed humans.

This week throughout the foggy haze of hashtags and promotional content used to promote every theatre or organization’s agenda. The root of it all will always be love for the text and profound respect for the man who wrote them.



McCrum, Robert. “Ten Ways in which Shakespeare Changed the World.” The Guardian. 17 Apr. 2016.

The Guardian – “Ten ways in which Shakespeare changed the world”

A Huge Success! Shakespeare Challenge 2016

Thanks to the tireless work of our team at Shakespeare in Action, our wonderful donors and the amazing work of our participates – The Shakespeare Challenge 2016 production of “A Midsummer Nights Dream” was a great success.  We would like to take the time out to acknowledge and thank those whose planning, time and effort made our 2-night sold out performance possible.

First we would like to thank the group of 14 volunteer, non-actors from the community who worked tirelessly with our Artistic Director Michael Kelly and Stage Manager/ Event Coordinator, Jeanine Thrasher. Our participants volunteered 3 hrs a week for over eight weeks for this project. Without their passion, enthusiasm and dedication this production would not have been possible. A particular thank you goes out to the talents of Costume Designer – Mary Margaret Annab, our Technical Director – Adam Bromley and Assistant Stage Manager – Lydia Connor.

Secondly, a thank you to the over 180 attendees in the community for their continued support and interest in the important work of Shakespeare in Action in the community and this production. Access to the Arts and community engagement is a fundamental cornerstone to Shakespeare in Actions mandate and with tremendous community support in events like these we continue to make important strides.

Once again, thank you so much to everyone involved – see you next year for Shakespeare Challenge 2017!

Lastly, we must also thank our incredible list of Donors who helped us create a successful Online, Silent/Live Auction to support our fundraising efforts.

Alexandre Antique Prints, Maps & Books
Archery District
Arthur Murrary Dance Studio
Battle Sports
Black Daffodil Inc
Canadian Opera Company
Call Collyn
City Dance Corps
Chateau Des Charmes
Crema Coffee
Dufflet Pastries
Duke of Somerset
Escape Zone
Factory Theatre
Fanny Chadwicks
Foxy Originals
Great Escape Book Store
Hart House Theatre
Hot Docs
Konzelmann Estates
Kula Yoga Studios
Mabel’s Fables Bookstore
Margaret Atwood
Mariposa Cruises
Marni Wassernman
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
Moksha Yoga
Mysteriously Yours
Ontario Science Center
Opera Atelier
Oxford Inn
Paupers Pub
Sanagan’s Meat Locker
Shaw Festival
Sleuth of Baker Street
Soul Pepper
Steam Whistle
Stratford Festival
Strewn Winery
Suzanne Manvell
Svengali Salon and Spa
Tarragon Theatre
Team RajPal
The Merchant
Theatre Passe Muraille
Toronto Symphony Orchestra 
Yankee Lady Cruises
York University
Ines Buchli









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Meet Kaitlin!

Kaitlin Carmanico is a recent McGill graduate, having completed a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and English with a specialization in Drama and Theatre. She is currently pursuing her studies in musical theatre at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. An Ottawa native, Kaitlin has been involved in both French and English theatre productions in her hometown, as well as several productions in Montreal, performing with The Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society, McGill Players Theatre, Savoy Society and Hillel Montreal. She  is passionate about arts and culture and is a firm  believer and  advocate  of  learning and  education  through  the  arts. Outside of the theatre world, Kaitlin’s favourite hobbies include skiing, creative writing, traveling (most recently throughout Southeast Asia) and reading in coffee shops. Kaitlin is thrilled to be joining the Shakespeare in Action team as a new Administrative Intern!


Featured Intern – Meet Vanessa


Hi everyone, my name is Vanessa Matos and I am delighted to be Shakespeare in Action’s new Administrative Intern!

I’ve always had passion for Arts and Culture in my youth, in particular music and dance. Through my education I have developed a strong sense of activism with regards to social justice issues – I am thrilled to be interning for an organization that combines a Non-Profit business ethos along with social development of Arts and Culture for the community.

I am set to graduate Ryerson University’s B.A Sociology program and with future academic goals in post-graduate certificate in Non-Profit Voluntary Management in Fall 16’. My particular interest lays with the intersection of social barriers to Arts and Cultural programming to those who are most marginalized in society. I am looking forward to working with Shakespeare In Action in breaking down those social barriers of access, nurturing literacy and engaging in outreach programming for the GTA’s youth and their families.

On the side when I’m not at my studies, I am an amateur vegetarian foodie, hot Moksha yogi, an avid reader, lover of travel (most recently to gorgeous Brazil) and worshiper of all things Sea, Sun and Salt!

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter





IMG_2226 Shakespeare in Action - Shakespeare Challenge - 2015 - Locked Door


Shakespeare in Action is looking for a volunteer Assistant Stage Manager to help bring to life A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the 5th annual Shakespeare Challenge fundraiser. The Shakespeare Challenge is a fundraising event that will raise funds for Shakespeare in Action’s educational programming, serving thousands of at-risk youth across Toronto.

The Challenge will feature up to 14 community members coming together to unleash their inner thespian under the direction of Shakespeare in Action’s renowned Artistic Director Michael Kelly. Our Challenge Champions will rehearse and perform an abridged version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In a race against time, these brave souls will rehearse one night a week for eight weeks to prepare and present this memorable production. That’s the Shakespeare Challenge!


The Assistant Stage Manager will be responsible for:

  • Helping supervise rehearsals
  • Provide cues and prompts to actors during rehearsals
  • Organizing and maintain rehearsal space
  • Liaising with Shakespeare in Action office staff regularly throughout the duration of the rehearsals
  • Assist with backstage business during performance
  • Assist with the building and collecting of props, costumes, and set


Must be available for the following dates and times:

  • 6PM -9:30PM on March 1, 15, 22, 29, 2016
  • 2PM- 8pm March 20
  • The dress rehearsal on March 30, 2016 and final performance on March 31, 2016 from 2:30PM- 11:30PM (Exact call time TBD)



If you are interested in applying for this position, please send a resume and cover letter to info@shakespeareinaction.org. Cover Letters can be addressed to Michael Kelly, Artistic Director.