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The Shakespeare Actors’ Book Club: Sébastien Heins

By Keith Tomasek, Aug 25, 2018

Every Sunday in The Shakespeare Actors’ Book Club you’ll discover a new book, selected by an actor performing Shakespeare.

It’s a chance to shine a light on three of our favourite things here at Stratford Festival Reviews: books, actors and Shakespeare!

Bookmark this site and visit every Sunday as a new actor shares the story of how their reading intersects with their production and everyday life.The Shakespeare Actors' Book Club, Sébastien Heins, stratford Festival

Mamie Zwettler, Sébastien Heins in The Tempest.
photo: David Hou

Sébastien Heins plays Ferdinand in “The Tempest,” The Courtesan in “The Comedy of Errors” and Pascalino in “Napoli Millionaria.”

Heins left his BA in international development to study acting at the National Theatre School of Canada. After graduating in 2012, he took his one-man stage show “Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera” to New York City, earning him the Best Emerging Artist award from the United Solo Festival, the largest solo show festival in the world.

The book
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How did you discover this book?
It was recommended by my castmate, EB Smith, while backstage during rehearsals for The Tempest.

What drew you into the story?
The way in which Coates frames his essay on the American black experience as a letter to his maturing son.

If you could, would you like to inhabit the setting for a year? Why?
I would, and I wouldn’t.

The setting moves from the deeply challenging streets of Baltimore to the multicultural whirl of Howard University, to New York City, to Paris. Throughout, Coates makes it clear that he feels like a stranger in a strange land, a vulnerable and unwelcome visitor, even in the country he was born. While I would like to visit all of these places independently, seeing them from Coates’ perspective brings complication to the notion of “just visiting.”

How does the book you’re reading relate to, or complement, the theatre piece you are currently working on?
“The Tempest” is a strong candidate for modern colonial interpretation, if not a direct product of the colonial direction of the English empire in Shakespeare’s time. Caliban’s place on the island as a worker, and Coates’ alienation from American society, whose greatest windfall was the free labour it enjoyed for 300 years, are certainly complementary.

Keira Loughran’s interpretation of Ephesus in “The Comedy of Errors” was a semi-utopian escape from Coates’ America for me, and resembles the thriving black experience of students he describes at Howard University, where all creeds, classes, and cultures mix in an exciting scholastic harmony.

How has this book influenced your thinking?
The pivotal concept of blacks in American not having a right to their own bodies, and that upon the slightest provocation, their bodies can be destroyed by the state, held my thinking throughout my reading.

How do you find time to read?
By putting my cellphone on DND, blocking Facebook, and deleting the Instagram app.

What is your favourite place to read?
On any couch with my feet up, or on my stomach on any carpet.

Does the time of year affect your reading selections?
I tend to read more self-help, business, and non-fiction in the winter-late spring, and then my imagination wants fun things in the summer and fall.

Hardcover, paperback or e-reader?
Hardcover, paperback, and Audible.
Is there a certain author whose work you follow loyally?
I’m a big fan of Timothy Ferriss.

Click to get “Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.”

Follow Sébastien:
On Twitter
On Instagram

Details, Details:
The Stratford Festival
The Tempest – runs until Oct. 26.
The Comedy of Errors – runs until Oct. 20.
Napoli Milionaria – runs until Oct. 27.
Details and tickets online:
Call: 1 800-567-1600

Jason Cadieux – Shakespeare in High Park, Toronto.
Kayvon Khoshkam – Bard on the Beach, Vancouver.
Skye Brandon – Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
Garry Williams – Shakespeare by the Sea, Halifax.
Heather Cant – Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.
Ben Carlson – Bard on the Beach, Vancouver.
Sébastien Heins – Stratford Festival, Ontario
Come back next Sunday for another actor and another book.

Steffi DiDomenicantonio podcast interviewbest, Air BNB stratford on, luxurious


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The Shakespeare Actors’ Book Club: Sébastien Heins

Keith Tomasek
25 August 2018
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