New outdoor theatre debuts in downtown Sudbury

Downtown Sudbury officially has a new outdoor theatre stage.

The Refettorio, an initiative of YES/STC theatre in Sudbury, made its grand debut this week with the production of a familiar Shakespeare classic, Romeo and Juliet. 

Located at 131 Durham Street, the venue includes a simple, wooden stage with a seating capacity of 175 people. 

Julia Nish-Lapidus, the co-director of Romeo and Juliet, said the city becomes a part of the set in any productions staged at the Refettorio.  

“We’ve done a lot of shows in our lives, but I don’t think we’ve ever opened a venue,” she said. 

There’s barely any barrier between us. We’re going to talk to you, we can see you.– Deivan Steele, actor who plays Capulet

“It’s urban, it’s open to the world and everything that can come with it, birds fly above in the middle of the show. And that’s exciting.”

Nish-Lapidus said the open design sets the Refettorio apart from other theatres as it brings audiences up close with performers.

“It’s a thrust stage that juts out into the audience and confronts the audience,” co-director James Wallis added.  

He said Shakespearean plays were written for spaces like this open theatre.

“You could see the actors and it was a communication between the actor, the text and the audience. So to me, this speaks almost like this is this place is built for Shakespeare,” he said.

Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis are co-directors of the play Romeo and Juliet, which inaugurated the Refettorio on August 22. (Clement Goh/CBC)

Nish-Lapidus added that although there is an element of Shakespearean theatre built into the stage design, the exterior surroundings will make the performance relevant to modern day.   

“I think there is a sense of it being an old play that is still modern to us, and all those modern elements of cell phones and drones, people outside, cars or buses,” she said. 

The actors are expected to not only perform on the wooden platform, but also step into the crowd and weave themselves among the audience. 

Both Nish-Lapidus and Wallis anticipate each performance will bring in new challenges for the actors. 

“There’s going to be people’s feet sticking out into the aisles, where we’ve asked the actors to walk and we’ve warned them about that,” Wallis said. 

“Depending on how tall this person is, if an actor is walking along, which they will be, they could get kicked!” said Nish-Lapidus. 

For actor Deivan Steele, who plays Capulet in the production, the risk that comes with these exterior factors is what excites him the most about performing in this outdoor space.  

“We don’t have the chance to call cut and make edits, we have to deal with the messy live reality and the audience as it exists in front of us,” he said.  

“If a bird decides to poop on me, we have to live with that and keep going and that’s actually what makes it exciting and risky.”

Steele pointed out that typical theatres performances rely on sets and props to enhance performances.   

a man with a floral shirt and brown hair sitting on a wooden platform. Another man with  short black hair and a beard sitting beside him on a chair.
Actors Maxwel Cul (Left), who plays the Prince and Peter, and Deivan Steele (right), who plays Capulet in the production of Romeo and Juliet at Downtown Sudbury’s Refettorio’ (Clement Goh/CBC)

“There’s barely any barrier between us. We’re going to talk to you, we can see you. So we just have the words to rely on and that’s the gift of Shakespeare”

Romeo and Juliet, the venue’s first play, opened Aug. 22 and runs until Sept. 3. 

It will be followed by the production of “Forever and For Always: The Music of Shania Twain” slated to open on Sept. 7, 2023. 

Morning North7:18A brand new open air theatre in downtown Sudbury makes its debut

The Refettorio is downtown Sudbury’s newest stage. It’s an outdoor stage. The CBC’s Clement Goh spoke about the venue with the directors of Romeo and Juliet which made its debut there last night.

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