Bard to Go performs as part of Lake Effect Fringe Festival
Being introduced to Shakespeare’s historic works in middle school and high school creates what Bard to Go actor Matthew Fowler calls the “High School Shakespeare Turn Off Cycle.”
“What that is, is they are exposed to Shakespeare just by reading it, listening to it and being quizzed on it instead of watching it and listening to it,” Fowler said. “Really enjoying it without the strain of having to remember everything.”
That stigma, which Fowler said surrounds Shakespeare, is what Bard to Go is trying to erase.
The traveling Shakespearean theatre group of Grand Valley State University students has performed at several schools during the past few months and recently booked a performance at the Dog Story Theater in Grand Rapids as part of the Lake Effect Fringe Festival.
The festival performance is different than most because the Dog Story Theatre features a thrust stage, instead of the usual proscenium. The stage setup forced the group to rearrange and change their performance, set pieces and adjust certain acts to fit the thrust style.
“What a thrust stage is, is there is an audience on three sides of the stage and the actors can basically almost touch the audience, because the audience members are right on the level of actors,” Fowler said. “Where as proscenium is like a movie theater, you sit really far away and you watch the entire scene. So, the level dynamic is a lot more intimate.”
A portion of the proceeds from the Bard to Go performance during the Lake Effect Fringe Festival, which visits many theaters around Michigan, will go toward funding a workshop at the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia.
“The cast of Bard to Go has been invited to the American Shakespeare Center…one of the premiere professional Shakespeare companies in the country,” said Katherine Mayberry, director and GVSU professor. “They will be performing their production on the stage of the ASC’s Blackfrairs playhouse, a replica of a theater from Shakespeare’s time period.”
Along with performing at ASC, the group will also attend workshops, and meet with graduate students and mentors. The ASC provides prospective for the actors’ futures.
“American Shakespeare Center is really an exciting place to go as someone who is interested in Shakespeare or acting because it is the American equivalent of the Royal Shakespeare Company in England,” said Bard to Go actor Sean Kelley. “The fun thing about performing Shakespeare is that I think you learn something new every time you pay attention. Every time you get on stage and you pay attention to what you are saying and another person is saying, you find a different way to react to it or a different way to think about what you are doing. I think we are going to get those perspectives from people who have been professionals for longer than I have even been interested in acting.”
Undergraduates can even audition for the theater’s touring groups, or enroll in the master’s programs that the center offers.
“I am hoping that they will connect with people who are working in Shakespearean theatre as a profession and be able to exchange ideas with them,” Mayberry said. “Our students will have a chance to articulate their experiences performing Shakespeare for high school students and will get a sense of the larger world of Shakespearean theatre.”
The Lake Effect Fringe Festival performance is Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.dogstorytheater.com at $10 for adults and $8 for students.
“When people hear the language spoken out loud, with all of the actors’ body language and facial expression, the difficulty of reading Shakespeare goes away,” Mayberry said. “And you can get engaged with the incredible characters and stories he created.”