Shakespeare on the professional circuit is as popular as ever, the RSC and Globe are thriving and groups like Sh!t Faced Shakespeare are keeping the bard alive and well at every theatre festival going. So why don’t we see more amateur Shakespeare productions? It doesn’t mean it has to become part of your yearly programme but there’s certainly no reason why it can’t fill one of your slots every year or so. In this blog, I’ll be taking all things Shakespeare, the trials, the tribulations and the challenges.
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All the world’s a stage
As Shakespeare himself wrote, all the world is a stage and some of the cleverest productions of recent times are using different performance spaces and settings to bring the 400-year-old plays to life. Macbeth in a cathedral or even at a local sheep fair. So what’s stopping amateur companies setting Shakespeare in unusual locations? Tech is often less necessary in sit-specific productions and audiences can do quaint things like sit and eat a picnic during the show or follow the cast around the area as they move from scene to scene.
Here’s some ideas of what you could do to shake things up a bit:
- Place Twelfth Night in the heart of the farming community where Viola is Orsino’s farm-hand and Sebastian is lost in a heard of cattle.
- Perform As You Like It in your local forest or wooded area and have the audience follow you through the wood as the light fades and turns to evening.
- Put on Measure for Measure in a monastery.
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Once more unto the breach
Be brave. Tackling Shakespeare is not an easy task but it is so rewarding. You’re likely to come up against resistance from cast and crew, from audiences and from venues sometimes. Just always remember that sometimes the most challenging work can be the best to do. Often I’ve found a real sense of accomplishment from performing and Directing Shakespeare as people put so much effort into it, it seems so worth it at the end. If you’re brave enough to suggest performing it and follow that through then people will really respect you for it.
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To be or not to be, that is the question
If you do decide to put on an amateur production of Shakespeare, don’t forget that ticket sales might be tricky. Think of some clever marketing strategies and involve as many children as you can. Make sure the community knows that the production will not be frumpy and old fashioned (and then make sure that the production is not frumpy and old fashioned!). At the end of the day, if it’s something that you enjoy doing and you think you can balance those all important books then go for it. It’s sure to be a success with your hard work behind it.
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With Shakespeare fever hitting the country, surely there’s no better time than this to delve into the beautiful words of the Bard and submerge you and your group in a bit of Bill.