Actor Nicholas Pennell: Risking Enchantment

Mary Maher in her office

Photo by Brad Eastburn

This book was a labor of love. When I interviewed this Canadian actor for his chapter in what was to become my third book, I became the staunchest fan in a huge fan club. The 6 hours of interview he gave me were so rich and productive.

Six months later, I was devastated with a phone call that he was dead of lymphoma. Later, when transcribing his interview, I felt a presence in the room. Not a real ghost, mind you, but an actual heckler, saying, “No, no, that’s not what I said. Go back and listen again.” I decided to write an entire biography, not simply because a chimera chided me, but because a tiny handful of actors are this articulate about their craft and can precisely shape esoteric material into solid advice for fellow actors.

Pennell gives us a true picture of what it was like to work in a thriving and creative company. He talks about speaking the verse, his relationships with fellow actors, the behind-the-scenes work, particular moments in plays, and his work under a variety of directors in a superb Canadian Shakespeare company. He was Michael Mont in the first televised Forsyte Saga in England. He could have stayed there and had a monumental television career. But he wanted to do Shakespeare, and he saw that he could get an unprecedented shot at several of the roles throughout his career in Canada.

Cover of Nicholas Pennell: Risking EnchantmentIn his chapter in my third book, ACTORS TALK ABOUT SHAKESPEARE, I just stayed out of his way. How could I go wrong, really—with all that coaching from The Other Side? I am astonished at the richness of the material long after sending both books to press. No question—he was a master.

Actor Nicholas Pennell: Risking Enchantment, PublishAmerica, 2005

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