July 23, 2018
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Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Summer Season Includes Eclectic Mix

Dylan Roche
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June 28, 2017

While summer usually means a vacation or hiatus for most people or groups, these months are proving to be the busiest time for the artists at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. And really, who needs the boring reruns on television or cheesy sequels at the movies when an audience can connect with the classics thanks to a professional acting troupe just a few minutes from home?

“The company is in a rep season right now,” explained Sally Boyett, Annapolis Shakespeare’s founding artistic director. “We’re doing multiple shows at the same time, either in performance or preproduction or rehearsals.”

And a diverse repertoire it is. The summer 2017 season features an laid-back parody with “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged;” an epic full-scale production of one of the Bard’s more complex works, “The Tempest;” and an original adaptation of a children’s classic, “Alice and the Book of Wonderland,” the last of which will inaugurate the new main-stage theater at the company’s facility on West Street. It’s a mix that means the company’s professional actors — some of whom appear in all three productions — have to be prepared to perform in different styles and scales throughout the summer.

What could be described as the most laid-back and accessible show of the season, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,is going on now through September 26 every Tuesday night in the courtyard of Reynold’s Tavern, where three comedians condense Shakespeare’s 37 plays into a 90-minute madcap performance. The irreverent parody has plenty of inside jokes for Shakespeare aficionados, but more than enough lighthearted hilarity to amuse even those who are less familiar with Billy’s work.

Then on July 7, “The Tempest” opens on the grounds of the historic Charles Carroll House and runs through July 23. It’s a production that Boyett simply described as “epic” and large in scale. Using the natural scenery of the outdoor garden, the production will take audiences on a journey full of mystery, music, romance and intrigue, in which the exiled duke Prospero summons a storm to shipwreck his enemies on the island where he has made himself master, but he finds forgiveness when his naïve daughter falls in love with his enemy’s son.

“It’s an experience,” Boyett said. “It’s a combination of really great theater, an outdoor setting, in a garden designed and built in the 18th century but is still completely usable and perfect for modern theater.”

For “The Tempest,” audiences can opt for VIP seating to sit in chairs provided by the company, or for general admission to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. Snacks, beer and wine will be available at an additional cost.

The season culminates with “Alice and the Book of Wonderland, running July 29 through August 20. Boyett explained that she wanted to find a classic with a draw for children and family audiences, but she was dissatisfied with every stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” she found — so she created her own.

“It’s a new work that we’ve created for the company, and it’s based on Lewis Carroll’s original,” she said. “We’ve made it a little more contemporary and appealing to a wider audience. There’s definitely something in it for adults as well as children.”

Together with Tony Tsendeas and company resident director Donald Hicken, Boyett has created a version of “Alice” that incorporates the clever humor and political satire of Carroll’s 1865 original. Although all the iconic characters will appear, the story’s episodic nature has been given a through line that, as Boyett explained, “ties the story together dramatically and gives it a nice arc.”

Now that the actors, directors and playwrights are all in rehearsal, the process has become one of discovery and tweaking to create the best product possible. “The nice thing about having the writers here is that we can try things out with the actors,” Hicken said. “If something doesn’t sound right or needs to be tweaked in some way, it’s easy to go back and do that.”

The production promises to be visually stunning, with costumes that incorporate elements of Victorian fashion with modern catwalk style (“It’s kind of outrageous,” Boyett said) and many technical effects, including smoke, lighting and projections.

Boyett hopes that no matter what people come to see at Annapolis Shakespeare Company this summer, they leave with a renewed understanding and appreciation of the classics. “Even people who are unfamiliar or even afraid of Shakespeare will love our productions, because consistently our reviews have been, especially for the comedies, ‘That didn’t feel like Shakespeare,’” Boyett said. “And that’s exactly how we approach Shakespeare. I love making the classics more accessible to a modern audience, looking at them in a different way, looking at them through more of a modern lens. It doesn’t mean we sacrifice any of the great things about them, but we take all that and put a new spin on that.”

For more information on each of the shows, to read about Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s upcoming season, or to purchase tickets to any production, visit www.annapolisshakespeare.org.

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