As children, cousins Weyni and Araya Mengesha loved acting out their favorite movie scenes and impersonating their dads to make each other laugh. Fast forward to 2016 and the Mengeshas both have successful theater careers. Weyni is a Dora-nominated director and Araya Mengesha is a celebrated theater, TV and film actor. And now the pair are collaborating on the Stratford Festival stage together as director and actor for the first time. But there’s another layer to their story — in the process of rehearsing the new Shakespeare adaptation, Breath of Kings, the Mengeshas realized that they share a very rare family connection to Shakespeare’s royal subjects.
In this video produced by Mercedes Grundy, CBC Arts catches up with the Mengeshas at the Tom Patterson Theater in Stratford to talk about this new production, their connection to the material, and to find out Araya Mengesha’s thoughts about being the first actor of color to play a Shakespearean king at Stratford.
Breath of Kings: Rebellion and Breath of Kings: Redemption. Featuring Araya Mengesha, Tom Rooney, Graham Abbey, Geraint Wyn Davies. Written by William Shakespeare. Conceived and adapted by Graham Abbey. Directed by Weyni Mengesha and Mitchell Cushman. Presented by Stratford Festival. May 30 – Sep 24. $50-$120.20. Tom Patterson Theatre, 111 Lakeside Drive, Stratford, ON.