Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Follow-up: Shakespeare on the Road


PHOTO: Richard Ooms performed the title role of “King Lear” this summer at Door County’s Door Shakespeare, which hosted a notable visitor. Jason Fassl photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – This is a follow-up on one of the most fascinating theatrical projects to visit these parts – Shakespeare on the Road.

The premise: Find out more about what makes the works of William Shakespeare tick in North America 400-some years after they were written by going to venues devoted presenting Shakespeare plays. The folks with the burning curiosity are from the United Kingdom.

Shakespeare on the Road still is in the process of visiting 15 venues that present what the project calls Shakespeare festivals. Fifteen sounds like a lot, but it is not a complete list.

One place Shakespeare on the Road did not visit in Wisconsin is American Players Theatre near Spring Green. The project did visit, however, the remarkable Door Shakespeare, which performs outdoors on wood chips under a massive maple tree near the shore of Lake Michigan.

In the larger picture, Shakespeare on the Road has gone from coast to coast, with an essential stop in Canada in Stratford, Ontario, at the full-service Stratford Festival.

What fun the trip must be!

And work.

The story of each place is told. Included are interviews that are compiled and posted. Stuff of inspiration is all over the project, which may be discovered at www.shakespeareontheroad.com.

At Door Shakespeare, the project came upon a find – information about actors from various companies who get together on occasion in a bar to perform a pre-determined Shakespeare play – a kind of jam session – in part for conviviality. The project now is reported for the world at the portion of the website devoted to the Door Shakespeare experience – http://shakespeareontheroad.com/locations/door-shakespeare/.

Here is the list of what Shakespeare on the Road reports on from its Aug. 6 visit to the “dreamy, pastoral world” of Door Shakespeare:

Door Ways to Shakespeare: a triolet for Amy Ludwigsen and the Door Shakespeare Festival

Today’s vocabulary word is “triolet.” It’s a specific kind of poem. Find out more by looking it up.

Below is what was written by Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare on the Road project from his impressions at Door Shakespeare. Paul Edmondson is head of Research and Knowledge at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He is general editor of BloggingShakespeare.com and co-general editor of ReviewingShakespeare.com. He teaches and publishes widely on Shakespeare and is a priest in the Church of England. On the website, he is heard reciting.

Ring all the words of Shakespeare through the night,
Beside the lake, beneath this maple tree;
Our stage is washed with green and purple light,
Ring all the sounds of Shakespeare through the night;
This lake of tragedy burns tears bright;
Our sky sings moonlit songs of comedy;
Ring all the plays of Shakespeare through the night,
Beside the lake, beneath this maple tree.

A poem to Door Shakespeare by a disciplined writer – how cool is that? The work catches important elements – how voices carry (“ring”) in the space, performing under the sky at night, the lake, the tree (majestic) and the ambiance. The reference to “lake of tragedy” has me wondering what prompted that thought from Paul Edmondson, although it’s understandable that any large lake will have many tragedies surrounding it.

From general comments on the visit: “The Door Shakespeare Festival is in a beautiful location, and we were all of us bowled over by the fine acoustic of the woodland clearing where the performances take place, alongside the stunning expanse of Lake Michigan.”

Amy Ludwigsen, executive director of Door Shakespeare, reports “the piece that Paul wrote for Door Shakespeare will be stenciled on our wall at the office... Such a beautiful impression that Paul put into words for us!”

The Managing Director, Amy Ludwigsen

From general comments: “Amy Ludwigsen has just nicely taken over as its new managing director and is making a fresh start for the festival in part by deepening an appreciation for it and Shakespeare in the surrounding community. Until her arrival, for example, Door Shakes had only ever performed Shakespearian comedies. But she is committed to producing the full range of Shakespeare’s genius. In this extract from our interview with her, she reflects on the festival’s community profile and the political questions this poses for local audiences and Door’s many summer visitors. She also shares with us her love of Shakespeare as well as her hopes and dreams for the future of the festival.”

The interview seems to end after a few minutes, but then goes on. Amy Ludwigsen answers the question, “Why are you devoting your life to Shakespeare?” She talks about the artistic side – of envisioning “an ensemble of storytellers that tell the stories in a way that people never knew that they would love” – and the reality of making that happen – revealing that Door Shakespeare has an annual budget of $220,000.

Go see what the boys in the backroom will have…

This is the revelation, from an interview with actor Michael Perez, about Backroom Shakespeare. Paul Edmonson says, “I was intrigued and asked him to tell me more. I’ve never come across anything quite like this before.”

Distinctively Door

This is an interview with actors Michael Perez, Jennifer Ludwigsen and David Folsom about what they find is distinctive about performing at Door Shakespeare.

From David Folsom comes the thought that the experience feels “a little down and dirty and, ‘Let’s go do this’.”

Playing King Lear in the great outdoors

Richard Ooms describes what it is like to perform in the space where “you can hear your voice bouncing off of things” and what it is like to direct at the same time, plus appear in a second play. He speaks of fast-moving demands.

Along with performing “King Lear,” Door Shakespeare this summer presented “The Comedy of Errors” in repertory, with the actors having roles in each.

Shakespeare on the Road is a work in progress, though the end is in sight. Here is the schedule: Start: Washington, D.C., Sydney Harman Hall, Shakespeare Theatre Company; July 5-6, Kansas City, Mo., Southmoreland Park, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival; July 11, New Orleans, La., Tulane University, New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane; July 13, Winedale Texas, The University of Texas in Austin, Shakespeare at Winedale; July 17, Cedar City Utah, Randall L. Jones Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival; July 26, Topanga, Calif., Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum; July 29, Ashland, Ore., Allen Elizabethan Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Aug. 3, Bozeman, Mont., Lindley Park, Bozeman, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks; Aug. 6, Baileys Harbor, Wis., Door Shakespeare; Aug. 8, Chicago, Ill., Chicago Shakespeare Theater; Aug. 11, Harlem, N.Y., Hosack Hall, Harlem Shakespeare Festival; Aug. 17, Lenox, Mass., Tina Packer Playhouse, Shakespeare & Company; Aug. 20, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, Stratford Festival; Aug. 23, Nashville, Tenn., NPT Arts Center, Nashville Shakespeare Festival; Aug. 27, Staunton, Va., The Blackfriars Playhouse, American Shakespeare Center.

Who else but William Shakespeare would inspire such a project? And it’s just part of what happens in his name around the world.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air segments on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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