This year, seeing a live performance of a Shakespeare play will be more than a midsummer night’s dream. Shakespeare Dallas is back at the Samuell-Grand Park Amphitheater in Dallas with a new summer season for Bard lovers.
The summer season begins with the War of the Roses, a staged reading of Shakespeare’s history plays, including Henry VI Part I, Henry VI Part II, Henry VI Part III and Richard III. The reading spans a single weekend, May 22-23.
Raphael Parry, executive and artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas, performs at the War of the Roses, discover new aspects of English history.
“What fascinated me was how bloody the English monarchy was. It’s crazy, ”Parry said. “It’s a bloodbath. It’s really intense and it’s English history. Shakespeare spiced it up a bit, but that’s basically the fact that that’s what happened during the War of the Roses era.
Shakespeare Dallas commissioned Hamlet Project by playwrights Migdalia Cruz and Erik Ehn. The world premiere event, June 3-13, features 16 actors performing one-person interpretations of Shakespeare. Hamlet.
The summer season ends with Shakespeare’s Complete Works [Abridged] [Revised], from June 30 to July 24. The comic parody of the entire Shakespearean canon is performed by only three actors.
Even as pandemic guidelines change, Shakespeare Dallas remains focused on social distancing, on stage, behind the scenes and in the park.
“Each of these programs that we offer has an element of social distancing for performers and audiences,” Parry said.
For War of the Roses, the actors will read in stationary positions six feet apart. Hamlet Project only features two actors at a time. With a cast of three, Shakespeare’s Complete Works [Abridged] [Revised] is great for social distancing. For all shows, there will be social distancing behind the scenes and in the locker room and no one will share a mic.
Actors take another important precaution.
“Very early on, we talked to the actors and they had been vaccinated after their casting so we were like, ‘Alright, great! “” Parry said.
During the indoor rehearsals, everyone wore masks. the War of the Roses has been fully repeated on Zoom.
“It’s hard!” Parry said.
The theater company encourages patrons to wear masks when moving around the park. Shakespeare Dallas limits the amphitheater’s capacity from 1,200 to 500. Guests will sit socially distant in the grassy seating area and are encouraged to remove masks when seated. There will be socially distant lines and separate entrances and exits for the bathrooms. After the performances, the amphitheater will be carefully cleaned.
This summer season comes after a year of pandemic uncertainty, mirroring Shakespeare’s theatrical life.
“We know that Shakespeare wrote several of his major plays during the pandemic like King Lear was written when London was closed due to the plague. So there was a little more insight when he referred to the plague in his plays which now makes a lot of emotional sense to me, ”Parry said. “This is not a casual gesture, knowing that they were also isolated and locked up in London. So I think we have a clearer picture of what the Elizabethans were facing at many points in Shakespeare’s writing. It wasn’t fun.
As the theater company systematically canceled its scheduled 2020 season, the staff created new digital programming.
“We made a very strong pivot to virtual programming very quickly when the pandemic started,” Parry said.
Backed by a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan that kept his staff of seven people employed, Shakespeare Dallas created a series of free digital education programs that included a four-person program. Romeo and Juliet, a six-hour lesson series of Shakespeare’s plays and a series on Shakespeare’s language, his invention of words and Elizabethan history.
The educational programs reached people across the country and some new fans in England.
“We are reaching a whole new audience with our virtual educational programs,” Parry said.
For adults, the theater company has created virtual events for members, including a holiday cooking class, Shakespeare and the suffragists, a short film celebrating the 19e Amendment and exploration of the link between the suffragist movement and Shakespeare, and Shakespeare decoded, a podcast on contemporary issues reflected in the works of Shakespeare.
Parry anticipates that these virtual programs will continue as the company returns to live performances.
“The pandemic has forced us to be creative and through that we have spawned programs that excite us and give us future geographic reach,” Parry said.
In preparation for Shakespeare Dallas’ 50th season starting this fall, the theater company has undergone a rebranding process. The theater’s new slogan, “the theater of the people”, emphasizes its link with the community.
“We want to make sure we’re serving all of the Dallas communities that we can,” Parry said. “We are trying a number of programmatic things to lower that threshold of fear about Shakespeare.”
Parry is looking forward to seeing this community in person for the first time in over a year.
“We have a very loyal group of members who are looking forward to going out to the park this weekend and maybe going out twice and maybe seeing every performance of. Hamlet Project just to see the differences, ”Parry said. “I think it’s great!”
Learn more: https://www.shakespearedallas.org/