Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Shakespeare Alive in Frederick, MD

One summer program in Frederick for 2013 is the Summerfest Family Theatre at the Baker Park Bandshell on Thursday mornings. The week we were there, the performers were from the Maryland Shakespeare Company and they performed Shakespeare Alive.

Baker Park Bandshell

Readers of this blog might hope for some zombie-themed Shakespeare based on their title. At least some Frankenstein/Shakespeare crossover. I know I did. What could be more appropriate for children's theater? The introduction soon crushed my hopes.

Lady introduces guys hiding behind the sign

Alas, they were presenting various bits from various plays with explanations and interpretations between. Three male performers from the company started with the Chorus's opening speech from Henry V, the one which entreats the audience to imagine the rugged fields of France and to forgive the spareness of their stage.

Dramatic posing

The three men then introduced themselves and spoke a bit about Shakespeare's times, including the fact that young men and boys played all the female roles back in the early 1600s. They then launched into an early part of The Tempest where Ferdinand is washed up on shore and Prospero's daughter discovers him, much to Prospero's displeasure. Even more displeasing, Ferdinand proclaims his love for her!

Dramatic proposing

After this scene, they talked about the political and social climate of Shakespeare's day, claiming racism and prejudices were stronger and more prevalent back then. I wouldn't agree with that claim but we all hope to improve on that score. They began a scene from The Merchant of Venice where the two young Venetians, Bassanio and Antonio, go to borrow 3000 ducats from Shylock, a Jewish money-lender. They are fairly scornful of his faith even as they seek to lend from him.

It was about this point in the performance when J and L lost interest and were ready to move over to the nearby playground. We didn't want to tie them down, so we hung out over there while some of the performance would drift over to us from the stage.

L gets a new perspective on Shakespeare

Cousin A hangs out

They did a bit from Romeo and Juliet where the guy playing a gal actually had a wig but I didn't notice in time.

I wish the performance had been interactive, inviting the children to join them on stage or try out different props and costumes. I suppose the performance is designed more for older school children who can sit and focus longer than four- and five-year olds. I enjoyed what I saw but was also happy to go to the playground too.

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