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shakespeare in springtime

March 22, 2012 - 9:00pm

Back in the spring of 2003, an ambitious group of local thespians decided to take a risk by boldly staging in Genesee County what no local troupe had staged here before: Shakespeare. Nine years later, "Shakespeare in Springtime" is thriving. This weekend the group is celebrating its 10th springtime with a repeat production of its first show, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

“Shakespeare wrote so many plays, and we wanted to choose something familiar that we could do justice to,” Director E. Jane Burk says of the group’s original decision to perform the show nine years ago. “It was very well-received. It showed us that there really are some people out there who are willing to come see Shakespeare.”

The characters, comedy, and iambic pentameter may be the same as it was a decade ago, but make no mistake — this show is “entirely different” and definitely “not a repeat of last time.” Whereas the pioneer effort took place in a Midwestern 1950s carnival, this time around the show has a San Francisco setting circa the 1960s. The traditional fairy characters have been changed to hippies, demonstrating, Burk explains, “the difference between establishment and anti-establishment.”

Cast members agree that despite the large gap in time periods, the play translates easily from the intended Shakespearean setting to the more contemporary backdrop.

“The characters are universal,” says Malloryann Flanagan, who has the role of Puck. “A lot of the themes are still prevalent in society and are still relevant today.”

Flanagan and her sister, Caryn Burk, are the only two cast members who also appeared in the original production. But although the majority of the ensemble did not take part in the first “Shakespeare in Springtime” show, many of them have been seen in at least one other production put on by the group. One such actor is Paul Judkins, who has the part of Egeus.

“It’s always a challenge,” says Judkins, who cites his favorite previous Shakespearean role as the title character in "Julius Caesar." “You can’t use your natural language — you have to find the meaning behind the words. At first it was mystifying.”

Derrick Pechie, who has the role of Oberon, the fairy king, agrees that understanding the language gets easier with time:

“My first lead role in a Shakespeare play was in 'Richard III' two years ago. I did not know what I was saying. But now I can read the script and right away I know what it’s talking about.”

The difficult language and seemingly hidden meanings are exactly what makes Shakespeare so attractive to cast member Shellene Bailey, however.

“The language is sneaky,” she declares. “It’s very in-depth and very funny. There are lots of jokes and innuendos. It's very beautiful.” 

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. March 22-24 and at 2 p.m. March 25 at the Harvester 56 Theater (located at 56 Harvester Ave. in Batavia). There will also be a dinner theater performance at Terry Hills on the 31st.  

March 18, 2010 - 11:59am

richard.jpg

Televisions and cameras surround the action, and music thumps out of the huge speakers. People saunter by in black leather and chains, brandishing signs and video cameras. Has Judas Priest come to town? No, it's the Batavia Players' 'Shakespeare in Springtime' production of Richard III this weekend at Batavia High School. 

"It's very contemporary," says director Jane Burk. "The show goes to a very dark place, and I wanted to take advantage of that."

The show is very dark, indeed. It follows Richard, the younger brother of King Edward IV of England, and his plot to become king -- even if it means killing whoever gets in his way. 

"The play is called 'The Tragedy of Richard III' but it is not actually a true Shakespeare tragedy," Burk explains. "It was part of a series he wrote about that specific time period in English history. It's a historical play."

"[Richard III is] pretty much a guy who's really upset because he's deformed physically, and his family has rejected him," says Anthony Giambrone of his title role, which has the second-largest number of lines of any Shakespearean character. "He basically wants to become king to make people love him."

Aside from the setting and costumes, there is another unexpected twist to the show: the performance takes place behind the curtains, in the center of a ring of chairs on stage. The audience members will be sitting in these chairs, only feet away from the action, mimicking the feel of a black-box theater.

"The Batavia Players are in the process of building a black-box theater, and we had originally hoped that this would be the first show performed there," says Burk. "So when we began rehearsals, we blocked everything in this style. Once we found out that we were going to be performing here at Batavia High instead, we decided we still wanted to keep the intimacy of a black box and not just do it straight out to the audience."

"I think it's really, really cool," says Giambrone, who has previously performed in a black-box setup. "But it's a lot harder because you have the people right there in front of you, watching you really closely." 

"It's the first show I've done like this, so it's been a challenge," says Rachel Oshlag, who has the role of Queen Elizabeth. 

Although Oshlag may be inexperienced when it comes to the setup of the stage, she is no stranger to the stage itself. This is her seventh Shakespeare show, and her twenty-first year of doing theater. 

"It becomes easier each year," she says of performing Shakespeare, "but each show is its own challenge. You have to be careful how you say the lines and make it sound as close to (real) people speaking as possible." 

"Shakespeare is poetry. There's a rhythm to it that helps a lot," says Jesse Conklin, who plays Buckingham, one of Richard's right-hand men. This is Conklin's fifth 'Shakespeare in Springtime' production.

James Earl, an Elba High School senior portraying Lord William Hastings, says that for him, the highlight of the show hasn't been the costumes or the dialogue. 

"The best part about it is that I get beheaded, and then I come on carrying my head later.  The head is a cabbage in a bag," laughs Earl. "It's a lot of fun."

Performances of Richard III are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at BHS.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.bataviaplayers.org or at the door, and are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors.

March 9, 2010 - 7:40pm
Event Date and Time: 
March 18, 2010 - 7:30pm to March 20, 2010 - 10:00pm

The Batavia Players' 2010 "Shakespeare in Springtime" pick is "Richard III." It will be performed at the Batavia High School auditorium, 260 State St.

Showtimes are as follows:

7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 19

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20

Tickets can be purchased online at the Batavia Players website or at the door, and are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors.

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