Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

Inner West actor Toby Schmitz is about to realise a long-held ambition – in 2011, he will take the stage in a Bell Shakespeare production.

Schmitz, 33, will play Benedick, the romantic comedy lead in Much Ado About Nothing, with Blazey Best as Beatrice.

“It’s a wonderful part. Benedick runs the full gamut – he gets to be charmingly anti-relationship and also fall in love. He is Romeo and Lucretio at the same time,” the Erskineville actor said.

“Initially, Benedick seems to have a really good case against the folly of love, but then he is whittled down until he and Beatrice declare their love to each other.

“But it’s a wonderful play as well.”

John Bell directs this earthy and exuberant comedy about gender politics and the challenges of love, set in Sicily in the 1950s.

“It’s my first play for John Bell and I’m so excited because I’ve wanted to work with him since the early ’90s when he came to my school in Perth. Fifteen years later, and I get my wish,” Schmitz said.

“It’s thrilling to be directed by Bell, being exposed to his talent – he’s Australian living history. I’m really chuffed.”

Much Ado About Nothing is part of the 2011 Bell Shakespeare season, a new chapter for the company that this year celebrated its 20th anniversary.

There’s a great treat in store for audiences with John Bell in the role of Mephistophilis in Faustus, Michael Gow’s adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

Ben Winspear will star as Faustus, the man who sells his soul for worldly pleasures.

Peter Evans, recently appointed Bell Shakespeare Associate Artistic Director, will delve into the world of politics in a contemporary Julius Caesar, a political drama that features Alex Menglet as Caesar and Kate Mulvany as Cassius.

And, in 2011, Bell Shakespeare will have its own ensemble of travelling actors, The Players. The company will tour three plays, each one examining the question, “How do you maintain your integrity in a world that so often expects you to discard it?”

More than 200,000 Australians in every part of the country will experience Bell Shakespeare in 2011.