Returning To The Scene Of Where It All Began

By John Swartz

Shakespeare is coming back to the Leacock Museum – well, at least a production of one of his plays is, and also returning to play a part on Stevie’s lawn is a former Park Street Collegiate Institute student who is a bit of a legend among the older arts community crowd – Hume Baugh.

“We used to do theater at the Leacock Home. We used to do short stories of Leacock’s adapted into theater. George Smith used to do it ( produce) every summer, so I’ve acted at the Leacock Home. This will be great to set up there and perform. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Baugh.

The play he’s in is the Driftwood Theatre Group production of King Henry Five. Sharp reader’s will have noticed it’s not Henry V. The title change is because it’s more than just the one play going on here.

“This play, the way it exists, is an amalgamation of three of Shakespeare’s plays,” said Baugh.

Oh no, said the purists. Driftwood is the same company that created The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, which ran at the Opera House as part of the Sunshine Festival’s 2013 season and was done again just a few weeks ago by the Mariposa Arts Theatre. They have a bit of experience messing with Shakespeare.

Hume Baugh

“Jeremy Smith (Driftwood’s founder and artistic director) has done an adaptation and taken the two parts of King Henry IV and Henry V and mashed them together and kind of crafted a storyline that focuses primarily on (Prince) Hal, who is the future King Henry V, and his father (King Henry IV) and their relationship and also Hal’s relationship with Falstaff, who is like this kind of alternate father figure, a mentor, but more of an ambivalent nature because he’s a bit of a rogue. He’s (Smith) really focused on that story,’ said Baugh.

“It’s a story about growing up and deciding what kind of person you are going to be.”

Baugh plays Flastaff in the front half of the play and Capt. Fluellen in the second half.

Looking over Baughs’ resume, there’s a TV and film work, but mostly plays, and a lot of Shakespeare. Is he partial to Billy’s stuff, or is it just where the work has been?

“A little bit of both. I really enjoy doing it and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to bump into it a number of times. The more you do, the more you end up doing it. I find working on Shakespeare really challenging. He’s a writer who you never kind of get it all out. You’re always working to encompass the writing because it’s bigger than us. I find it satisfying and really pleasing to speak this text; it’s so beautiful and full, so I’ve pursued it whenever possible,” said Baugh. “I’ve been in a lot of outdoor Shakespeare in the summertime (too).”

The reason his name in print, or by mention, gets noticed is because for several years he was a regular performer in plays here, at school, with the Park Street Players and with Mariposa Arts Theatre. He’s crossed paths with a lot of people and remained friends with many. His MAT experience includes plays the company has done more than once.

“I did Arsenic and Old Lace, Fiddler on the Roof, Kiss Me Kate, I can’t remember now, I think that’s about it. Mostly musicals and it was lots of fun,” Baugh said.

His career started in high school though, and one person propelled him on his life’s work, Ted Duff.

“He’s a very important person in my life. He more than anybody is probably responsible for the fact I ended up becoming an actor because my whole high school life was consumed with doing theater and that was because of him. He just opened up this whole thing I wouldn’t have known about necessarily. I learned a great deal with him and did all kinds of stuff with him.”

“I switched schools in fact to study with him because I went to Twin Lakes first of all and they didn’t have a theater program. After a couple years I decided I really wanted to have that in-class also, so I switched over to Park Street to study with him. I’m very indebted to him.”

He was in two notable school musicals The Music Man and Oliver; three actually and that one stands out as a highlight of his early career.

We did a production of Godspell when I was in Grade 11 or 12, I’m not sure, but then we remounted it a number of times, so that show had a particular life that went on for a long time and it was just a lot of fun to do. There was a lot of improvisation and everybody got to contribute in a profound way. The show is a wonderful piece of theater, the music is wonderful. It’s told in a really interesting and, for the time, kind of an avant garde way and it was just a lot of fun,” said Baugh.

Laurie Graham and Hume Baugh in the 1977 production of Leacock’s ‘Behind the Beyond’ at the Leacock Museum – clipping form The Packet & Times.

That play, under the Park Street Players banner, went on to what passes for summer stock around here, playing at Fern Resort and Clevelands House. And then there were the summer theater productions based on Leacock’s works which happened on the same piece of lawn Henry Five will play out.

Until a couple years ago Baugh was teaching theatre arts performance at Fanshawe College.

“They unfortunately ended that program a couple years ago and now they just teach acting for camera, but I teach there a bit and I love teaching and I really enjoy it. It’s a very satisfying thing to do,” said Baugh. He’s not involved with the acting for camera program, even though he’s got the experience. Which raises the question, which does he prefer, working live or Memorex? The answer gives insight to the different approaches to acting.

“Theater is, when I finished school, what I was thinking about. Kids coming out of school now are mostly thinking about film and TV, understandably, but my background is in theater, so I ended up doing more of that than anything else.”

“The thing about theater is the actor still retains a certain amount of – control isn’t the right word – you tell the story in a narrative fashion, in order, on the spot, whereas in film and TV it’s all chopped up and you do it out of order and out of context and it’s tougher because of that.”

So, when the camera is present one might be shooting page 11 of a script before lunch and page 53 after lunch and the actor and director have to keep straight what the changes of character behaviour are to get the right content in the can, while rehearsal and performance of a play runs straight from page 1 to page last.

“In theater you still retain a sense of the narrative as its happening and there’s also the element of the liveness of it I find really satisfying. The people are right there and they are participating as you are in the event.”

“Actors have to be really good at telling the story in their head out of order and be in the right place at the right time. It’s a real skill you don’t have to apply in the theater necessarily,” said Baugh of TV and film production.

He hasn’t been in Orillia in a professional capacity for a while.

“We came through in 1986, very shortly after I started acting (professionally) with a tour from the Canadian Stage Company and we did play called A Class Act about a bunch of kids trying to put on Shakespeare. We did it at Park Street. That’s the last time that I’ve acted in Orillia. It’s been a long time,”

He maintains contact with friends in the usual 21st century way, online, and he visits occasionally.

“I’ve been back, but I don’t have family there anymore, so it makes it a little more challenging. I went back about ten years ago and rented a bike and just rode around and went to all my old haunts and just looked at things,” he said.

Of course, he’s looking forward to returning home.

“For me it’s a thrill to be there again hopefully (see) some people I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Baugh.

You can get tickets for 7:30 p.m., July 31 performance online. Bring a chair.

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