Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead comes alive for QAC

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead comes alive for QAC

Main pic: (L/R John Niederreiter, Peter Calkins, Cara Gerard, and Mary Thaler in the Quebec Art Company’s interpretation of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’. Photo credit: Ruby Pratka.

By Ruby Pratka

The Quebec Art Company’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead will make you laugh. It will make you think about the meaning of life. It will, in all probability, make your head spin. That, says first-time director Michael Bourguignon, is exactly what the playwright intended.

The play, first staged in 1966, tells the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the point of view of two minor characters: the prince’s old school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Life in Québec attended the final dress rehearsal of the play, which officially opens Thursday at Holland School.

Comically flaky Rosencrantz (Mary Thaler) and broodingly philosophical Guildenstern (Cara Gerard) are summoned to the Danish court by the suitably imperious King Claudius (Ladd Johnson) and his new wife, the regal and slightly dotty Queen Gertrude (Anne L. Black) in hopes that they can help their old friend Prince Hamlet (Martin Trager) who has become dangerously mentally unstable since the death of his father, Claudius’s brother.

Even before Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive at the castle, they become so overwhelmed by the turn of events that they feel they are utterly out of control, and can’t even summon up the wherewithal to move from scene to scene by themselves, resigning themselves to passing the time by playing absurd games and exchanging pointless reflections and witticisms.

En route, they meet the Player (Peter Calkins), an unctuous and flashy fellow without much evident empathy, and his troupe of tragedians (Jonathan Black, Stephen Desjardins, Chrissa Gerard, Denia Maxwell and John Niederreiter in a winning performance as Alfred, the Player’s favourite whipping boy).

What follows is a play within a play within a play, of sorts. Shakespeare geeks might be reminded of another famous play, As You Like It, and its well-known opening line, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”

Bourguignon was bitten by the theatre bug after auditioning for QAC’s 2011 musical Guys and Dolls. “I have no background in acting, but I auditioned for Guys and Dolls because I thought, ‘Oh, wow, Sinatra!’” he recalls. “They gave me a great role, and my very first time on stage I had to sing, dance and act. Then there was no turning back.”

“They gave me a chance to direct, and I immediately thought of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I love this play.”

The first-time director says the learning curve wasn’t that intimidating. “I know what I want and I know what my vision is,” he says. “But we’ve had moments where we’ve had to step back and say, ‘Wait a minute’ because you just get lost in Tom Stoppard’s stage directions. You think, ‘How did that guy end up stage left?’ Like the play, it’s not all cut and dried.”

Cara Gerard and Mary Thaler in the Quebec Art Company's interpretation of Tom Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'. Photo credit: Ruby Pratka.

Cara Gerard and Mary Thaler in the Quebec Art Company’s interpretation of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’. Photo credit: Ruby Pratka.

Thaler and Gerard, the two lead actors, have the same rapid-fire repartee offstage as they do onstage.

“We had never met,” Gerard says.

“We started talking at the audition about how much we loved the play, and then we auditioned together,” says Thaler.

“I was Romaine in Witness for the Prosecution [QAC’s Fall 2014 play] and I never imagined I could have a role that good. I didn’t think it was toppable,” Gerard says. “But this is the best.”

“It’s a very funny play, people who come will laugh their asses off,” Thaler says. “I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to sell tickets here, but you might want to see it twice, a lot of people see it twice, because it goes by so fast you might miss something.”

“This opportunity, to see a play in Quebec City in English, only comes up once a year, and this is such a special [play],” says Gerard. “I don’t want to spoil anything, but the spoiler is in the title.”

People who come to see this play “can expect to think, and laugh, often at the same time,” Bourguignon says. “To paraphrase the Player, we will give them food for thought and laughter, both consecutively, and concurrently.”

The Quebec Art Company’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is on Thursday April 16 through Sunday April 19 in the auditorium of Holland School, 940 Avenue Ernest-Gagnon. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and the Sunday show is at 2 p.m.. The Thursday show is sold out, but tickets can be obtained for the other three shows at the door or in advance by calling 418-254-6552.

General admission is $12, $10 for seniors and youth 18 and under. Group discounts are available.

Further details about the Quebec Art Company can be found at


This article is kindly supported by Livres Trois Canons, the Quebec City English bookstore at Place Naviles.

Bring your ticket stub from any of the QAC’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern performances and get 10% off your books in store.

Tel: (418) 204-4325

info @ livrestroiscanons .com
English bookstore in Quebec City

Librairie anglaise à Québec 


Categories: Arts & Culture

About Author

Ruby Pratka

Ruby Pratka grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, studied in Ottawa and took the roundabout way to Quebec City via Russia, Slovenia, France, Switzerland, Belgium and East Africa. In addition to writing for and Life in Québec Magazine, she also contributes to other media outlets in English and French. She enjoys keeping a close eye on international affairs, listening to good music and singing in large groups.

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