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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. 

Auld Lang Syne

Justly or not, 2016 has garnered a reputation as a rough year. But for Sweet Tea Shakespeare, it was a year of excitement, challenges, and magic. Here are some of our company members’ favorite memories and moments of the shows of 2016:

“Shut Up and Dance,” the Tinder messages, Mercutio’s Burger King crown (and the fact that Lofton Riser had to go to four different Burger Kings to find it), Catherine Kelly twerking in a nun’s habit and killing that violin solo on “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” (Romeo and JuliLIT)  –Hanna Lafko, Stage Wright

Watching Gertrude’s wine glass get bigger each time she walked on stage. Singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” while rolling a dead body up in a carpet. (HamLIT)  –Katie White, Goods Wright

Marie Lowe leading the ensemble singing “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart” to open Twelfth Night. I was missing friends and family something fierce around that time, and it was super appropriate and made me cry.  –Rachel Brune, Audience Wright

“Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and that one time that I wiped out during the invited rehearsal and had to improvise a recovery.  (Romeo and JuliLIT)  –Gabe Terry, Costume Wright

Michael Thrash pouring water on people was a particular delight. (Twelfth Night)  –Jeremy Fiebig, Artistic Director

Justin Garland singing “Kiss.” (Merchant of Venice)
Jacob French and Tyler Pow wrestling in As You Like It.
Taj Allen eating things In AYLI and Sense and Sensibility.
Greg Griffin and Paul Woolverton bobbing their heads to Ruth Nelson singing “What is Love.” (Twelfth Night)
Seeing the backyard of the Poe House in full bloom for S&S. Lofton’s bluster (and pug) in same.
Thrash in his AYLI turban.
The first time I saw Tohry Petty and Jennifer Czechowski in their Mario and Luigi mustaches. Also, when Tohry didn’t die despite the best efforts of said mustache. (Merchant)
Walking in to the church to fill in for Orlando and getting suddenly, silently hugged by Jeremy. (AYLI)
Seeing Jessica Osnoe play Elinor Dashwood in a play she adapted brilliantly. (S&S)
Joyce Borum’s coffee grounds beard. (As You Like It)
The Mayor of Fuquay-Varina chugging a beer during R&JLit.
The countless times I walked into a space Medina Demeter decorated and went, “Wow.”
Justin Toyer playing Willoughby and getting so frustrated when people didn’t like him. (S&S)
Leisa Greathouse and her husband dressing up for S&S.
The look on Mary Lynn Bain and Tyler Graeper’s faces when I told them to teach everyone their choreography for “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The look on their faces during the bed scene in R&J.
And Jennifer’s husband yelling “That’s my wife!” after she sang “Sweet Child.” (R&J)
Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have another list.  –Marie Lowe, Associate Artistic Director, Master of Audience and Lit

Duty! (HamLIT)  –Nathan Pearce, Master of Dispatch

Anytime we sing “Dear Wormwood.”
The welcoming and charming reception we always get when performing at the library. Especially during LibrariCon.
Uptown Funk during S&S
Marie and Traycie to the rescue during AYLI.
Talking with an audience member at Behold as they were describing the amazing stage for AYLI and watching his face as he realized we were in the same space transformed.
Trying to make it through the MoV trial scene while slowly being choked by a moustache.
Marie’s Gratiano in MoV.
The absolute beauty that was S&S inside and out: how the environment and the show were beautiful reflections of each other.  –Tohry Petty, Master of Gift and Hype

Seeing Marie take Lit from an idea to two successful, hilarious productions.
Gertrude’s ever-changing speech to Laertes upon revealing Ophelia’s death. (HamLIT)
Medina’s note to make “a sound of marital discontent.” (MoV)
Portia rejecting all the suitors. (MoV)
Ruth as Marianne singing “White Blank Page.” I want to cry just thinking about it. (S&S)
“Doors of Heaven” and “Like a Virgin” (Measure for Measure)
The nurse’s sudden appearance in the bed scene. Even when I knew it was going to happen, it stayed funny.  –Jennifer Czechowski, Sugars and Volunteers Fellow

Thank you so much for sharing these memorable moments with us in 2016. We hope you had a beautiful year and that you found joy, solace,  wonder, and hope in a play. Please share your own Sweet  Tea Shakespeare memories with us, and join us to make new ones in 2017. Happy New Year!