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Aldergrove actor enjoys delving into his character

Bard in the Valley launches this summer’s Shakespearean experience at Township 7 Winery

Watching the doll’s eyelids pop open and shut, as his cast member bobs the fake baby up and down, Thomas Smith struggles to keep a stern face.
For the 32-year-old Aldergrove actor, it’s oddly one of the hardest moments for him in the Bard in the Valley’s (BIV’s) production of “The Winter’s Tale.”
On a few occasions during their 100-plus hours of rehearsing, this scene has actually brought Smith to tears.
But, admittedly, it’s not tears of sadness nor regret in this Shakespearean bard that mixes of tragedy and comedy.
In fact, it’s tears of laughter.
“It’s hard to look at that and keep an angry expression going,” Smith said.
“There have been a couple times recently where I’m laughing so hard I’m crying and then have to pull myself together,” he added.
Smith is playing King Leontes of Sicily, one of the main characters in the 400-year-old William Shakespeare play being brought to life on stage at Township 7 Winery then Douglas Park this month. 
While Smith has wanted to be an actor since he was 11, has dabbled in community theatre a bit in the past dozen years, studied theatre at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), and even tackled an extra role in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “The Tooth Fairy,” this is only his second time in as many years performing in a BIV production.
He originally auditioned for the BIV's 2020 production of "Measure for Measure", but that play was postponed due to the pandemic. When they recast the production in 2022, he was again selected, excited to be working with a number of old friends who he had attended post-secondary with almost a decade earlier.
“I’m happy to be back with them a second time,” he said.
In Winter's Tale, his character devolves into a dark world of jealousy and rage when he suspects his wife and best friend are having an affair.
“I wanted to be a part of this production, because it is a classic Shakespeare tragi-comedy, in the truest sense of the word; it is literally a tragedy for one half and then switches to become a comedy in the second half, that doesn’t get performed very often. But I love the story of heartache, jealousy, and redemption that 'The Winter’s Tale' shares with us,” he said. 
A fan of the play, and a supporter (primarily as an audience member) of BIV, he was also drawn to the theatre group because of his friend, Dylan Coulter. They’d attended four years together at UFV.
“He’s a great friend and very talented, so I was eager to get to work with him as a director. I’d also had a good experience with BIV the first time, and was happy for the chance to go back for another show with them,” said Smith. 
Admittedly rehearsing for this week’s launch of “The Winter’s Tale” has been hard to juggle at some points during the past four months. But it's been very much worth it, he said just ahead of opening day.
By day, he’s a project coordinator for a custom cabinetry design company in Abbotsford, as well as the executive director of the Abbotsford Executives Association.
“I’m very tired at the end of long days where I have to tackle all three obligations, on top of house work, making time for my wife and puppy, etc. But it’s all worth it in the end!”
Really drawn to his character of Leontes, Smith describes the king as a deep-down good person who seems happy and easygoing on the outside, but is actually someone struggling with a sadness and darkness inside.
“I’m probably at my happiest when I’m in the rehearsal room, digging into the text and talking about character intentions and actor-y things with Dylan, our director,” Smith elaborated. 
“I love going to those darker places with characters. You have to be careful to separate yourself from it in your day-to-day life, but losing yourself in there for a couple of hours of performances is really fun.”
The summer production launches Thursday, July 4, and runs for eight shows through July 14 at the Township 7 Winery, with tickets $35 each and available online.
Then tickets for the eight Douglas Park Spirit Stage shows, between July 18 and 28, are free by donation and can be reserved with an option to pay for assigned seating, a padded seat, and drink tickets for $16.
Gates open at 6 p.m. and the shows begin at 7 p.m. with tickets for both locations available at Smith describes the content as being appropriate for a 13+ audience.
“This is a fantastic Shakespeare production, and it truly has something for all tastes since it does have such a clear divide between a tragedy half and a comedy half,” said Smith.
“There’s some very fun musical bits – that I am not involved in, which is a good thing – and it contains the most famous stage direction in all of Shakespeare – exit, pursued by a bear – which I can’t go into details about but that moment will probably be worth the ticket price alone,” he shared.
“For any parents out there, I think it also has a great story of redemption that will tug at your heartstrings…” Smith concluded.
Bard in the Valley (BIV) is a volunteer-run registered charity that stages the works of William Shakespeare at outdoor and indoor venues throughout the Fraser Valley each summer and winter. 
Since the group’s inception in 2009, Bard in the Valley has presented a Shakespearean production every summer except 2020. More than 25,000 people have attended BIV’s performances.

Roxanne Hooper

About the Author: Roxanne Hooper

I began in the news industry at age 15, but honestly, I knew I wanted to be a community journalist even before that.
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