TORONTO â€” Even with a sizable resume stacked with screen credits including “24,” “NCIS,” “Tyrant” and “Suits,” Leslie Hope says she has seen a shift in the quality and quantity of roles directed her way.
“As an older actor â€” or for an actor of a certain vintage â€” those opportunities become narrower,” says Hope, 51, whose filmography includes “Talk Radio,” “Men at Work,” “Love Streams” and “Crimson Peak.”
“(For) women of a certain age, those opportunities may not necessarily be as available if you’re not at a certain level. So as an actor there was a sameness to what was coming my way.
“I’m really grateful I get to make a living as an actor, but it wasn’t as much fun making it anymore.”
After more than three decades living in Los Angeles, the Halifax-born Hope relocated to Toronto a few years ago as she pursued work as a director. She started attending Canadian Stage productions, reigniting her love for theatre in the process.
Hope stars as the title character in “Liv Stein,” which opens on Tuesday at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto. The Canadian Stage production marks both the North American and English-language premiere of the acclaimed German drama by Nino Haratischwili.
In the play, Hope portrays a celebrated concert pianist who abandons her craft, career and marriage after the death of her son, Henri. She is forced to confront past demons with the unexpected arrival of a budding young piano student who claimed to have been Henri’s lover at boarding school.
“I found the material really challenging and I thought: ‘If I’m going to act I might as well make it hard,'” Hope says of “Liv Stein,” which also features Stratford Festival veteran Geraint Wyn Davies.
The role marks a significant return to Hope’s stage roots, which were first nurtured at the helm of her own theatre company.
Hope and co-artistic director Charlie Stratton launched The Wilton Project in 1990 and ran it for 10 years. The company was dedicated to developing new plays and examining classic works, and Hope produced, directed and acted in several productions.
“The process at the core is the same: You’re trying to bring life to words on a page,” she says of the similarities between stage and screen work.
Hope says it will be “very hard” when her 23-year-old son comes to see the play given that he is close in age to the fictional son she mourns in “Liv Stein.”
She also acknowledged the difficult subject matter explored in “Liv Stein” may not appeal to all theatre-goers. But she expressed confidence that audience members seeking a deeper level of engagement with artistic works will be drawn to the production.
“If you go to the theatre to have a good laugh â€” not a ton of laughs in this show. There is definitely some humour, dark humour, but it’s not a rollicking time in that way,” says Hope.
“But if you’re going to the theatre to be challenged, hopefully inspired, provoked, made more curious, activated in some way … it’s a really interesting play. It’s a really interesting translation.
“If you go to the theatre for stuff like that, then go.”
“Liv Stein” runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre until Feb. 12.
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Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press