Entertainment and Inspiration

By Justine Mackey, Bianca/Musician/Gentleman/Soldier in Othello

Growing up in New York, I experienced my fair share of the arts, from local community theatres, to summer stock, to theatre in the park, and of course the wonders of Broadway.  Discovering what theatre can do for a community and, more importantly, what the arts can do for a generation has certainly become a passion of mine. One of the reasons I fell in love with the works of William Shakespeare is that I was blown away by the fact that a playwright who lived and wrote over 400 years ago could capture the essence of life and people so perfectly. It spoke to me, a young girl living in a generation centuries beyond the Bard’s moments of greatness.

For this same reason, I have fallen in love with the heart of Sweet Tea Shakespeare.

Within my first week of rehearsing, I learned how special the resident company members of STS are and quickly witnessed how welcoming and generous this group is.  Their commitment to growth and bringing in more and more guest artists each year is inspiring to say the least, and I am humbled to be a part of this season.  In the six weeks I have been here, I feel as though I have become part of a family that I will have for a lifetime.  The arts matter, and watching STS strive to connect with its community, creating an atmosphere that supports the arts in a time when it matters the most and in a military town where at times families must endure separation is inspiring to anyone with a dream and a passion for humanity.

I heard about STS from our alumni page for Mary Baldwin University’s Shakespeare and Performance program.  I was intrigued by the success of a fellow graduate and fascinated by the thought of summer theatre under the stars, which made me nostalgic for performing as a young adult, outdoors in upstate New York. This summer, I am honored to be performing under the stars once again, playing Bianca, a musician, a Gentleman, and a Soldier as a guest artist with STS’s production of Othello.

Othello is unique in that it captures the essence of human traits, especially in challenging moments, or when fake stories begins to spread like wildfire.  Deception, lies, death, and discrimination are all reasons why this play is so relevant to the here and now and why I feel honored to be a part of a story so powerful and beautiful.  I assure you, you do not want to miss this closing weekend of Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s Othello.

Theatre Connects

By Evie King,  Duke/Soldier/Lodovico in Othello

I move around. A lot.

I love it, but that means every time I move somewhere, I have to decide how and where I want to get involved. When we moved to Fayetteville, I found a vibrant theater community, and I knew right away that I wanted to start auditioning. Right now Facebook has a banner that says “Theatre Inspires,” and while that is true, a more relevant banner for me would say “Theatre Connects.”

What I love about working with Sweet Tea Shakespeare is the interesting tapestry of people who weave together a performance. During Othello, I work beside educators, students, business professionals, volunteers, and many other leaders connected to the Fayetteville community in a different way. Some have lived here their entire lives, others are transient, and many chose to move here and make Fayetteville their home. During the day, we’re all doing something completely different, but at night our passion for putting on a performance brings us together. We are actors, musicians, stage managers, directors, painters, builders, and much more. From the moment I first walked into a STS workshop, I felt welcomed and my talents put to good use.

Audience interaction at Sweet Tea shows also connects me with the local community. Before the performance I ask audience members if they want a photo with the the Golden Frame of Happiness. I love learning about where they’re from, how they heard about STS, or if they have seen a Shakespeare show before. We might not have much in common, but for those brief moments, theater connects us. With each interaction, I discover more about this city and it becomes less like a temporary living space and more like a home.

If you want to get to know your community and connect with different people, come to the theatre! You might come as a guest, but you’ll leave as a friend, all while watching a quality show.