Richard Greenblatt



By: MIRIAM CROSS  
Published: October 21st 2009
in Culture » Stage

 

Richard Greenblatt almost missed out on his role in “The Mill,” one of the most original theatre projects to hit Toronto in recent years. When Daryl Cloran, director of “Now We Are Brody,” first contacted him to participate in the plays’ workshops last year, he wasn’t available. “When I said I couldn’t do it, he said, ‘Okay, what’s your daughter’s contact information?’” Greenblatt says with a laugh, noting his daughter is also an actor. It turned out Cloran’s wife, Holly Lewis (who plays Lyca in the productions) was having a baby, so Cloran needed someone to fill in. “I went and saw the readings – I think I saw two, maybe three of the readings,” Greenblatt continues, “and I went up to Daryl and said I love this project, if the parts are still available I’d love to do it.”

 

Anyone who has seen the first two parts of “The Mill” can understand why. Created by Theatrefront, “The Mill” spans four plays and over four hundred years, and chronicles the history of a haunted mill in a fictional Canadian town. Each play takes place in the mill and each explores a different aspect of its history, replete with romance, mystery, ghostly happenings, and some pretty cool special effects that are even more impressive in the tiny, intimate Tank House Theatre.

 

Greenblatt, who appears in all four plays, says he was drawn to “The Mill”’s uniqueness and the quality of the writing. And he should know, seeing he’s directed over 80 productions for the stage (the vast majority being original works), co-written some of the most successful new plays in recent Canadian theatre history (including “2 Pianos, 4 Hands”), and acted in dozens of productions as well. “The idea of doing four full-length shows, which are connected in this way, is totally unique. I’d never heard of anything quite like this. But it’s not just the gimmick that draws me in – it has to be good material. I’m always interested in telling interesting stories.”

 

Naturally then, Greenblatt’s next project sounds just as intriguing. Greenblatt will be co-directing “Yichud,” a co-production between the Harold Green Jewish Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille. The story, written by Julie Tepperman, concerns the ultra-Orthodox community in Toronto and takes place at the wedding of a young couple, who will be alone together for the first time in the yichud room. Greenblatt also plays the bride’s father, whose own marriage is on the rocks. In true Orthodox Jewish fashion, the audience will be separated by gender at the beginning of the play, before reunifying to watch the wedding ceremony.

 

Despite a secular upbringing in Montreal, where he was born in 1953, Greenblatt says that Jewish themes have followed him throughout his career. “Along with many other Jews, I’m constantly obsessed with what’s going on in the Middle East, so I’m always looking for projects that deal with that somehow,” he says. “My Jewish identity is somehow always there – even though I had a very secular upbringing, there was certainly an identification of being Jewish, so it’s constantly there for me as an issue I want to explore.” One of his many upcoming projects includes a version of “The Merchant of Venice” with an all-Jewish cast, that will be deconstructed from a wholly Jewish perspective.

 

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