News & Reviews
- “A Black Woman as Hamlet Makes History at Stratford”Toronto Starhttps://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2019/10/17/a-black-woman-as-hamlet-makes-history-at-stratford.html
- “”A Day in the Life” with Actor, Writer, Director, and Producer Ruth Goodwin”Toronto Guardianhttps://torontoguardian.com/2020/12/actor-writer-director-prod
Ruth Goodwin is an actor and Founding Artist of the critically acclaimed theatre collective, The Howland Company. ‘The Strangers’ Case’ marks her directorial debut.
Ruth performs regularly on stage and screen and can be seen most frequently in the series regular role of Danica Powers on Global TV’s ‘Private Eyes’. She has been named a “Top Emerging Artist to Watch” by The Toronto Star and Now Magazine and has acted in multiple television shows and films including CBC/Netflix’s ‘Workin’ Moms’, ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ and ‘Baroness Von Sketch’. In 2018 Ruth co-produced and starred in the short film, ‘Stuck’ which screened at over 15 festivals and now airs worldwide on Amazon Prime with over 14 million views to date. For her work on stage Ruth has earned a Toronto Theatre Critics Award, three “Best of Toronto Fringe” titles, Canadian Comedy Award nomination and two Dora Mavor Moore nominations for her work with The Howland Company in multiple acclaimed productions, most recently; ‘Entrances and Exits’, ‘The Wolves’ and ‘Punk Rock’.
Over 400 years ago theatres and public spaces were closed to stop the spread of bubonic plague. During this time William Shakespeare wrote some of his most compelling works, including, “The Strangers’ Case”, an appeal for humanity that remains as relevant today as ever.
Various disheartening events that occurred in 2020 inspired me to create this film. One doesn’t have to look far to see the disappointing similarities between the inhumanity Shakespeare described in his lifetime and where we find ourselves today. This film attempts to capture the fear and anguish prompted by countless grim moments last year, along with the passion and resilience ignited in response. As a theatre artist, it was also important to me to highlight the loss of live performances in 2020 for both artists and society. Live theatre, music and dance invite us to collectively grapple with challenging societal events, and I wonder if its absence further polarized local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this film, performer Amaka Umeh, discovers an abandoned theatre in the midst of a global pandemic and demands action from an empty audience. I first met Amaka in 2018, as actors in a play together, and I celebrated with the rest of Toronto’s theatre community when it was announced she was cast in the esteemed role of Hamlet in The Stratford Festival’s 2020 Season. The casting decision was monumental as Amaka is the youngest actor and first Black woman cast as Hamlet in the 69 years Canada’s largest Shakespeare festival has been operating. However, in the middle of her rehearsal process, ‘Hamlet’ was postponed and we would soon learn that all live performances were cancelled indefinitely.
My inspiration for this piece came to me during lockdowns when I stumbled upon the High Park Amphitheatre, home to Toronto’s adored annual Shakespeare in the Park Festival. Any other year this venue hosts audiences of thousands throughout the summer and at Pay-What-You-Can prices its some of the most accessible Shakespeare you can find in the city. In 2020, however, nature had taken over and the stage and seats were overgrown since the festival’s abrupt cancellation. As I took in the space, I mourned for the artform I love. It was in this moment that the communal loss associated with isolation really hit me.
Throughout history theatre has brought communities together. It’s an opportunity for people with different political views, backgrounds and life experiences to share space, breathe the same air and connect through the humanity presented on stage. Studies have even found that watching a live theatre performance can synchronize your heartbeat with other audience members you’ve never met. But instead of connection, 2020 brought widespread unemployment and uncertainty to the arts community while on a much larger scale humanity grew more divided each day. Our hearts fell out of sync.
The Strangers’ Case is a call for empathy and is dedicated to anyone who has felt unheard or othered in their own community. I sincerely hope that soon this film will screen in a crowded downtown theatre and provide a moment of connection in a world that feels torn apart.