Dear readers and tea lovers everywhere:
Welcome to a regular feature of our blog,
‘Afternoon tea with ….
people of note’
Today we’re taking afternoon tea with Carly Street, a superb actress who is well known on Broadway and in her hometown of Toronto. And she is the newest minted winner of a Dora Award for Best Actress for her role in Venus in Fur.
The Doras are the Canadian equivalent of Broadway’s Tony awards and are named after Dora Mavor Moore, a Glaswegian who immigrated to Canada in 1896 at the age of eight and devoted her extremely productive life to creating theatre and theatre companies in Canada.
Carly has appeared in over 50 film, television, theatre and radio productions. In addition to her Dora for best actress, she has garnered three best actress nominations for her stage roles in Into the Woods, the world premiere production of The Lord of the Rings, and Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare. Here, Her Ladyship (that would be me!) must divulge that she thought Carly’s dramatic presence coupled with her singing and comic turn in Bloodless were stellar.
Since 2010, Carly has lived in New York City. Her U.S. credits include the Tony-nominated Brief Encounter, the world premiere of Dead Accounts, the Tony-winning Clybourne Park, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tovarich.
Carly has chosen her favourite tea – Irish Breakfast. This is a blend of Assam and several black teas, grown at, or near sea level and known for body, briskness, maltiness and strong, bright color. Many Assam blends are known as “breakfast” teas because of their heartiness and higher caffeine content. Her Ladyship (that would be me again!) has brewed some Irish Breakfast tea in a fine china teapot and the requisite steeping time has passed. Two cups of tea are poured – Carly has a little milk and a little sugar with her tea and Her Ladyship takes her tea clear. We settle back for our conversation.
You are from Toronto, but live and work in New York. How often do you return to Canada?
I come home at least once a year to spend time with my family and as I am a founding artist of Theatre 20, I return for productions. As a matter of fact I am in Toronto right now for Theatre 20’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company.
The show was huge on Broadway …
Yes, the musical was nominated for 14 Tonys and won six. The story takes place in upper-middle-class Manhattan and unfolds through a series of vignettes. Each character and scene are linked to Robert, a single man unable to commit to a steady relationship; the married couples who are his best friends and his three on-again off-again girlfriends. The artistic vehicle linking all these stories is Robert’s 35th birthday. I play the role of Amy, one of Robert’s married friends.
The cast of Theatre 20’s production of the Sondheim musical, Company.
It is widely held Company ushered the age of today’s musicals. Her Ladyship will see Company on July 2 and will report back. For Toronto readers, Company is at the Berkeley Street Theatre until July 13.
What is Theatre 20?
It’s a Toronto-based company and it is the artists themselves who drive the company. We champion new Canadian musicals, especially those based on stories, as well as young Canadian artists and composers. I’m truly honoured to be part of the founding group of artists. This summer, I’ll be onstage with some of the country’s finest performers.
Who or what led you to co-found Theatre 20?
The seminal founding artists invited me to join and I like the philosophy of putting artists in control of the artistic process. The core group felt I had a unique voice in the community. I was, and am, excited about putting artistic control in the hands of the artists.
You mentioned you have a unique voice in the community …
I definitely have ideas about what plays are produced, and how they’re produced. In other words, I talk a lot at meetings!
How old is Theatre 20?
The company marked its debut in 2012 with Bloodless: The Trial Of Burke And Hare. The central figures, William Burke and William Hare, are 19th-century serial killers who sell their victims’ bodies to a medical school. “It’s a story filled with lust, murder and the desire for power,” says Carly who played Janet, an 1820s Edinburgh prostitute. “But while the material is dark, the show is delicious fun, sophisticated and filled with great tunes.”
Where did your artistic training start?
I became interested in the arts thanks to my mother who took me to theatre performances when I was a girl. School was another driver. I went to schools where the music and drama programs were great and in my last two years of high school, I transferred to the Etobicoke School of the Arts.
You are a graduate of the famed National Theatre School in Montreal. Do you remember your audition?
Oh gosh yes! But then not very well! I remember three auditions. At the first audition, I had to perform two monologues – I chose one from the Jacobean-era play, Maid of Honour, and the other was Portia from Julius Caesar. For the second audition, I was required to choose a play and perform a three-minute condensed version of it. I chose Sondheim’s Assassins. My final and third audition was to perform the same piece but in front of a blue chip panel of judges, which included the late Heath Lamberts, himself a graduate of the NTS and who worked extensively on the stage, particularly at the Shaw and Stratford Festivals and on Broadway.
Another cup of tea?
Yes please, that would be wonderful.
What is your favourite role to date?
Vanda in Venus in Fur. Vanda is a young actress, who wants to land the lead role very badly. She sings and acts her way through a spellbinding performance –the performance ‘of her life’ as it were – and it’s both subtle and forceful and a very fine balance between fantasy and reality.
Carly as Vanda in the Canadian Stage production of Venus in Fur
Her Ladyship notes this interview was conducted a few weeks before the Dora Awards were announced, so Carly had no inkling she was going to win the best actress award for her portrayal of Vanda.
What role would you like to play?
The Fool in Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters. Also Richard III – I’m interested in male roles.
What is your go to method to cheer yourself up?
I call my parents.
What is the best criticism you received?
A lot! All interesting and helpful!
How do you make the life of an actress less stressful?
I keep a really clean house!
If you could choose any person from history to teach you any topic, who would it be?
Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s first wife. I admire how she overcame so much adversity – living through terror, her divorce, her penury, and disappointments in general all through her life. And yet she had a full and active public life. I would like to learn her adaptability and survivability.
What is your favourite work of art?
A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat.
Who is your favourite author?
How do you celebrate big moments?
I call my parents in Toronto; also I turn off the critical voice in my head.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Fishing with my family.
What would you consider your best ever adventure?
New Zealand with my sister.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love math puzzles; also can’t resist red wine.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Talk less, listen more.
Toronto Symphony or Tegan and Sara?
What is your workout philosophy?
My philosophy is to workout more! I do have a workout routine, but it has to change every now and then to deal with injuries. I also do Bikram Yoga.
What is your favourite article of clothing?
A little pair of black ankle booties.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Gilda Radner, if she were alive.
What is your favourite virtue?
Strength of character.
What are the principal aspects of your personality?
Charismatic, sensitive, willful and loyal.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Their generosity of spirit. I am blessed to have a lot of friends and I thank them very much for their generous spirit.
What is your idea of happiness?
Living in the present moment.
What is your idea of misery?
Living in the past; living with regret.
What are three little know facts about you?
I love math puzzles; I chew my nails as a zombie chews skin and I love accents.
What are your favourite haunts in Toronto and New York?
I love the Ceili Cottage in Leslieville, a popular Toronto neighbourhood and Harlem Public in New York.
When you take a vacation, do you focus on luxury, adventure or relaxation?
What is the most amazing thing you have ever done?
I moved to a new country on my own.
What is the best advice you would give your younger self?
You are just fine the way you are.