A Portrait of An Actor
…Who's a Really Nice Guy:

Interviewed by Joel Greenberg

Jonathan Goad is currently in his third consecutive season at the Stratford Festival of Canada. In his first year he played Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream and in the second season he played Fyedka in Fiddler on the Roof and Oliver in As You Like It, along with several understudy assignments. This year he has moved to meatier roles, again, taking on Hotspur in the critically acclaimed Henry IV, Part One and a major principal in Tempest-Tost, the new adaptation of the Robertson Davies novel. It appears that Goad is one of the Festival's rising stars. And having known him for the past ten years, first as a student at the University of Waterloo where I taught him and directed him in plays, and then as a professional actor in The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) which I directed in Toronto in 1997, I can say that Jon is among the most grounded and unaffected young actors I have known.

An alumnus of the National Theatre School (he left after second year rather than staying to complete the programme) he is also a member of the first conservatory class that Stratford initiated three seasons ago. (Originally headed by the late Michael Mawson, who had taught Jon in Montreal, the school is now directed by David Latham.) And the fact that Jon is equally adept at physical disciplines -- stage combat and Jon are such a good fit that as a university student he and a friend were warned by campus police that their public exchanges were terrifying nearby staff -- and intellectual gymnastics begins to explain the quick and deserved success that he has had in so short a period.

Responding to the question, "What would you most like to do next?" Jon doesn't have an immediate answer. He acknowledges that Stratford has been and continues to be a good place for him. Roles continue to challenge him, the artistic management casts him in a wide range of playing styles and he values a lengthy season that permits actors to grow into roles and to really inhabit the material rather than a more typical two, three or four-week engagement.

Still, in spite of the advantages of being a respected member of the company, he believes that the rehearsal and gestation period for the plays is too short. Each year the demands on the Festival enterprise increase, and Jon feels that the actors have less and less time to be assured that their work is ready when the paying audiences arrive in late April. He knows that much of any rehearsal period is dedicated to just getting the stage picture arranged so that everyone knows where everyone else will come from and go to, but he expresses some frustration that there just isn't enough time to properly work through ideas organically. As a relatively young actor, he is quick to acknowledge the generosity of senior members who help to guide fledgling repertory players so that they do not become overwhelmed.

Jonathan also has perspective. He knows that no actor can expect to have his future handed to him, and he is aware that three seasons with increasingly prominent roles is all that he could hope for. There may be more for him at Stratford, of course, but he doesn't depend on this for his happiness. As a student, one of Jon's strengths was the fact that he did the work for the love of it and not for the celebrity or attention that might have been the attraction for others. He could as happily take on a leading role in one -- Macbeth, Godspell and Twelfth Night, among others -- as a supporting role --The Country Wife and Drink the Mercury.

In the current season, he is Hotspur in Henry IV, Part One and a number of smaller roles in Part Two. In fact, the role of Wart (Falstaff) is one of the rare opportunities that audiences have had to see Jon's wonderful comic work. His easy manner and good looks might mislead people into thinking that he is not suited to comedy, but they'd be wrong. Jonathan's invention with words and ideas is so original that when he auditioned for Compleat Works, the two producers, who had never met him before, were determined to sign him the moment he performed his 3-minute Hamlet.

Jonathan also values work, regardless of the stature that others give it. He is convincing when he says that he has learned a great deal from many people in many places, and he adds that a role or a production needn't necessarily be as prestigious as one at Stratford in order to make it to his Best Ever list. He points to a moment in fifth grade when he knew that the stage held something for him that nothing else could match. Like everything else that he says, the statement defines Jonathan's matter-of-fact way of handling what his life has become.

When we met ten years ago, Jon was studying social work. He later changed his major because, as he told me this past week, the acting classes were real life situations that, in social work, never managed to get off the page. Now that he is dealing with Shakespeare, Robertson Davies and a whole host of other stimuli, Jon is continually challenged to move from the page to the stage with only his wits to guide him. And that sits pretty easily with the guy who is getting quite used to taking his life one project at a time.

Return to Home Page