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Actor learned Hindi for Bard show

Co-director invited Coquitlam resident to audition for All’s Well That Ends Well.
Veenesh Dubois of Coquitlam.

Veenesh Dubois was in Japan last year when she got the call.

On the other end of the phone was Rohit Chokhani, the artistic director of Diwali in B.C. who had known the Coquitlam resident from her play Under the Mango Tree.

Chokhani was picking a cast for the Bard on the Beach production he was co-directing with Johnna Wright the following summer: All’s Well That Ends Well.

The presentation would be like none other, he told her. Rather than setting the show in Europe — as William Shakespeare had in his original plot penned some 400 years ago — the directors were going to transport audiences to an India on the cusp of independence in 1946.

Dubois was intrigued, especially as she had never been part of a Bard season before, but the timing was off. The audition was going to be in the middle of her vacation, she told him, and she was busy with her acting career in Asia.

Dubois accepted Chokhani’s invitation anyway.

“I just never thought I would get in,” she said.

As it turned out, her tryout last summer before Christopher Gaze, the artistic director of Bard on the Beach, was “great” and a few months later, she was formally offered the role of the widow, the mother of Diana (a young girl whom Bertram, the Count of Rousillon, attempts to seduce).

But in Wright and Chokhani’s version, which opens tonight (Wednesday) on the Howard Family Stage, the widow speaks Hindi, a language Dubois had never studied.

She had to pick it up fast.

The producers hired Nutan Thakur, a Vancouver-based radio host, as her dialect coach and, for a few months, they practised Hindi pronunciation by phone while Dubois lived in Asia.

For the show, which also includes original music and traditional Indian dancing, Dubois’ translated words will be projected on a screen so ticket-holders can follow along in English.

“It’s an amazing script,” Dubois said of the play. “It’s so funny and dramatic and so colourful…. Vancouver is going to be very surprised by the production and the story and the people.”

“Setting the play in India allows us to look at where we are at as a society now and endeavour to make Shakespeare more accessible across cultures and languages,” Chokhani said in a news release.

He added, “It has been both exciting and challenging to interpret this play in a new context, augmented by music and movement. It’s given us an opportunity to explore the complexities that exist in this diverse country of India.”

After the Bard run, on Aug. 11, Dubois said she’ll return to Asia to remount Under a Mango Tree in Japan and Hong Kong.

For tickets to All’s Well That Ends Well, call 604-739-0559 or visit The official opening night is Sunday while talkbacks with the cast are after each Tuesday night performance from July 2 to Aug. 6.