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Young actress reprises the role she first played at 11 years old

There's starting young in show business. Then there's Lili Beaudoin, whose current work with Bard on the Beach echoes an engagement when she was 11.

That's when the daughter of B.C. theatrical actors Colin Heath and Manon Beaudoin played Mustardseed in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Bard organization in the Okanagan, a one-time experiment. Now 22, Ms. Beaudoin is back with the Bard playing the same role in Dream and Miranda in The Tempest.

Ms. Beaudoin and her two sisters all had childhoods with a touch of theatre, but she was the only one to make a career of it. In an interview, she talked about a childhood on stage, the effort to make sure modern audiences understand Shakespeare and the one Shakespeare role on her acting bucket list.

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Was that first Bard role a lot of stress for an 11-year-old?

I thought of it as a lot of fun, really. Who wouldn't want to be playing around on stage with your family wearing beautiful costumes in a beautiful venue outside. At the time, I was still a child, so there's a sense of abandonment or play that you have with everything at that age. I hadn't developed the reaction I would have now to be stressed out about it.

Does your work 11 years ago inform the work you're doing now?

I still like to bring the play aspect to what I'm doing now. Play means having fun on stage. As a kid, it's easy to do. When you get older, it's much harder. That's something I like to remember from when I was younger.

What sense did this experience give you about Shakespeare?

It's beautiful poetry. I remember it being really funny. When I was 11 years old, I had memorized the entire final death speech that Flute does at the end. My sister and I would act it out. Recite the entire thing word for word, maybe not entirely knowing what it meant. But it had still made an impression.

What kind of impact did the Bard experience have on your career as an actress?

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It was pretty wild. It was the year of the big Okanagan fires. It torched the whole countryside. The [theatre] houses became really small because of it. We would have to stop the show and make announcements about communities being evacuated. Audiences would get up and leave because their houses were burning as we were doing the show. The company were half people from Kelowna and half from Vancouver. We all stayed in the same residence. We became very tight because of it. It did leave an impression on me that this was the kind of community I wanted to live in and work in. We did the show. We went back home. We continued on with normal life. It wasn't until I was out of high school that I decided to go to school for acting and make it my life.

Is it ever a challenge to express the meaning of a line in Shakespeare to a modern audience?

Yes. Going through scripts, I'll be looking up these words and think to myself, 'There's no way the audience is going to know what this means.' But there's a lot of people who are a lot smarter than I am that know the language and dialect so well it almost becomes second nature for them. That being said, I try to convey the meaning with more than just my words. I use my tone, my attitude, my body. I think that helps.

What Shakespearean role is on your acting bucket list – the role you have to play before you retire.

One day, if I build up the chops for it, I'd love to play Lady Macbeth. It's such a meaty role and I really love the play. Generally, I usually get cast as the ingenue, the young princess role. It would be fun to play something else.

Wouldn't you want to play Macbeth?

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Well, if a director was open enough to change the role, but I would be happy playing Lady Macbeth. In our production of The Tempest right now, the two lead clowns of the show are played by women as women. They're absolutely fantastic. Seeing it, I can't imagine any other way. Some people have objections to gender swapping of roles. I am for experimenting and changing genders of the characters.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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