Friday, April 25th, 2014

03/09/12-04/01/12 Bare Bard Repertory: The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar

Bare Bard Repertory: The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar
For tickets click here or call 301-668-4090 or purchase at door.

Imagine stepping out onto a bare stage, looking past the footlights at a sea of expectant faces, taking a breath to begin—and stopping dead in your tracks. You have no idea where you are; you haven’t rehearsed; you don’t know what to say. It’s the classic actor’s nightmare. But it’s a feeling the actors of Maryland Shakespeare Festival deliberately seek.

From March 9 through April 1, 2012, Maryland Shakespeare Festival will stage its first-ever Bare Bard Repertory, an offering of four Shakespeare plays presented in rotation: The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, and Julius Caesar. And they will do it with only three days of rehearsal for each play.

Highly improvisational and interactive, Maryland Shakespeare Festival’s Bare Bard productions are explorations of the original practices of William Shakespeare’s company of players. Four hundred years ago, in the courts of Queen Elizabeth and King James, Shakespeare’s company was constantly turning out new plays at a breakneck pace. They changed the production they presented almost every night—and scholars believe they did it all with only a few days’ rehearsal and without the guiding hand of a director.

MSF is putting a 21st century spin on that Elizabethan production model. The actors learn their lines for each show in advance, get together briefly to work out dances, fights, physical comedy, and to run lines, and then jump on stage and perform for a live audience without any fixed staging. But the replication of Shakespeare’s circumstances doesn’t end there. The sets and costumes are minimal, as they were on the Globe stage in London. And in a nod to the Shakespearean practice of casting young boys in all the female roles, actors and actresses play roles of either gender. The actors also perform in “universal lighting,” with the playing area and audience seating area equally lit. Just as Elizabethan actors did with the lords in the balcony and the “groundlings” standing at the foot of the stage, Maryland Shakespeare Festival’s actors make eye contact with audience members, ask them questions and pause for a reply, and sometimes invite them to join in a dance or a crowd scene.

The audience is an integral part of the Bare Bard experience, and audience members are encouraged to behave as the Elizabethans would, letting themselves get caught up in the immediacy of the story and the magic of discovery.

In a Bare Bard performance of Othello, actor Andrew Borthwick-Leslie, playing Iago, turned to the audience and asked, “And what’s he then that says I play the villain?”  From the middle of the audience, someone shouted out, “I do!”

A sly grin spread across Borthwick-Leslie’s face. This was exactly the answer Iago was looking for.

The Bare Bards have been so successful with Frederick and greater Maryland audiences that the company will expand its offerings this spring. Rather than producing one Bare Bard at a time, with a few months’ breathing room in between, a single cast of actors will take on four plays at once during the month of March. It’s admittedly a challenge—but that’s exactly what Maryland Shakespeare Festival is going for.

“The pitfall of a well-rehearsed play is actors fall back on doing what they have done before, like parrots,” says company member Stephen Lorne Williams. “In a Bare Bard, we use that edge of danger to bring the story to life.”

Maryland Shakespeare Festival’s Bare Bard Repertory plays from March 9 through April 1, 2012, at All Saints Episcopal Church at 21 North Court Street in Frederick, MD.  Click here for a full schedule of the repertory and to purchase tickets. For parking information and directions click here.

Click here to purchase our Bare Bard Package which includes:

* A PAIR of tickets for each show over the course of one weekend (6 tickets for 3 shows)

* A buy one dinner get one free coupon for either Acacia, Isabella’s or Brewer’s Alley

* A Special rate for the Courtyard Marriott of $64 a night.
-From: March 9th – April 1st
-The regular weekend rate during this time period is $119 a night!

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2 Responses to “03/09/12-04/01/12 Bare Bard Repertory: The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar”
  1. Kevin says:

    I had the chance to see “The Merchant of Venice” at either Maryland Shakespeare Festival or somewhere else, both of which were roughly the same price, and same distance from where I live. I immediately decided to go to the MSFs preformance based upon how well they did with “All’s Well that Ends Well.” The actors are all fantastic, there is a great relationship with the audience, and I feel so connected with the action as it’s happening. MSF gives me what I’m looking for in a Shakespeare preformance without all of the extraneous dumbing-up that I’ve seen many other places. I know that I’m seeing the actual, authentic play, yet it also feels so fresh and modern.

    Everything is fantastic and I thoroughly hope to return.


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  1. [...] of a repertory, or mini-showcase as it were, of four Shakespeare plays going up simultaneously. Maryland Shakespeare Festival (no, it’s not the same as the Ren Fair) rotates the four shows, with one performing each [...]

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