As I try to write about most of my theatre experiences whether as an attendee, a director, or an actor – I thought I would put down some thoughts about my experiences and perspectives concerning the show I am presently involved in: the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission’s 21st season of Shakespeare in the Park and it’s production of As You Like It.
Earlier this year, my friend Ryan Shelton asked me if I would be interested in being in the summer Shakespeare that he has been the director for the past few seasons. Ordinarily, I likely would have passed on the opportunity, but Ryan had just done me a huge favor by filling a role in a play I had directed – “The Dining Room”. He stepped up and took the role even though he was going to be quite busy during the time my play needed. (Side note: if you know Ryan, you know he is a person who doesn’t turn down many opportunities to be busy, or to be busier) Anyway, I felt good about giving a favor back to Ryan, so I said okay and took the role of Duke Senior.
Shakespeare’s plays are often done in different time frames and genres than he intended or could have ever imagined. Some purists might say that this is wrong, but I find that it adds a certain creative interest to the undertaking and so it was with this production. Ryan’s concept for the play was to set it in a depression era circus – so that my character, the banished Duke, is a ringmaster. My “brothers in exile” also take on circus traits: Jacques (Daniel Shock) being a sad clown, Ariens (Mark Tumey), a circus minstrel, and Hymen (Molly Grooms), a fortune-telling gypsy songstress. Add in a giant (Jeff Bick), a bearded lady (Brian McCarley), the circus cook (Curtis Bittle), and a harlequin dancer (Rowan Whitcomb), and you have a rather colorful group of forest dwellers. My character’s brother, Duke Frederick (Marcus Waye) is a hard-nosed circus boss with wrestler Charles (Tom Shelton) as one of his henchmen. Rosalind (Becca Wenning), my daughter, is a high wire artist, her cousin Celia (Kelly BeDell) is a tightrope walker and Touchstone (Ryan Shelton), their companion for their escape to the forest, is a clown of highest order. The remaining characters, including Orlando (John Whitaker) and his brother Oliver (Greg Dunn) along with their servant Adam (David Heighway), are farm dwellers of various social levels in the surrounding area. It all works out grandly in the undertaking and makes total sense in the story-telling. Added to that, original songs by local music man, David Hartman, are sprinkled throughout and add to the brilliance of the show. (As a matter of fact, when Ryan approached me about being in the show, the very first thing he said was “can you sing?”)
Since Ryan was taking the part of Touchstone for himself, a part he says he has hoped to play for a good long time, he needed a person to take over the reins of directing the show. For this job, he contracted Christy Clinton, whom he has collaborated with many times before. Christy has done a wonderful job leading the 21 members of the cast through the preparations for this production. I have been in several shows where she took on the tasks of assistant director and/or stage manager, and I am happy I finally got to work with her as full director.
The long road to opening night was filled with the usual hard work of learning lines and memorizing blocking, developing characters and relationships. All this was done in various spaces, including the Noblesville Visitor Bureau’s rooms and the chiropractor’s offices of Dr. McCarley (our bearded lady). Much of it was done out-of-doors under the inquisitive eyes of passers-by.
As always – it is so good to work on a show with a lot of familiar folks, but meeting the new-to-me participants also is a fine pleasure. (It occurs to me as I continue to do theatre ventures in central Indiana, that I am lucky as a senior now (age 65) to be around so many wonderful and creative younger men and women. It adds to my life’s enjoyment to a great degree!) All this good work came to a head last night when we opened the show to a very appreciative audience on a comfortably cool evening. It couldn’t have gone much better!
Everything worked out so well. Ryan’s vision of a circus themed presentation was validated. The original songs were a great hit. And as those of you who do theatre know – nothing beats a good live performance that you are proud to be a part of.
If you have a chance, come out and see us some night. The play is being presented in Noblesville’s Seminary Park, located at the corner of 10th and Division. The remaining shows are July 26, 31 and August 1 & 2. There are a variety of circusy themed pre-shows at 7:30 pm and the play starts at 8:30 pm. The shows are free and you are invited to bring your folding chairs and blankets, something to snack on, and whatever beverages you wish. It really is a colorful, fun-filled show and I hope you have the opportunity to see it.