Backstage tours, 20-minute Talkback sessions and Shakespeare After Parties will be the newest activities added to this year’s Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” which opens this week at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park.
Performances are scheduled nightly at 8 p.m. May 25-June 19 (excluding Tuesdays). The official opening night is set for this Friday, May 27; preview performances will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, May 25-26. In addition, an expanded version of Shake-38, last year’s wildly successful urban reading of Shakespeare’s 38-play canon, will be scheduled throughout the city.
Approximately 300 St. Louisans are expected to recreate Shakespeare’s work in extremely varying settings every hour on the hour. This year’s Shake-38 will feature a reading of a new play, “Every Other Hamlet in the Universe,” by Yale graduate Kimberly Rosenstock. Based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the play reading will be directed by another Yale graduate, Trip Cullman, one of the country’s most sought after young directors. This reading marks the first collaboration between Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and Pulitzer prize winner Paula Vogel and the MFA Yale Playwriting program.
The New York Times named Rosenstock’s Off-Broadway play, “Tigers Be Still,” one of the Top 10 Plays of the 2010 theatre season. “We are truly enhancing the Shakespearean experience this year. We are taking the Bard’s works and performing them in the schools, in the streets and, ultimately, in the park.” said Rick Dildine, executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. “Our goal is to make Shakespeare accessible to people of all ages and the best part is that everything is free.”
This year’s production in the park will be set in a 1950s inspired backyard scene, complete with an airstream trailer, a Cadillac Sedan DeVille and characters decked out in hoop skirts and poka dot shoes. A galvanized swimming pool will be off to the side, next to the barbeque pit. Set designer Scott Neale, who has created designs for Busch Gardens and SeaWorld, developed the show’s backdrop under the direction of award-winning Chicago director and playwright Sean Graney. Alison Siple, recently named one of the five most prolific More Chicago theatre artists of the decade by “Time Out Chicago,” will be creating the 50s-style costumes.
Audience members arriving early will have the opportunity to take a backstage tour. Tours will begin at 6 p.m. and last approximately 30 minutes. Tickets are $2 (ages five and up) and are available on a first come, first serve basis at the Info Tent at Shakespeare Glen. A 20-minute Talkback discussion will be held nightly following each performance.
The Talkback series, sponsored by Maryville University, invites audiences to participate in lively and enlightening conversations about the shows. Shakespeare “After Parties” will be held from 10-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights (except May 27) at Marvin’s, the new lounge located at the event’s lobby area at the top of Art Hill. A different local band will play each night on the Green Show stage.
Audience members are encouraged to stay for the music. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. As in previous years, the Pre-Show Festival activities will include a nightly Green Show at 6:30 p.m. The Pre-Show will include: a 20-minute adaptation of “The Taming of the Shrew,” which will introduce the characters and plot to children of all ages; musicians, dancers, singers, jugglers; and conversations on the lawn by local scholars.
In the past 10 years, the Shakespeare Festival has attracted more than 442,000 people to the performances in Forest Park. The organization has reached an additional 185,000 students through its educational touring productions, school programs, summer camps and community partnerships. For more information, please visit www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org, or call 314-531-9800.