Your guide to Shakespeare on the Green - Omaha.com
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The character Demetrius in the revenge tragedy “Titus Andronicus” dons a wolf outfit to symbolize murder. Actor Michael Frishman plays the role.(JAMES R. BURNETT/THE WORLD-HERALD)
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(JAMES R. BURNETT/THE WORLD-HERALD)


Your guide to Shakespeare on the Green
By Bob Fischbach / World-Herald staff writer


If you go:

What: Free outdoor Shakespeare festival

Where: Elmwood Park, just southeast of the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Weber Fine Arts Building, 6001 Dodge St.

When: 8 p.m. curtain. “Twelfth Night” plays Thursday through Sunday this weekend; “Titus Andronicus” runs next Thursday through Sunday, June 27 through 30. The two shows will alternate performances for the closing week, “Twelfth Night” July 3, 5 and 7, and “Titus Andronicus” July 2 and 6. No performance July 4.

Nightly activities on the green:

Food vendors, 6 p.m.;

interactive Shakespearience for kids, 6 p.m.; scholars forum, 6:30 p.m.; green show featuring juggler Jek Kelly and singers Madrigali et al, 7 p.m.; “Two Minute Shakespeare,” 7:25 p.m.

June 23 only, 6 p.m.: Will's Best Friend dog contest

Information: 402-280-2391 or online at www.nebraskashakespeare.com

Shakespeare on the Green: The Guide

“Twelfth Night” synopsis

Twins Viola and Sebastian each think the other has been killed in a shipwreck. Viola disguises herself as a man, Cesario, to become a servant to Duke Orsino. Orsino is in love with Olivia, a woman in mourning. Olivia falls for Cesario, not realizing he is a she. Viola is smitten by her boss, Orsino. Meanwhile, Olivia's servants (Maria, Fabian, Feste the fool) and friends (Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek) play a trick on Malvolio, her puritanical household manager, by forging a letter from Olivia that she loves Malvolio.

Director's notes

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek: “When I began to work on this adaptation, I was immediately moved by the amount of music in the piece. (It's) at the intersection of love and song. For our play, music and song are the keys to unlocking each character's true heart and identity. Illyria is a fantastical place where music explodes as a true expression of emotion.”

“Titus Andronicus” synopsis

Titus, a Roman general, returns home after a 10-year war with the Goths, bearing prisoners: Tamora, the Goth queen; her three sons; and her lover, Aaron. The late emperor's son, Saturninus, is crowned, thanks to Titus. In gratitude, he vows to marry Titus' daughter, Lavinia. But she flees with Saturninus' brother, Bassianus, so Saturninus marries Tamora instead. Tamora's sons murder Bassianus, then rape and mutilate Lavinia. Aaron frames two of Titus' sons, whom Saturninus executes. Titus' last son, Lucius, raises a Goth army against Saturninus. Tamora gives birth to Aaron's child, who then flees with it. Lucius' forces capture Aaron. A disguised Tamora tries to bargain for peace with Titus.

After she leaves, he slays her sons. Later he kills Tamora, then Saturninus kills Titus, then Lucius kills Saturninus in an orgy of revenge.

Director's notes

Vincent Carlson-Brown: “There is violence in the world. 'Titus Andronicus' shows the worst of us in Shakespeare's first attempt at a revenge tragedy, a popular genre of his time. This early writing shows significant sketches of what will become future masterpieces: 'King Lear,' 'Othello,' 'Hamlet,' 'Macbeth.' What once was an experiment in the extremes of violence now is a cautionary tale of what happens when we're caught in an ever-plummeting cycle of revenge.”

WHAT TO BRING

» Picnic basket. Or buy food on-site, such as Prairie Fire pizza, Lazeez mediterranean cuisine, Jonny & Jenny's Kettle Corn, Scotty's A Go-Go guac & chips, hotdogs, chicken skewers and onion sliders, or Nothing Bundt Cakes.

» Wine and beer are allowed in the park but are not for sale.

» Lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on, or curl up in if the night turns chilly.

» Sunscreen, bug spray or citronella candles

RULES TO LIVE BY

» Blankets can be spread to reserve a spot after 9 a.m. on day of show.

» Reserved seating is for donors of $150 or more.

» Please keep children and pets from wandering during the show.

» No gas or charcoal cooking on the green.

» New this year: No smoking on the green, only out past the entrance.

» No loud conversation after 8 p.m., please.

» Suggested donation of $5 or more per person to feed the festival.

» Thursdays and Sundays are not as crowded. Early weekends usually are not as full as final weekend.

One show is Shakespeare's bloodiest, with the highest body count in the bard's canon of 38 plays.

The other has characters so full of love that they're bursting into contemporary song, and the show's color and tone have a distinct Dr. Seuss vibe.

The contrast between Nebraska Shakespeare's two annual free plays in Elmwood Park may never have been greater than in its 27th season, which opens tonight for a three-weekend run.

Even the directors of the plays reflect the striking differences between shows.

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek, directing the romantic comedy “Twelfth Night,” has expertise as both a director and actor in broad physical comedy.

Vincent Carlson-Brown, director of the revenge tragedy “Titus Andronicus,” is known in local theater circles for impressive fight choreography — swords, knives, fisticuffs.

Carlson-Brown, interim director of the festival, said Nebraska Shakespeare always strives for balance, staging a comedy and a tragedy each year — one traditional, one cloaked in a fresh concept.

He said the popular “Twelfth Night” is contemporary, modern, hip and edgy this time, while “Titus,” never done before in the festival, is classical and traditional, and honors the place and time in which the play was originally set, Rome in the first century A.D.

Carlson-Brown said both he and Clark-Kaczmarek value each other's approach to the material. While “Twelfth Night” goes in a direction of the ridiculous with the comedy and music, Carlson-Brown will please fans who appreciate the more dramatic and serious with “Titus Andronicus,” which carries a mature-content warning.

For the first time at the festival, planners are asking parents to think before bringing young children because of what may be disturbing content for some.

The most horrifying moment, Carlson-Brown said, is the offstage rape of Titus' daughter, Lavinia. To silence her, the attackers cut out her tongue and chop off her hands. Even though the audience won't witness the act, they will see her onstage soon after, arms bandaged and blood pouring from her mouth.

Carlson-Brown said there are just three moments of blood in the production, but he has chosen them to underline tragic action. He's not going for horrifying gore, but he's not stylizing it to a minimum either.

“I'd like to believe Shakespeare's audience had a taste for revenge and violence,” he said, pointing out that public beheadings were common in Elizabethan England. “Playwrights later wrote that Shakespeare nailed the revenge tragedy, better than his contemporaries like Thomas Kidd, Marlowe or Ben Jonson.”

War and revenge, he said, are a part of contemporary culture, and today's audiences can relate in the same way Shakespeare's groundlings could.

On the flip side, Clark-Kaczmarek also sees universal themes in “Twelfth Night.”

“When we're in love we do some pretty ridiculous things, act frivolously, make bizarre choices,” he said. “Shakespeare explored that, too.”

The Seuss vibe, he said, is rooted in visual humor and word play, both of which Shakespeare used often. The costumes' bright primary colors are a heightened, intensified version of contemporary life, he said.

Clark-Kaczmarek said “Twelfth Night” has always been connected with music, and Shakespeare built songs of his day into the script.

“When you can't express your feelings with words, you break into song,” he said. “I took Shakespeare's cue. Music speaks to modern, vivid extremes.”

Instead of tunes from the 1590s, known by Shakespeare's audiences, Clark-Kaczmarek decided to substitute tunes widely known today, sometimes in place of flowery speeches. He carefully chose songs that express characters' feelings, then altered lyrics to include some of Shakespeare's words.

So, when Olivia falls for Cesario, he replaced her soliloquy with Carly Rae Jepsen's “Call Me Maybe,” reflecting a teen newly in love. And when Malvolio is imprisoned for crazy behavior, David Bowie's “Under Pressure” captures the moment.

“Sometimes it's sweet and heartfelt, and at other times it's a party onstage,” he said.

Music director Joel Johnston and choreographer Courtney Stein enliven those moments with movement and cuing snippets of nearly 20 songs.

Carlson-Brown said casting became a challenge, since both shows share the same actors. He said the performers they selected, a mix of professionals, locals and students, can do both the heaviest roles and the hottest contemporary songs.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1269, bob.fischbach@owh.com

Contact the writer: Bob Fischbach

bob.fischbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1269

Bob reviews movies and local theater productions and writes stories about those topics, as well.

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