Getting to Know Jonathan Gould
In his second season at the Shaw Festival, Jonathan Gould acts out in The Doctor's Dilemma and An Ideal Husband.
Jonathan Gould says it’s one thing to read a book and another to watch actors interpret those roles live. “That’s the beauty of theatre,” he says. “You have these characters there to give you the story and you can then form your own opinions.”
In his second season at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Gould gets the chance to do that twice over: he’s starring in Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma as Louis Dubedat, an unscrupulous but talented young artist who’s vying for a lifesaving cure, and co-starring as Montford in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, a satire about government scandal.
Shalom Life spoke with the Ottawa-born actor – who has also performed in New York and Washington, and voices a lead role on the television series Scaredy Squirrel – about coming back to Shaw, playwriting greats and his old days at the Ottawa JCC.
What brings him you back to the Shaw Festival this summer?
I’m doing two shows, An Ideal Husband and The Doctor’s Dilemma. Particularly in Doctor’s Dilemma there’s a role – I’m playing Louis Dubedat, and I read it and found it to be incredibly intriguing and very relevant, especially for this time. [Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell] asked me to come in and read for the part and I was happy to do so, so I auditioned and found out about this lovely role I was offered, and decided it would be a great thing to do for a season at Shaw, to be wrapped up and challenged with this role.
What appeals to you about your roles in The Doctor’s Dilemma and An Ideal Husband?
It’s a pretty broad question because there’s so much here, but particularly with Doctor’s Dilemma, it’s about a young artist, some people will call him a scoundrel – I’m sure he doesn’t think that – and his outlook on life is sort of one versus the rest of the place. I really loved his worldview and the fact that he’s a visual artist, a very successful one, which is nothing I really knew about. But because I had the opportunity to work on this character and have a process and rehearse, it gave me an outlet to learn about art and the visual world and how rich and old it is. With An Ideal Husband I play a pretty minor role, so it wasn’t my main focus.
Would you say both are comedies?
I guess….You know, comedy and tragedy are very broad terms, so for one thing to be a comedy or tragedy…you can say a lot of Oscar Wilde is a comedy, but with Doctor’s Dilemma there’s more grey area. Within it you’ll find elements of comedy, maybe more so than tragedy, so I guess it would be called a comedy, but it’s very grey and that’s what I love about it. That’s what’s so fun in playing it. There are these moments where it’s hard to know what to feel, which is great. I’m still exploring my way around this piece.
What do you like about both Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde as playwrights?
They’re stimulating. They force you to think. And whatever they’re writing or talking about, the issues are never moot. They’re always relevant and I think any great writer has that sort of sixth sense that [their work] won’t become vapid. That’s why we still want to go see Bernard Shaw or Shakespeare or read Hemingway, because they’re still relevant. They’re always around for us to pick at and challenge ourselves with.
And you also have a music career going on?
I love music. It’s another way for me to be creative. I do a lot of children’s music and I perform with my sister. She won the Juno Award for best children’s album a couple years ago, which I contributed to – I wrote some songs for that. It’s a nice outlet for me, especially when I’m in the city.
How has your Jewish background impacted your career or influenced your choices?
I don’t know if it’s so much Jewish, or if you’re Christian how much does your Christian background [affect you], or Muslim or anything like that, but I did grow up, as so many of us do in this day and age, ‘culturally Jewish’ – you don’t really go to synagogue but you consider yourself Jewish. If I were to relate it to the arts, I used to do a lot of community theatre with the [Ottawa] JCC’s Theatreworks, which was a fairly prominent amateur musical theatre group in Ottawa at the time, so that was an outlet for me that happened to be Jewish.
Do you have any long term goals or roles you’d love to play?
To keep doing what I love, which is working as an artist, as an actor, as a performer. Really it’s as simple as that, because I wouldn’t want to do anything else. As artists we’re self-employed, so we have a lot of say, which is very important to an artist – especially someone who is an artist because everything is so personal. It’s just always what I wanted to do.
The Doctor’s Dilemma runs until Oct. 30 and An Ideal Husband runs until Oct. 31 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. For more information visit www.shawfest.com.