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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! 

Come Join Us for HamLIT!

Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s LIT series is going back to its roots with a return to the original installment of the LIT series: HamLIT. It’s the tragedy of the Danish prince paired with improv comedy, live music, and drinking games for an evening of Shakespeare, distilled. We are so excited to bring this fan favorite back to our audiences this fall.

HamLIT is directed by Taj Allen, Traycie Kuhn Zapata, and Nathan Pearce.  

The show will be performed at several venues throughout the region:

Friday, Oct. 4 & Friday, November 1 | Arts Council

Thursday, October 10 | Dirtbag Ales

Friday & Saturday October 18-19 and Friday & Saturday November 8-9 | Hugger Mugger Brewing, Sanford

Friday, October 11 , Thursday, October 24th & Saturday, October 26th | Paddy’s

Sunday, October 13 | Fainting Goat Fuquay-Varina

Sunday, October 27th | Fainting Goat Benson

All shows are preceded by our What You Will musical preshow. Food will be available for purchase. 

To see HamLIT in action, get your tickets at sweetteashakespeare.com. 

Crash Course on Timon of Athens

Before settling down on a lawn chair or quilt to watch Green Tea’s production,Timon of Athens, here’s a quick overview of the plot. 

The play opens with the introduction of Timon- a kind aristocrat in Athens with a severe spending habit. When Timon finds himself confronted with debts, his steward, Flavius, can do little more than tell him that he is bankrupt. Timon then sends his servants to ask his friends for help, only to find that no one will lend him money to repay his debt. In a rage, Timon invites them all to one last feast, severing the main dish- stones and warm water. After this, Timon denounces his former friends and all of mankind. 

Meanwhile, Alcibiades, a captain of Athens, has been pleading against a death sentence given to one of his men. For his persistence, the Senate banishes Alcibiades. Despising the Senate for banishing him, Alcibiades decides to turn his army against Athens in revenge and hears about Timon who has left Athens to live as a hermit. 

Timon, looking for food in the wilderness, finds a hidden stash of gold. Alcibiades finds Timon and tries to befriend him by offering him money. When Timon hears of Alcibiades’ plan to destroy Athens, Timon gives Alcibiades gold to pay his men and march to Athens. Timon even sends away his former steward, Flavius, although with gold in his pockets and more kindness than he has shown to anyone else. 

Alcibiades arrives at the gates of Athens. The senators attempt to defend the city, explaining that not everyone in Athens insulted Alcibiades and Timon, and they ask that Alcibiades come into the city in peace. 

To find out how Alcibiades acts once in Athens, come to see Green Tea’s production of Timon of Athens under the stars, August 21-23. Get your tickets to see the play in action at sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets. 

Interview with Aaron Alderman

As we are getting ready to open Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor, we had the chance to interview Aaron Alderman on his experiences playing both Richard and Falstaff.

What drew you to playing Richard and Falstaff?

The short answer: I was asked. The more honest answer is that I first agreed to play Richard. When given the opportunity to play one of the greatest written roles with a company that I love and respect, very few things could compel me to say no. Falstaff was a role I’d preformed before and thoroughly enjoyed, and I was excited at the opportunity to play again.

What are the similarities between Richard and Falstaff?

The similarities are few but ones I find intriguing. There are two notable answers. They’re both men who have survived massive wars, and they are both men of notably unusual physicality.

What are the differences?

While there are many differences, the most notable are how they deal with their commonalities.

Richard thrived in war, Falstaff got through it. Richard cannot bear to be bored and left alone with himself, so much so that he murders enemies and friends to take over his kingdom. Falstaff would just as soon goof around and have the rest of his life be nothing but weekend partying followed by a lazy Sunday.

Richard is full of self loathing, and he has been told his whole life that he is disgusting and he despises the world for it, with a special destain for women. Falstaff is called or alluded to as fat at every given opportunity and he still thinks he’s God’s gift to the human race. He truly believes all women want him and all men want to be him (they just don’t know it yet).

How has playing both of these characters in repertory stretched you as an actor?

Goodness, I mean there’s the simple weight of the amount of text itself that’s difficult. The real challenge I find is the switch between characters. I likened it recently to the sport of Chess Boxing, where you box and play chess alternating at 5 minute intervals. The whole point being to physically engage, while keeping your mind lucid and alert, and conversely to engage your mind heavily without deactivating your body to let it cool… so yeah… it’s a bit like that.

Why should people see Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor?

These shows are very different experiences, and each one on their own will be a fun and magical engagement. However, combined, they are like coffee and cream and will leave, I believe, a happily satiated audience.

Get your tickets to see these plays in action at sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets.

 

Free WoCo Concert & Season Reveal on June 11

Sweet Tea Shakespeare invites you to join us for a season reveal party featuring a concert by our house band, The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers (affectionately known as WoCo).

The event will take place on Tuesday, June 11 at 7p.m. at the 1897 Poe House (801 Arsenal Avenue). Food will be available for purchase, along with craft beer and wine.

Grab a lawn chair and come on out for some foot-stomping, heart-stirring music and to get a sneak preview of the stories that Sweet Tea Shakespeare will be bringing you next season.

How Not to Write a Play, or Why the Tea is Cold

by Jessica Osnoe, writer and director of Maid Marian

      If I sit down to write a play, I’ll invariably want some tea for the process. Of course, making tea is a process unto itself in my house. So, I go first to the tea cabinet (yes, it has its own cabinet) to decide which brew will most suit my mood and the scene(s) I feel like writing today. Do I need a rich, robust flavor that can sustain a touch of milk for ploughing through some dense action? (A fascinating flavor profile is Fortnum and Mason Smoky Earl Grey, which I swear smells like Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.) Do I want something citrusy and exotic to inspire new ideas? (My favorite here: Fortnum and Mason Countess Grey.) Should I go for something floral and fruity with a touch of honey to be series-appropriate? #Honey (Harney and Sons Tower of London is unparalleled for this flavor blend in my experience.) This could go on for a while….
       Once I settle on a tea choice and turn on the kettle, there’s the question of a vessel. A mug or a pot? Does the setup need to be Instagram-worthy? If I make a pot of tea to last me for the duration, of course it should be in the Robin Hood teapot. As I pull the teapot off the shelf, of course I wonder about the story of the action it depicts. Did Robin and his Merry Men actually venture so boldly to the local pub, bask in the sun and raise a tankard of ale? Naturally, I’ll want to investigate this possibility in the legends.
      Whilst spiraling down this tunnel of digital inquiry, the kettle whistles and reminds me to brew the tea which I set out to make in the first place. The smell of the tea brewing (Tower of London, for those curious as to my final choice) reminds me that I wanted to look up different kinds of fruit trees native to English forests that might be relevant to the story. I’ll add that to my must-google list, because I have learned the hard way not to leave tea steeping too long. Having steeped the tea and replaced the thatched-roof lid of the pot, I go to choose a teacup, a process which can be as involved as the tea or teapot selection.
     Fortunately, I’m distracted at this point by an idea for introducing a character, so I stop in my path to sit down and type out the scene. Halfway through, I wonder where in the story it should occur and if another character should or should not be present as well. *Cue mental wandering* Half an hour later, I get thirsty and remember that once upon a time, I made tea. Alas, the tea is cold, but I have a scene. So begins the play.