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Coming Soon to a Living Room Near You!

Where are my fellow introverts?

Earlier this week, I was discussing with Assistant Artistic Director Claire Martin some of the ingenuity that has been birthed from necessity this year. As we discussed the recent live stream performance of The Rover she directed as part of the Digital Restoration Series. As artists, we have had to learn how to keep the integral parts of a Sweet Tea Shakespeare performance, such as audience interaction and intimate scenes over Zoom. As we talked, I was amazed to see that it was in fact possible to still integrate these elements, opening doors to new opportunities, such as working with artists from all over the globe. 

One of my favorite opportunities, as an introvert, is the ability to watch theatre from the comfort of my living room, something nearly unimaginable back in March. Shakespeare in pajamas? Count me in! Next on the docket is our filmed live action production of Shakespeare’s Knight’s Tale, otherwise known as Two Noble Kinsmen. Inspired by Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, this story follows the tale of two knights captured by Theseus, Duke of Athens, and their love for an inspiring woman of the court, Emilia. Trouble stirs when the daughter of their jailer falls in love with one of them and sets in motion a series of events that rocks the life of everyone involved. Both celebratory and serious, Knight’s Tale is a beautiful, visually inspiring, and sensory play. I had the privilege to work on this production, so I hope many will take the opportunity to watch. It really could not be any simpler. Buy your tickets, grab your snacks, put on your cozy pants, and curl up in front of the tv for a Sweet Tea Shakespeare experience in your living room. Stir up your tickets here.

Peace, Love, and Shakespeare, 

Jessie

What’s Brewing?

“How was your day?”

This question opened tonight’s rehearsal for the next Sweet Tea Shakespeare Hours concert installment, as we waited on musicians and vocalists to trickle in from their day jobs. The verdict: It was a very Monday kind of day for many of us. So as we waited for our company to assemble, we spilled the tea of how our day had been thus far. And we spilled that tea, knowing that we all cared to hear each other’s answer, and that it mattered. (Empathy. Theatre teaches it. It’s pretty awesome.)

Once most of us assembled, we prepared to get down to business. But not before company member and the concert music director for this installment, Aaron Alderman, made us all stand up and shake off all the junk from earlier today. It reminded me of why we gather together to make music, to make theatre. We gather for community. We gather for escape from the mundane and the frustrating parts of life. I imagine this is why Shakespeare and his contemporaries gathered as well. I like to think this was the reason.

So yes, we are stirring up a new concert installment for you for later release, as well as some new podcast episodes and radio theatre performance. Not to mention that Green Tea is working on filming their production of The Magician’s Nephew. Exciting things are coming. And we are excited to share it with you. But we are also excited to gather around as a community, and shake off the junk life throws. We hope you will join us.

Green Tea Twelfth Night

What Theatre Can Do

I acted in my first play when I was 12 years old. It was the musical Oliver! at a small community theatre. I played an orphan boy in the ensemble. I had grown up to that point singing in the children’s choir at church and taking ballet lessons, but this was my first real experience acting. Little did I know then how much it would impact my life.

I would later go on to earn my undergraduate and graduate degrees in theatre, focusing in on education. If you have ever spent time teaching an art, you understand the importance of being able to communicate why your art is vital to the educational experience of every child. I have spent a lot of time dedicated to answering that question for myself. Why is theatre important? Why is it an important part of child development? I have listed some (this is by no means comprehensive) below:

  • Theatre teaches empathy
  • Theatre fosters creativity
  • Theatre promotes literature and other art forms
  • Theatre teaches history
  • Theatre builds self esteem
  • Theatre teaches that people have different gifts, and that it takes all these gifts to create theatre magic

The list could go on and on. And when you throw Shakespeare in the mix, you add in language skills as well. Here at Sweet Tea Shakespeare, we have long known that Shakespeare and theatre are not just for the grown ups, inspiring our Green Tea program. We are thrilled to have recently extended that offering to younger students, now reaching those as young as in elementary school! It’s not just work though. Our instructors know how to bring the fun! This is a great opportunity for kids of all ages to break out of the ordinary, have fun, socialize, and learn something new! But if you are not a kid, or if your child is not quite ready to take the leap into Green Tea yet, that’s ok. There’s still ways to reap the benefits from theatre. Be an audience member and support our Green Tea actors by coming to our production of The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis as dramatized by Aurand Harris. It’s a magical experience you won’t want to miss!

 

Hope to see you there!

Jessie Wise

Discourse Fellow

Gather ‘Round the Table

One thing you might learn after attending a Sweet Tea Shakespeare performance or two is that Shakespeare is not where our passion ends. As often as possible, we love to make food and drink offerings available for purchase and to enjoy during our shows. We love to highlight local businesses, and occasionally perform at local restaurants, bars, and breweries.

But beyond edible fare at our plays, the company loves to gather around a table. Traditionally, (though not in our current environment) the first rehearsal of a play starts with a meeting, a read-through, and a good old fashioned potluck. There is nothing like bonding around a table!

Though things may be a little different right now, we hope you will still join us in gathering ’round the table- right from the comfort of your own home. Sweet Tea Shakespeare brings you our Hours podcast series, including After Hours, Cocktail Hours, and Lunch Hours.  In this podcast, we explore Shakespeare’s plays, staging practices, and just all the little things that go on in making a play. Join us for exclusive content and interviews with actors, directors, designers, crew, and all the wonderful people who make Sweet Tea Shakespeare happen! This content is exclusively available for download for our Patreon members, for just $5 a month! Pull up a chair, grab a drink and maybe a sandwich, and enjoy good old conversations between our company members and friends.

This project is supported by the Arts Council in part by contributions from businesses and individuals, and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

Shakespeare in the Digital Age: How Sweet Tea Shakespeare Builds Community in a Time of Isolation

Today, as I was recording the latest Sweet Tea Shakespeare Cocktail Hour Podcast with Claire Martin, we lamented the current lack of live (in person) theatre. Our lamenting quickly turned to celebrating, however, as we realized how fortunate we are to live in the digital age: the age of Zoom, of podcasts, and of Facebook live-streams. For many artists, both amateur and professional, we have found solace in our online rehearsals. Particularly here at Sweet Tea Shakespeare, we have built and grown our online community.

As North Carolina’s stay at home went into effect, Sweet Tea Shakespeare was gearing up to begin rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Traditionally, we begin our first rehearsal for each production with a meeting and a potluck (as one does in the south). We were saddened not to have our usual community building meet-and-greet with old and new cast members alike, but promised ourselves we’d soon be in the same room. As time went on, and it became apparent we weren’t leaving our respective homes anytime soon, we sought comfort in the community we built around a Shakespeare comedy and many Zoom calls. It became a place where we laughed, exchanged fears, and learned from one another.

As Claire and I continued to talk today, we realized we had not built just a community of comfort for ourselves, but as we engaged in this digital platform, we created a space with a level playing field. A space for creativity. A learning community where artists, teachers, designers, and technicians could gather for a common goal and learn from each other. And learn we have. We have taken our performances digital, converting full length plays into audio dramas and filmed productions. We have found ways to still engage with live audiences through live-streamed concerts and our podcast series. While nothing about the end of our 2019-2020 season was ideal, we have pushed forward and grown, I believe, as a company and as a larger community. I am grateful to have had Sweet Tea Shakespeare in my life the last several months, and hope you can say the same. If you are new to us, welcome!

Please join our community for several of our productions (digitally!) that we have coming up soon.  We hope to see you there! You can get tickets here.

 

Peace, Love, and Shakespeare,

Jessie Wise

Discourse Fellow

 

P.S. Enjoy the photo of my husband and I back when live performances were still a thing, at STS’s Macbeth!

Shakespeare’s Audiences are Still Lit!

Written by Jessie Wise, Company Wright

I’ve always loved Shakespeare, but despite earning my bachelors degree in Theatre Arts Education and my masters degree in Theatre History and Criticism, outside of classwork I had never had the chance to really get involved with the plays. After losing my theatre teaching position due to budget cuts, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to get back to the theatre game. Early this year, I spotted an ad in the local paper for auditions for Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s summer shows and knew I had to take the leap to get back involved. One play later, I now am stepping further into this wonderful theatre community to help with some writing and dramaturgical projects. I look forward to the opportunity to share just why I love Shakespeare. 

As Sweet Tea Shakespeare prepares to bring HamLit to the stage this fall, I’ve been thinking about all the ways Shakespeare’s writing remains relevant to today’s audiences. While there is much to be said for how the Bard captures humanity in his works (a blog for another day), I have also been considering how though times have changed from the Elizabethan era, the audience’s needs remain the same. 

Shakespeare’s original audiences came to the open air theatre of the Globe to see a performance and received an experience similar to the sports events of today. They ate,drank, and had the freedom to move about. Those in the floor section, often referred to as the groundlings, could move closer to the stage for a better view. 

This is very much a practice we believe in at Sweet Tea Shakespeare. We provide food and beverage offerings for sale. We have a “sit where you will” and “move as you need” policy, allowing audience members to find explore new perspectives by moving around the seating area, and also acknowledging that humans need movement. 

The atmosphere is akin to what you find at today’s breweries. Grab a beer. Visit the food truck. Pick a seat. Spot a friend. Switch seats to sit with them. Grab another beer. This is what you’ll find as Sweet Tea Shakespeare brings HamLit to local bars and breweries this fall. We hope to see you there!