One actor takes on Shakespeare and Henry VIII

Monster Theatre’s Tara Travis moves from Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Six Wives of Henry VIII

Impersonating others is the bread and butter of actors, and whether they’re method actors or someone who has mastered a specific role, it’s no simple task.

Tara Travis, actor, writer, producer and artistic producer of Monster Theatre based in Vancouver, will play 12 different characters Sunday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, as she performs in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Til Death – The Six Wives of Henry VIII, both presented by Monster Theatre.

“I love it. I like to keep it interesting,” said Travis. “One of my favourite challenges is taking on multiple characters. It really keeps things fresh and fun.”

It takes an incredible amount of focus to remember the dialogue for each character, but Travis has been working on it for so long that she knows it like the back of her hand, she said.

In the fast-paced Til Death – The Six Wives of Henry VIII, written and directed by Monster Theatre’s artistic director Ryan Gladstone, Travis is a one-woman show, utilizing different facial structures and dialects to help differentiate between her six different characters, and acting as King Henry VIII in his surprise appearance.

Travis introduces each new character — the betrayed wife, the scheming wife, the peacemaker, the ugly German, the tarty one, and the one in love with someone else – all in the span of seven minutes.

Set in purgatory, the women all converse and fight to be acknowledged as King Henry’s true bride.

“It’s rapid-fire shapeshifting,” she said of her solo performance. “No time to rest.”

In the afternoon, Travis is performing in Monster Theatre’s rendition of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The family production is a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s whimsical classic, but is aimed at getting kids interested in theatre.

“We really like to refer to it as a gateway to Shakespeare,” said Travis.

“I think there’s such a stigma for Shakespeare. I think (it’s important) to have an early introduction, then it’s not as much of a shock to the system.”

In Monster Theatre’s depiction, Shakespeare is an emcee who enlists the audience to help him recreate the performance.

“It’s an exploration of that play coming to Shakespeare in a dream,” said Travis. “We turned that play within a play on its head. It’s a lot of fun.”

But it isn’t solely for the kids’ enjoyment.

“We like to layer the humour. There’s something for everyone.

“It’s a reminder of the wonder and magic of theatre. It’s meant to be live and electric.”

Monster Theatre presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre April 30 at 2 p.m., and Til Death – The Six Wives of Henry VIII April 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream are $12 for all seats, and tickets for Til Death – The Six Wives of Henry VIII are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors, and $20 for students. To purchase tickets, call the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469 or visit www.ticketseller.ca.