Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Merry Romp at Rockwood with DelShakes

By Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ year veteran of community theater and retired from DuPont.

I delight every year in DelShakes’ summer festival in Rockwood Park. As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t summer if I haven’t seen Shakespeare at Rockwood! 

It’s been a joy to watch DelShakes evolve over these 17 years (yes, I’ve seen every show). From their start at Archmere Academy, to staging at Rockwood in front of the mansion, to creatively locating the stage at the perfect spot on Rockwood grounds. As a friend noted, “It just gets better every year!” 

Bradley Mott (Falstaff) and Amy Frear (Mistress Ford) in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Throughout their history, DelShakes’ mission has been to make Shakespeare accessible to all. And they continue to innovate toward that mission, most notably with the addition of the Community Tour in the fall.

DelShakes is ideal for those with little exposure to, and maybe a little nervousness about, Shakespeare. The program always includes a detailed plot synopsis. And during the delightful pre-show picnicking, the audience can enjoy and learn from the student apprentices’ “regular” language preview of the plot. This year, the preshow highlight is a funny homage to the musical Chicago.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a particularly accessible play. Shakespeare set the play in his contemporary England, and focuses on the domestic dramas of the middle class. In her notes, Director Krista Apple describes Merry Wives as “An Elizabethan sitcom.” Apple sets her production in the suburbs of the 1950s, but this sitcom is no Father Knows Best. It’s more reminiscent of 1990s sit-coms like Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond. As in many of Shakespeare’s comedies, the men are...shall we say, misguided... and the women are the real brains of the operation.

In his set design, Lance Kniskern picks up the suburban theme with the structural outlines of two houses. The partial staircase elements tipped me off that these are the quintessential home of the suburbs 
 the split-level. These structures easily represented a number of locations around the neighborhood. My only quibble is that I was a bit confused with the stage left house  the actors sometimes went through the doorway and other times narrowly skirted downstage of the doorframe, making it difficult to know if the scene was indoors or outdoors.

Merry Wives is often considered a showcase for the character of Falstaff, ably played by Bradley Mott. But what struck me in this production is what a wonderful ensemble piece it is. Through voice and physicality, each actor clearly embodies exactly who their character is, as well as the relationships between them. Brett Ashley Robinson and Amy Frear convey the genuine affection between Mistresses Page and Ford. Gregory Isaac revels in the whiplash jealousy of Master Ford. David Pica squeezes every bit of absurdity from Dr. Caius. 

I was pleased that the college apprentices are prominently featured, moreso than I recall from past shows. Each actor embraces their moment to shine, and together, the ensemble delivers non-stop hilarity.

I encourage everyone, especially Shakespeare newbies, to bring a friend, bring a picnic, and enjoy DelShakes The Merry Wives of Windsor. Maybe Shakespeare at Rockwood Park will become as much a cherished summer tradition for you as it is for me.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

DelShakes' The Comedy of Errors Delivers Madcap Fun Under the Stars

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
The Comedy of Errors stage at Rockwood Park. Photo by Alessandra Nicole.

Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can. 

Before the Stooges and the Marx Brothers, there was The Comedy of Errors.

The play, one of William Shakespeare’s earlier works, is a madcap, slapstick, double mistaken-identity romp.

True confession: While driving to the opening night performance at the beautiful Rockwood Mansion, this reviewer asked his Lovely Bride to pull up the play synopsis on her smartphone and read it to him. Arguably, to offer a written synopsis of the play will lead to frustration and confusion for both writer and reader – The Comedy of Errors simply must be experienced.

And the experience with this cast and musicians under the direction of David Stradley is delightful, fun and surprising.

Luke Brahdt and Brendan Moser play the identical twins – both named Antipholus – separated at birth by shipwreck.
Chase Byrd and Sean Close play the identical twins – both named Dromio – separated at birth by shipwreck.


(L-R): Brian Reisman (Dromio of Ephesus), Luke Brahdt (Antipholus
of Ephesus), Abdul Sesay (Officer). Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Go back and re-read those last two sentences, and you’ll see why a written synopsis can be confusing and frustrating.

[Quick side note]: If you are a high school English teacher who only has your students read Shakespeare’s plays, please stop. Allow the students to experience the power, comedy, drama, tension, fullness, beauty, grittiness and even the silliness of Shakespeare through a live performance or even a video – you will help to shape a better future for all of us. [End of side note.]

The performances by this cast are wonderfully over-the-top, the dialog is downright musical, and the choreography has all of the fun of slapstick with none of the pain.

Everything about this comedy supports the creativity and innovation that is associated with the Delaware Shakespeare Festival: a long runway for a stage with doors on wheels; colorful lighting, costuming that is at once colorful and useful (remember, two sets of twins – the costumes really help in keeping the whole thing straight); and a jazz trio – saxophone, bass, percussion – that perfectly sets and elevates the tone throughout the performance.

If you're ready for a lighthearted, fun, engaging evening, you'll want to get these tickets, pack your lawn chairs or picnic blankets and come out to Rockwood Mansion. Oh, and read the signs on the sidewalk on the way up; there’s some great information there that will make the show that much more enjoyable.

The Comedy of Errors runs for 13 performance this month, Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30pm with gates opening at 6:15pm for preshow entertainment and picnics. Sunday performances begin at 6:00pm (gates open at 4:45pm). No shows are scheduled for Monday or Tuesday nights, although Tuesday, July 26 is a rain date, if needed.

The fourth annual Janssen’s Market Picnic Contest – in which patrons bring their best spreads to compete for the coveted Picnic Contest trophy and bragging rights – will take place on Saturday, July 23. General admission to the festival is $18 (some of the most affordable live theater tickets around). Tickets are $16 for seniors (65+), and active military (and their families), with identification. Student tickets are $14. Children 5 and under are free at every performance.

Every Sunday is Family Night, with special activities for children 12 and under admitted free with a paid adult admission.

See www.delshakes.org.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Bard Meets the Tomahawk Man

By Guest Blogger, JulieAnne Cross
JulieAnne is a Wilmington-area do-gooder, specializing in public relations, communications and events, with a focus on the dining industry. Her first arts job was in the opera industry two decades ago, and she famously states that her “only talent is pushing pencils.”

Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s annual “Shakespeare/Poe, Readings from the Dark Side” began its two-week run on October 16. The fourth annual event has expanded the series’ reach with a 10-show run, with each of the three distinct, historic locations Rockwood Mansion (Wilmington), Read House (New Castle) and the Stone Stable (Odessa)  set for a limited capacity of 30. I have attended past readings at Rockwood, and can attest that the Victorian setting creates a perfect mood for the gothic-themed selections, and no doubt the colonial settings do the same.

The selections for the hour-long reading included some works familiar to returning patrons, but the theme was newly expanded to include gothic literary royalty: Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley.

  • Opening of The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare, Portions from Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 4 Scene 1
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe, Excerpt from Volume 2, Chapter 6
  • Cymbeline – from Act 2 Scene 2
  • Portions of The Pit and The Pendulum – Poe
  • Richard II – Richard monologue from Act 3 Scene 2
  • Portions of The Invisible Girl – Mary Shelley
  • Annabel Lee – Poe
  • Shakespeare or Poe? Audience Quiz
  • The Raven – Poe
  • Hamlet/Raven Mash-up (You have to hear this one to appreciate it!)
  • The Tempest – Caliban Monologue from Act 3 Scene 2
The handful of readings that repeated from 2014 were, in my opinion, critical to the series theme. It just wouldn’t be a Poe reading without the melodic (and short) Annabel Lee and it wouldn’t be Halloween season without The Raven and the Wyrd Sisters from Macbeth making an appearance. I was shocked to learn my companion had never heard Poe’s haunting love poem, but not surprised that it made an impact.

The readings from new authors were well received. The Invisible Girl gave me the kind of willies one gets from a supernatural story, whereas The Mysteries of Udolpho recalled the kind of terror Julia Roberts’ character experienced in Sleeping with the Enemy. Invisible in this case carries both a literal and metaphoric meaning that will be familiar to feminist sympathizers.

The cast consisted of James Kassees, Danielle Lenee, Matthew Mastronardi, and Megan Slater, with Mastronardi accompanying on the cello. Mastronardi’s arrangements and original compositions, including sound effects, were only applied to a handful of the readings, but to terrific effect, particularly Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum (my favorite Poe story, which, admittedly, I failed to read in favor of the Vincent Price movie version).

David Stradley (who directed the production and assembled the readings) cleverly breaks up the longer readings using the four diverse voices, and the individual cast members effectively project multiple characters in rapid succession when called for.

The guest experience was enhanced with the offering of a hot, mulled cider. I was pleased to have a chance to stretch my legs, despite there being no intermission, thanks to a quiz-off between another patron and me; we took turns listening to a line of text and guessing whether it was Shakespeare or Poe.

My 14-year-old son has attended readings before, but this was my husband’s first reading. The pace is quick, and it would be a great entrĂ©e into theater for most newbie patrons. As far as children, the content is no scarier than Scar or Ursula or Jafaar, and regularly exposing a young mind to the linguistics of centuries past may make high school Shakespeare assignments easier. I strongly encourage you to buy a ticket for the mini-goth, zombie lover or emo baby in your life – the Hamlet/Raven Mash-up should be right up their alley.

Other than a generally excellent setting, there are no lighting effects, which could be interesting in future years. The nearby parking was full, ostensibly due to activity in an adjacent building, but there is a convenient drop off point for passengers, and handicap spaces were still available nearby.

DelShakes puts on similar events around Valentine’s Day, with a “Shakespeare + St. Valentine” program planned for 2016. I’m glad the format fits with other holidays. Otherwise, I’d be awaiting the fifth annual Halloween-time reading like a kid anticipating, well, Halloween.

Some tickets remain available for late October dates. Click here to order.


Monday, May 5, 2014

It Ain’t Yo’ Mama’s Shakespeare: CTC Straight Killin’ it with 'Bomb-itty'

By Guest Blogger, Amanda Curry
Amanda is the Director of Communications for the Delaware College of Art & Design in Wilmington.


“Pack it up, Pack it in/ Let me begin…”

Yo’ Mama jokes. Adidas track pants and sneaks. Rappin’ and beatboxin’… Shakespeare?! Walking in to CTC’s production of The Bomb-itty of Errors, you’re in for an atmosphere more reminiscent of a strip club/disco than a theater, complete with a DJ droppin’ beats throughout and four poles on stage (and yes, they are used for that purpose...hilariously misused, but you’ll see). This four-actor + DJ production is a fast-paced, high-energy, “add-raptation” of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.  The show is campy, raunchy, fun and hilarious, but, you want to go in with some understanding of Comedy of Errors, otherwise you’ll get totally lost and miss a lot of the funny. And there is a lot of funny.

That said, check out a run(DMC)-down of the plot here. The gist is two sets of identical twins — one pair both named Antipholus and one pair both named Dromio — born to a legendary MC of his time and his wife.  They are forced to give the kids up for adoption and the twins are split — one Dromio and Antipholus grow up in Syracuse and the respective pair in Ephesus — each unaware of their counterpart until the end of the show. The plot gets more complicated as the show goes on, but that’s part of the fun.  As the confusion escalates, so too does the hilarity, as a variety of zany characters are introduced, all played by the same four actors.

The show is an interesting mix of Shakespearean rhyme and modern hip-hop references, set in present day NYC.  Admittedly, I was skeptical at first.  However, I was pretty much won over and thoroughly impressed with all four of the performers’ skills on the mic, as the entire show is rapped/sung.  Shakespeare alone is tough enough to spit out, but rapping Shakespeare?  Impossible.  And these guys really do tackle it like pros.  All four performers play multiple characters, signified by a simple wig/costume piece change. The stage itself — designed by Richard A. Kendrick — is pretty simplistic: the DJ in the middle and two screens on either side.  But the atmosphere is complemented well with occasional strobe lights and red gel cutouts that light up to signify three important locations: home, bar and church (lighting design by Vicki Neal).  Actors move in and out of the playing space to change behind screens, pretty much in view of the audience, so there’s quite a bit of meta-theatre happening. The staging and choreography is fun and funky complete with a whole lot of booty shakin'.  I especially loved the homage to N*Sync with a little “Bye, Bye, Bye” dance.  Mad props to Kerry Kristine McElrone and Lauren Peters for their dope costume design (i.e., choosing the track pants and sneaks that the twins wear).

The first pair of twins we meet are Dromio of Syracuse (played by Chris Banker) and Antipholus of Syracuse (played by Dyan Geringer).  Patrick O’Hara and Brendan Sheehan play the respective pair of Antipholi and Dromio(i?) of Ephesus. It was hard to choose a favorite performer/scene, as all four do a pretty commendable job of keeping you laughing for nearly two hours.  DJ Swizzul (Trent Marsh) on the turntables during the entire show provides the perfect accompaniment for these four.  Dylan Geringer (a CTC "regular") shines as the one female cast member, especially as the character of Hendelberg, a Jewish rapper/jeweler with a knack for hilariously awful “yo’ mama” joke telling.  She’s such a versatile performer and her comic timing is spot-on, as was consistent with all four actors. Patrick O’Hara plays a cross-dressing Luciana, and his interchanges with the super-funny Brendan Sheehan as a sassy Adriana, wearing a yellow sports bra and donning a red wig, are phenomenally witty, silly and fun.  More characters are introduced, including an Irish cop, a Rastafarian herbal doctor, a nerdy bike messenger, and a stripper named Desi, just to name a few.  Under Michael Gray’s direction, assisted by Tommy Fisher-Klein, the speed and seamlessmness with which the performers switch characters is nothing short of impressive.

Bomb-itty is totally irreverent and although maybe not appealing to your grandmum — unless she's a sassy, rappin’ grandma, a la The Wedding Singer — it would be entertaining to the teens in your life.  Or, looking for a fun date night? Then, get-thee-to-Bomb-itty-and-you-will-see-some-hilar-ity.  Just be sure to read that synopsis first…ya heard?!  Check it: Bomb-itty runs now through May 17 at the Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios.


See www.city-theater.org. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating the Spooky Holiday with Shakespeare & Poe

By Guest Blogger, Bradford Wason. Brad is the Founder and Director of 23rd & 5th Design Group and currently works with DMG Marketing in Greenville. He is also on the faculty of Delaware College of Art & Design, and is an ardent Wilmington Arts & Culture supporter.


DSF's actors add the appropriate "flair" to
the macabre tales by Shakespeare & Poe.
As fall fast approaches, the nights grow colder, and with it we enter the Halloween season. Traditionally, Halloween means ghosts and ghouls, masks and candy, or hayrides. But if you're looking to experience an intimate evening in the dark side of theatre, the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF) has all the mirth and matter you'll need this season. Ghosts, spirits, witches and haunting stories are included, in this mash-up of William Shakespeare plays and poems and short stories of Edgar Allen Poe. This format uniquely blends the two together in one fascinating macabre journey, as narrated by DSF veterans Caroline Crocker (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentleman of Verona), Adam Darrow (The Two Gentleman of Verona), James Kassees (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentleman of Verona), and a newcomer to DSF, Clare O'Malley.  

After its debut hit in 2012, The Shakespeare/Poe - A Night of Readings from The Dark Side returns, traveling to the gothic halls of Rockwood Mansion, the galleries of the Newark Arts Alliance and the grandeur of the Read House & Gardens in Old New Castle. As DSF Producing Artistic Director David Stradley said, "Our summer Festival audiences come from all over the area; so this year, we decided to share this fun evening in venues throughout New Castle County. I think each will bring its own interesting energy to the night."

I couldn't agree with him more, having thoroughly enjoyed the 30-seat, sold-out performance Saturday night at the Read House. The evening of readings runs just over an hour, which made for a excellent late dinner and conversation to follow.

The readings are compiled and directed by Stradley, who does a masterful job weaving the works into a continuous piece. The evening ebbs and flows, from dramatic delivery by James Kassess in The Fall of the House of Usher (Poe) to the "excited sensations" narrated by Clare O'Malley in The Masque of the Red Death (Poe). Not to be outdone by the dark short stories and poems of Poe, Adam Darrow and Caroline Crocker bring to life the juxtaposition of Poe's The Masque of the Red Death in an excerpt of Macbeth (Shakespeare), Act 3, Scene 4, where the tortured Macbeth is visited by the ghost of Banquo.

I appreciated the narrative notes and short quips added by the cast to lighten the mood and provide background. Although the evening is rooted in macabre storytelling — such as an excerpt from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, or Poe's The Raven — it provides more humorous moments, such as the Hamlet/Raven Mash-up read by the Ensemble. The audience gave a good chuckle to fill out the room as the evening ended with Caroline Crocker's narration of the Caliban Monologue – Act 3, Scene 2, from The Tempest (Shakespeare).

"Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet aires that give delight and hurt not."

If you're looking to enlighten and indulge your senses, this short, intimate evening by the Delaware Shakespeare Festival is not to be missed! ONLY at www.delshakes.org.