LAKE PLACID - If you've ever been curious about Shakespeare's plays but haven't made the leap, now's your chance.
The Adirondack Shakespeare Company will perform three Sunday evening plays during their Sunday Shakespeare Series at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, but they aren't the typical Shakespeare experience. Instead of the full-length, hours-long versions, these performances are more like a series of snapshots, a collective sampling of the playwright's greatest scenes stitched together by dialogue from the performers.
"It's different for each show," said Adirondack Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Tara Bradway. "In the first one, 'The Course of True Love,' the premise is the straight man, the scholar - that's me - and this affable dunce, played by Patrick (Siler). The aim of the show becomes educating him about how awesome Shakespeare actually is. In between each scene, we'll have a little discussion about how that conversation is progressing, and whether he's convinced by it or whether I've contradicted myself."
Actress Katie Fanning will play the Duke of Aumerle from “Richard II” and Katherine from “Henry V” in the Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s upcoming Sunday Shakespeare Series at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
(Photo — Tara Bradway)
The lessons aren't just for the affable dunce; they're for the audience, too. Audience members are even encouraged to sit on stage with the performers.
Bradway said that in her experience, many people seem intimidated by Shakespeare. Their reluctance to give the plays a chance means they miss out on all of the humor, betrayal, conniving and romance interwoven into the characters and their stories.
"In some respects, we tend to put Shakespeare up on this pedestal, where he's looked at as the greatest playwright in the English language," Bradway said. "I honestly think he is, but I don't think that means we should handle him with kid gloves."
The balance between the serious and the absurd is something many Shakespeare theater companies fail to achieve, making their performances seem stifled. Bradway said there's a difference between laughing at Shakespeare and laughing with him.
"'Romeo and Juliet' is dirty and bawdy," Bradway said. "It's wonderful, and there's a lot of that in every play, even the most serious ones. We shouldn't be afraid to let it breathe. That's when they begin to feel old and musty - when we don't let them be the living thing that they are."
Each of the company's Sunday performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will revolve around a different theme. They begin March 16 and run through March 30.
The first, "The Course of True Love," is about romance in Shakespeare's sonnets, songs and plays.
"They're mostly comedies, but there are a couple of tragedies thrown in there, too," Bradway said. "We've got some 'Romeo and Juliet,' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' 'Merchant of Venice,' 'Much Ado About Nothing,' and we close with the MacBeths because I like to make a very fun argument they're the very best lovers in all of Shakespeare."
The second show, "Their Blackest Sins," contains scenes from "Richard III," "Othello" and "King Lear." Bradway said those scenes are held together by banter between the actors in Italian commedia-style personas.
The final show, "He That Plays the King: Scenes from the Kingship Cycle," will feature selections from "Richard II," "Henry IV" parts one and two, and "Henry V."
All of the plays were put together by Bradway.
"With the Sunday Shakespeare series, because it's just scenes, we're able to give the audience a little more information about each scene, because we need to give them a little context for what we're doing," Bradway said. "We do a little plot summary so they know exactly what they're coming into, but we do the entire scene, and then we jump to another scene in the play and fill in the gaps. We do this with students a lot, and we've found that it shakes them out of that nervousness. It's a great introduction to Shakespeare."
The mash-up-style performances are vastly different from the theater company's standard routine of performing what she calls "Shakespeare in the raw." That means that the plays are performed in their entirety, with no sets and a minimalist approach to costumes.
"Shakespeare's audience was accustomed to, instead of saying, 'I'm going to go see a play,' they would say, 'I'm going to go hear a play,'" Bradway said. "It was all about the language. It was just wall-to-wall words. When you do take a pause, it really affects you as a listener."
Bradway said the "raw" performance style means the actors and actresses have to speak fast, but that she hasn't found that audiences have been turned off by that.
Once they get into it, Bradway said audience-goers typically go along for the ride and pay attention to every word.
Bradway co-founded the Adirondack Shakespeare Company with Executive Director Patrick Siler. The first show they did was in 2008, but they weren't formally incorporated as the Adirondack Shakespeare Company until 2010.
The company has gained momentum, and Bradway and Siler typically have to whittle a list of 1,000 applicants down to a roster of 14 or so performers.
The idea for the theater company began when Siler brought Bradway to his family's summer home in Schroon Lake in 2005 and told her his dream was to produce Shakespeare at a ruined amphitheater there.
"It was hard not to also fall in love with that dream," Bradway said.
A few years later, that dream came true.
Bradway and Siler now live in Albany, and the theater company regularly performs in Schroon Lake, Lake Placid, New York City and other upstate locations, including other Adirondack towns. They have also performed in Delaware, North Carolina and Philadelphia.
For more information on the company's upcoming productions, visit their website at www.adkshakes.org.
Tickets for the Sunday performances cost $5 and can be purchased by calling the Lake Placid Center for the Arts box office at 518-523-2512.
Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.