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Vanmag: What kind of play is Equivocation?
Bob Frazer: A lot of people look at it as a thriller—not in the sense of a murder mystery, but as in “How are they going to get out of this?” It’s a glimpse into the fictional life of Shakespeare and his theatre company, in modern-day English.
VM: Why “Shagspeare”?
BF: His name was spelt a few different ways, and “Shagspeare” was his favourite misspelling. But I like the idea that Shakespeare was a bit of a scoundrel.
VM: Is he a scoundrel in the play?
BF: No, he’s human. I think everyone can be a tortured soul. I just look at him as a human being, trying to find himself through this mess.
VM: What is Bard on the Beach’s role in this city?
BF: It’s vital. I’ve been here over half my life. Bard has grown to be the cornerstone of theatre in Vancouver. Everything that the East has in Stratford and Shaw festivals, we have in Bard. It’s a piece and a part of Vancouver.
VM: You’ve acted in eight seasons of Bard. Memorable moments?
BF: There are so many. I got to say “To be or not to be” and “Now is the winter of our discontent.” I’ve played a host of leading characters: Hamlet, Richard, Hotspur, Petruchio, Macbeth. Shakespeare wrote beautiful words. The emotional content that he put into his work is a thrill. Once, when I was playing Hamlet, Dean Paul Gibson, the director, asked me to yell this one line out the back of the tent. He said, “I want other people across the water of English Bay to hear you.” So I did it every night. I could still see the people across the water, though they were small, a long way off. One night, a guy actually yelled back. The audience started laughing hysterically. I remember saying to them, “Wasn’t that awesome?” and all of a sudden in that moment, we had an unbelievable connection, an experience of live theatre.
VM: You’re one of Vancouver’s most prolific stage actors. How do you land so many roles?
BF: I will say this: I’m lucky. For one thing, I’m a six-foot-tall white man with medium build and medium looks—there’s about 100 million parts for guys like me. But I also work hard. I don’t take a day off. My job is my life. I do have a personal life, but I work really hard at what I do and I never give up.
VM: Haven’t you been tempted to throw in the towel?
BF: Daily. But I think that’s part of the struggle for any artist. For some reason we persist. We are strong-willed.