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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. 

Finding the Love

By Hannah Marks

“We’re going to audition for a drunk Shakespeare show. Do you want to come?”

That was my first introduction to Sweet Tea Shakespeare. After moving in to our new apartment in Raleigh, my roommates said that they were making the drive out to Fayetteville to audition for a company that was doing a “lit” version of Romeo and Juliet.

“Sounds like fun,”  I said, and went right back to drinking my well-deserved margarita. A few days later, when they told me that they were cast as the titular characters, I don’t think any of us knew just how much this “drunk Shakespeare thing” would change us–as performers, and as people.

Romeo and JuliLit was the first thing I’d ever seen from STS. I was blown away by the way the  modern music and jokes fit in with Shakespeare’s text. Everyone knew what they were saying and why they were saying. They sounded like….real people, not actors standing on stage holding a skull lamenting about poor Yorick. Now, I’m a musical theatre girl. I grew up singing and being in chorus classes, but I never started doing theatre seriously until my junior year of high school. My junior year of college, I was in a production of Twelfth Night. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I thought I was the worst person in the show. In fact, I almost didn’t audition for it because I always thought that Shakespeare was for the most elite actors, and I just didn’t fit into that part. But at STS, they showed me that Shakespeare can be fun and real. I was obsessed.

The moment that I clearly remember needing to be a part of a Sweet Tea show was in July of 2017. My roommate Tyler was the male lead in Cymbeline, and so our other roommate Mary Lynn and I drove up to see one Shakespeare’s lesser-known shows (at least to us). Mary Lynn and Tyler have been in several STS shows, and they’re fan favorites–not that I’m biased or anything. So we arrived at the Poe House and I was immediately breathless. This backyard was transformed into a wonderland. Fairy lights illuminated all different kinds and colors of fabrics, preshow was just starting, and the sweet tea was flowing. People were sitting on blankets or in lawn chairs, and the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society was there with animals you could adopt . Tyler ended up adopting a little chihuahua named Queso, who made his stage debut that night. It was the perfect scene.  Even after we had to move inside due to a thunderstorm, I was still in awe. Cymbeline was one of the most beautiful shows I had ever seen, and it still remains my favorite STS show. I had been hounded to audition by several people, but the timing never worked out. When the opportunity to be in Pericles came, I grabbed it. This has been unlike any other experience I’ve had. We joke around in rehearsals, we make up things when we don’t know what to do, and we are over the top, as most theatre people are. But when you strip away the sets, and the music, and the costumes, only two things remain: you have to find the honesty in the moments. You have to find the love. Throughout Pericles, and my entire interaction with STS, I’ve been welcomed into this circle of artists and fallen in love again, with these people, with Shakespeare, with theatre. And that’s been the greatest gift I could ask for.

Fall in love with Pericles and The Tempest! Tickets available at http://sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets.

Photo Credit: Thistle & Sun Photography

Better Know a Venue: Cape Fear Botanical Garden

Much of the action of LITsummer takes place in the forest, so what could be more appropriate than seeing it in a garden? And not just any garden–Fayetteville’s fixture for flora, Cape Fear Botanical Garden. Taryn Hughes, CFBG’s marketing manager, answered some questions about this local favorite.

What makes Cape Fear Botanical Garden a great place to see a show?

Cape Fear Botanical Garden is the best place to see a show because of the beautiful natural backdrops our venue has to offer. Shakespeare was historically performed in outside theaters, so the Garden is the perfect place to reconnect with the history of seeing a Shakespearean play.

What is your favorite event you’ve held?

We have several wonderful events. One of my personal favorites is Homegrown Arts Festival. We bring local, “homegrown” Fayetteville artists into the Garden to showcase their work. We hope to grow it every year to include all forms of art! It’s a wonderful feeling seeing the community support their local artists and to see the artists support each other too.

What made you decide to host another LIT performance?

We decided to host another LIT performance because we love to support the arts. We think the LIT series is a wonderful, quirky event Fayetteville offers, and we want to be a part of it!

What draws people to the Garden?

The Garden offers engaging cultural events to inspire and excite, educational activities to energize, and peaceful spots to refresh. Visitors of all ages are welcome.

Host to any special occasion, our lovely Wyatt Visitors Pavilion Complex is the perfect complement to our Garden and the venue for weddings, business and military functions, workshops and more. Guests can stroll along our scenic river trail with water views, take in a guided tour, relax on our patio overlooking the Cypress Pond, and take home the perfect gift from our destination gift shop.

The mission of Cape Fear Botanical Garden is to transform people’s relationship with plants and the natural world.  We look forward to your visit!

LITsummer will be at Cape Fear Botanical Garden on November 16 and 17. Click here for tickets!  

Better Know a Venue: Leclair’s General Store

Leclair’s General Store is new to Fayetteville and to LIT. It’s a great place to get coffee, meet friends, and buy cool stuff. I talked to Patrick, the proprietor of Leclair’s, to find out what makes it special.

Where did the idea for Leclair’s General Store come from?

It came from the old fashioned general store: you know, the Norman Rockwell kind of scene of old-fashioned Americana, which used to be around in the early 1900s through about the 1950s and sort of went away.

But I started to see a lot of photos of these really cool general stores. If you Google “general store,” you see lots of photos of these really cool stores with just a mix of products. And I said, “Well, what if I could pick out the products that still felt relevant but had that charm and that vibe. And then we were like, let’s put things in that we know people like. The old-fashioned general stores might have carried medicines, soaps, feed, seed, but the new general store would have the stuff that people love now–your favorite products from today, and then some from yesterday.Read More

Spontaneity and Sass

By Alexcia Thompson, Hermia in LITsummer 

When I heard that Sweet Tea was having auditions for Hermia in LITsummer, I was ecstatic! The audition process was quick and casual due to the welcoming nature and efficiency of the Sweet Tea team, and I was extremely happy when I received the message that I made the show. I had casually admired the company’s Facebook and YouTube page from afar. I really appreciate the fun way they approach classical texts.Read More