BY TARA McCARTHY

The welcomed January sunlight pours through the windows at the Wood Street Centre, while a handful of people talk and laugh with paints and art materials strewn about the room.

Anton Solomon sits cross-legged on the floor, meticulously painting thin red veins onto a larger-than-life-sized eyeball.

It’s a weekend of creation for Moving Parts Theatre, in preparation for what Solomon says is its biggest production to date: Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It will be presented at the Wood Street Centre from Feb. 20 to 23 and Feb. 26 to March 1.

Solomon is the artistic director for the actor-driven company. He says he began the theatre group in 2001 to enable himself and other trained actors to forge their own professional path.

“We wanted to train as actors and we wanted to approach theatre from the viewpoint of what do actors want to do,” he says.

“Most cities in Canada, the actors are the last thing to come into the show. The mandate gets written, the producers and stage managers get on, the director gets hired, the scriptwriters get hired – the actors come to it last. And actors are the only ones who you can’t do theatre without.

“So, I wanted to start from the other way.”

Shakespeare has been a steady part of the company’s repertoire. The reason is twofold for him in that Solomon believes the Bard’s works are strongest in the English language, but are also conducive for acting experience and growth.

“It teaches you how to handle language; the depth of character in Shakespeare gives you meat to hang it on,” he says. “You’re not worried about whether the performance is bad because the play is, because there’s not too many bad Shakespeare plays.”

He says he chose The Tempest out of a love for the play, but also for that opportunity it provides to work with different acting styles and movements.

The tale of revenge and forgiveness deals with a great deal of high-end poetry versus prose, something Solomon says the actors have the task of communicating properly to the audience.

He admits his approach to Shakespeare is usually rooted in tradition. His production is set in the Victorian era, although he says the iconic writer’s plays leave some room for interpretation.

“We do these plays now because there’s so much in them that you can recreate them and do what you want with them. For my money though, the thing that should be apparent in all Shakespeare’s plays is that you have to set them in a time when modern technology doesn’t exist,” he explains.

“If they could just pick up the phone, for example, Romeo and Juliet would never have happened.”

With the hum of rock music in the background, Solomon picks up a second eyeball and begins dabbing green paint on the white surface to create its iris.

Upon leaving acting school, Solomon says he dreamt of being able to pick and choose the productions that he’d be a part of. And with a confident pause and an enthusiastic smile, he says since developing Moving Parts he feels nothing more than liberated.

PHOTOS: MORGAN WHIBLEY morgwhib@gmail.com