Shakespeare & Community Theater — It’s A Timeless Combination
William Shakespeare once said, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
In the same way, inspiration and joy radiates a great deal from grassroots theatre productions. In a time where a large percentage of popular media suffers due to mainstream conformity, it is increasingly more important that people take the chances offered to experience as well as engage community arts productions, especially when the material holds such cultural importance as William Shakespeare.
Fortunately, those of Merced will have such an opportunity thanks to Merced Shakespearefest’s upcoming performances of “All’s Well That Ends Well” at the Multicultural Arts Center (MAC). The shows will run for the next two weekends, March 3-12, at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, in addition to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
With its roots all the way back in 2002, Merced Shakespearefest has had the pleasure of covering the more well-known Shakespearian plays and working with a vast array of performers. This year, things take a turn for the obscure, which comes with its own unique pros and cons.
“After directing so many Shakespeare plays in the last 20 years, I have developed a real love for the more unknown gems in the Shakespeare canon,” says Director Heike Hambley, when reflecting on the production. “It is an adventure for cast and director to discover what this play is about and make it understandable for the audience. Here is a story about love and marriage, also about conflict and disappointment. Arrogant characters fail and honesty is rewarded.”
Although for most, one’s experience with theater starts and ends with a seat in a crowd, for some it is an entire lifestyle. Many members of the cast have been performing and participating in the arts for decades and counting. For those with any lingering interest, or have taken a long break and are unsure of when or how to return to the performing arts, perhaps even Shakespeare, local actress Claudia Boehm says you should consider auditioning or finding ways to get involved. “Go for it,” exclaims Boehm, who is cast as the Countess in the current production. “There is so much you have to gain; you just have to be brave enough to take the leap.”
No matter what you are “good at” or like to do, there are plenty of roles, both on and off the stage that are key in putting on a show. When asked by the Times about what advice he could offer aspiring artists, actor Colton Dennis said: “The arts are there for all of us, at any stage of our lives. It’s never too late, and it most certainly is never too soon to start. It is the best way through which we can explore and express ourselves.”
Dennis, who also serves as the MAC director, is cast as Lord Dumaine Brother #1.
Some of you may be wondering, why should you take your time to see some random play from the 1600s? Well, the reason is simply because it is rich material that has shattered the test of time due to its raw cleverness, entertainment value, and incredible flexibility.
While the play has been done thousands of times over the centuries, every production, whether due to the time, place, or other variables, is a unique experience.
“I may be biased in my opinion, as I have loved Shakespeare for so long, but I think it’s because his shows at their heart can be relatable in every generation,” says Robyn Swain, cast as the Widow, when asked the same question (however, in more formal words). “Now of course everything is in a wider dramatic scale; however, you can see in modern adaptations that it still works. ’10 Things I Hate About You,’ ‘Deliver Us from Eva,’ ‘Gnomeo and Juliet,’ even the ‘Lion King’— they are all Shakespeare based, and some are loved through generations. Also, he is the reason for so much of our common vernacular, as his made-up language, laid a basis for our linguistic pattern today.”
Michael Abruzzo, aka the King of France, had this to say: “Shakespeare is performed all over because his themes and characters are timeless and celebrate the human spirit — plus the writing is beautiful, funny and often very powerful!”
You can buy tickets at the door; ticket prices are on a sliding scale from $10 to $20. The MAC is located at 645 W. Main Street. For more information call (209) 723-3265, or go online to: mercedshakespearefest.org.