After the Show

"Who Is Silvia?" picture taken by audienceWell, another season of Summer Shakespeare (our tenth!) is behind us. This year was one of big changes for Summer Shakespeare and The Greenville Shakespeare Company:
–we received our nonprofit status with the state of South Carolina;
–we received official 501(c)3 status from the IRS;
–we partnered with a great new company and a wonderful, established Greenville organization (thank you to FiggyWhig’s and The Greenville Humane Society!);
–we increased our web presence with a newly designed website;
–we began strategic email marketing, and
–we launched a Facebook page.

Most importantly, we fulfilled our mission to provide the upstate of South Carolina with high quality, family friendly, accessible Shakespeare. Thank you to all of our wonderful audience members–we literally could not do our art without you!

And don’t forget: Summer Shakespeare and The Greenville Shakespeare Company continue into the fall season with our second annual Brave New World Workshop to be conducted in September and our reprisal of Two Gentlemen of Verona September 10-12. Check the “Buy Tickets” or “Current Show” page for details.

This year director Jeff Stegall encouraged Two Gentlemen of Verona audience members to take pictures with their cell phones and/or cameras during the production. The image you see below is a Twitpic from @jpait.
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Do you have a picture or video footage that you would be willing to share? We’d love to see it!

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Crab, a Dog

One of our most popular actors this 2009 season has been Toby, the Great Dane-German shepherd mix that plays the part of Crab in Summer Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. The role of Crab (the only named animal in Shakespeare) is not a demanding one: the only requirements are that he be large (“a dog as big as ten of yours” the text states), lethargic (“he is a stone, a very pebble stone”), leashed (“he that’s tied here, Crab my dog”), and that he appear twice with his master, Launce (Jeffrey Stegall). Anything beyond that is gravy. And Toby has certainly delivered the gravy. In all but one of the performances he has yawned at nearly the perfect moment—a great gaping, toothy yawn that is as much to say, “You, my dear master, bore me.” In one memorable recent performance he lay down and covered his eyes with his paws. At each new antic—or lack thereof—the audience has roared with delight, and Crab has continued his business unphased by the hubbub.

Our Crab was found by his “parents” six years ago in the Tucson, Arizona, desert. Jeremy and Holly Nelson and Jeremy’s sister stopped at a gas station and saw a box marked “Puppies” by the side of the road. Inside were five five-week-old pups. The Nelsons fell in love with Toby, and Jeremy’s sister selected another of the litter. The puppies badly needed baths and food and lots of love. Later that evening, the Nelsons went back to rescue the other puppies, afraid that coyotes would get the defenseless dogs after nightfall. However, the remaining three had already been rescued. For a while Toby’s legs grew faster than the rest of him, and he spent the next few months tripping over himself until he got used to his long limbs.

Toby as Crab

Toby as Crab

Toby certainly gets lots of attention with the cast. Even those who do not profess to be dog lovers love Toby. He is mild-mannered, well-behaved, and smarter than some human cast members. (No names, please!) Toby is always spot-on—usually anticipating his cues. The only thing he hasn’t figured out yet is why Proteus (Zach Franzen) seems to be chiding him in the dog-swapping scene. As he leaves the stage every night, Toby appears to be thinking, “What are you yelling at me for? I’m not the one who has dropped lines!” Come see Toby this Friday, July 17, or Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 PM in Performance Hall. Tickets are still available!

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Shakespeare in the Dark

“Where were you when the lights went out in Performance Hall?” About 220 audience members earned the right to ask that question last night when several blocks of Greenville, SC, were plunged into total darkness courtesy of a texting trucker who rammed an electrical transformer. Audience members kept their cool (figuratively only, since the room temperature rose quickly with no air conditioning), and someone began an a capella rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” which others joined in on. By the time they’d finished “God Bless America,” Jeff Stegall had news that it would be another 20-30 minutes until power could be restored, so the play was adjourned for an elongated intermission. FiggyWhig’s cupcakes and a special appearance from Toby (the dog) were highlights of the downtime. Like wartime cavalry, the campus security arrived with 40 flashlights, which were dispersed among the audience. In true the-show-must-go-on spirit, the cast picked up where they left off and continued in the spotty light for three scenes (see video below) until with a whoosh and a thunk, electricity returned. A memorable evening indeed!
So where were you when the lights went out? If you were there, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Calling All Dog Lovers

humane-society-logo2Some of you may be wondering about our partnership with the Greenville Humane Society. [Spoiler Alert] If you have already seen Two Gentlemen of Verona, you know that there is a dog in the play. (Crab is the only named animal in Shakespeare!) Knowing this made our director, Jeff Stegall, think that an association with the Greenville Humane Society would be beneficial to both parties. He began discussing the idea with GHS public relations personnel, and voila! the partnership was born. The Greenville Humane Society has kindly given us website and television publicity. (Did you catch our Julia, aka Rebecca Clements, doing the Adopt-a-Pet segment on WYFF Friday afternoon?) The original plan was to use a dog from the GHS for the part of the dog in the play. However, since dogs are continually being adopted (at least that’s the plan), our being able to use the same dog in rehearsals and during the full run of the play became impractical and unlikely. That was when Toby stepped into the part, a role he has performed with distinction. (You can see Toby perform July 3, 4, 6, 17, 18, or 20.)

The mission of The Greenville Humane Society is “to promote and improve the quality of life and humane treatment of animals” (from their website). They are a non-profit organization receiving zero government funding. They annually find homes for over 5000 animals, so they depend on tax-deductible donations from people like you!

Those interested in adopting fill out a pre-adoption questionnaire so that the folks at GHS can try to individually match pets with caring owners. If you’re a potential owner of a friendly dog/cat/other, why not give them a call (242-3626) or stop by 328 Furman Hall Road? Or just click here.

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Falling in Love with Shakespeare

I grew up on Shakespeare. My first of his plays was As You Like It, and I still remember watching Audrey pick her feet and eat a raw onion onstage (not necessarily in that order). A few years later I was struck with the resemblance of one of the walk-ons in a history play to a girl I stood near in choir. Then there was the night that the tip of a soldier’s spear came off in the heat of battle and swung wildly from its mooring. Another time a tree fell over. And–best of all to my decidedly immature mind–was a performance in which someone crawled from the wings into the scene just to see whether he would be noticed. He was. When I think of these random memories what strikes me is that I don’t remember the words of the plays at all. Not any of them.

Fast forward fifteen years. My fiancée is directing A Winter’s Tale, so I check a cassette tape (yes, I’m dating myself) out of the library and listen to John Gielgud and others recreate the story. I am mesmerized by the sounds–the rhyming, the rhythm, the cadence, the imagery, the humor, the pathos, the pure magic of Shakespeare! I find myself memorizing large portions of the uncut play before rehearsals even start. I attend rehearsals and give cues to the cast when lines are dropped (much to my fiancee’s chagrin). On opening night I am on the edge of my seat, biting my lip to keep from mouthing the lines. “Too hot, too hot,” I intone with Leontes. “Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes first hand me,” I threaten with brave Paulina. I smile when Florizel says, “I bless the time when my good falcon made its flight across thy father’s ground.” And there are tears in my eyes as the virtuous queen announces, “You precious winners all!” I have since seen A Winter’s Tale at least eight more times and am thrilled anew with each “What’s gone and what’s past help must be past grief.”

So what does this have to do with you, dear Theatregoer? Merely this, far from breeding contempt, familiarity with Shakespeare breeds delight. Study the plays. Read synopses and articles and reviews. View clips and watch movie versions. Compare different actors’ interpretations. You will not tire of these timeless tales. You will fall in love with them.

What was your first Shakespeare play? What stands out in your memory about it?

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Seize the Play!

Crab & Launce

Crab & Launce

Summer Shakespeare’s 10th season is open for business–and audience and cast are all having a lot of fun! The opening weekend of Two Gentlemen of Verona was a success if the comments of those who attended the performances Friday and Saturday nights were any indication. Here’s a sampling of the feedback we’ve received:

“You’ve reached your zenith–I just don’t see how it could get any better.”
“Thank you for an enjoyable evening!”
“We loved the play–but then we always do.”
“You got me: I totally bought into the ending.”
“Loved the dog!”
“What talent! The play was one of the best things I have been to in a long time.”
“I definitely want to see [Two Gentlemen] again this summer.”

Comments like the above are music to our ears. Come see what everyone is talking about and then tell us about your own Summer Shakespeare experience.

If you’ve been to the play already, what was your favorite part? If you could play any role in this play, what would it be?

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Opening Night Jitters

Well, here we are. Five weeks into the rehearsal process, and it’s showtime! The creative team is eager to see what was once merely an idea put into action before a live audience. The cast is looking forward to putting the play on the boards. The crew is prepared for any eventuality (including the light board and the MIDI player to stop talking to each other). Even Toby, the dog playing the part of Crab, is ready. Last night was the time to give the edges of the stage a final fresh coat of flat black paint. Today the platforms and additional seating with be added to the fourth side of the stage (the play is performed in the round), and last-minute props and costumes pieces will be finished. (Why is Thurio wearing dark socks? Where is Panthino’s belt? and so on.)

We have a special preview performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona Friday night for former cast and crew members and their guests and then it’s our official opening night on Saturday. Do you have your tickets yet? Call the box office or get them online today!

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Where’s Will (the Bobblehead)?

Time for a little Summer Shakespeare trivia. In which Summer Shakespeare production did William Shakespeare aka the Bobblehead first appear? (No fair cheating and reading the earlier blog post, “Memories of Summer Shakespeare.”) If you said Love’s Labor’s Lost (2006), you are correct! He appeared as Rosaline’s love-gift from Berowne. You know, the gift that causes the Princess to ask, “What is it?” following which a chagrined Rosaline answers, “I would you knew” (subtext=because I sure don’t). That summer we sold Shakespeare bobbleheads during intermission until we ran out of them. Our Will was subsequently dragged on by the mechanicals in Midsummer Night’s Dream (2007) and then appeared wearing a grass skirt on the magical island table in Tempest (2008). So where might Will show up in 2009? You’ll have to get your tickets for Two Gentlemen of Verona to find out!

Where do you think Will should show up in Two Gentlemen of Verona? Did you know he’s a collector’s item now?

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Who Is Silvia?

In a previous post (“Superlative Obscurity”) I mentioned Franz Schubert’s song, “Who Is Silvia?” taken directly from Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona text in Act IV, scene ii. Now, without any further ado, here is Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s rendition in English. (Watch at your own risk, there are no subtitles here.)

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Superlative Obscurity

Two Gents textShakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona is relatively unknown and undone in comparison to his other plays. This even though the play features several Shakespearean superlatives: smallest cast (13 named characters), first appearance of a girl disguised as a boy, most occurrences of forms of the word “love” (225, with Romeo and Juliet a distant second with 182), and the sole named animal (Crab, Launce’s dog). But the play is far from a favorite. It has been called “immature,” “trifling,” “improbable and unrealistic,” and “slipshod” by critics.
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