Column by Executive Director Susan Scot Fry
Greetings and Welcome to the 10th Anniversary of Shakespeare in the Park!
I confess, it’s hard to fathom that 2019 will mark the 10th anniversary of Shakespeare in the Park. How did that happen?
About a month before the cheers from the final standing ovation for King Lear became whispers, we started putting together this very special milestone season. The wild and raucous ride that is The Comedy of Errors seems like just the right way to celebrate.
Like any organization, there are regular tasks like budgets, balance sheets and board meetings. Specific to SITP19, we are or have already…
There’s so much more that happens in the baker’s dozen of months it takes to create Shakespeare in the Park for 3,500-4,000 people each summer. In newsletters to come, I’ll share more insights about what and how we’re doing. In the meantime, it’s not too early to gather your confetti, plan your picnic and get ready to party next summer!
Susan Fry is the Executive Director for Optimist Theatre. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most of the time, she works alone and talks to her dog. Your email would be a welcome human interaction!
“We came into the world like brother and brother,
And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another.”
The Comedy of Errors, Act 5, sc 1
About Milwaukee High School of the Arts
Since 1984, Milwaukee High School of the Arts has offered artistic and academic training to the students of the Milwaukee metro area. Over the years, MHSA has grown from an initial class of 120 students to a current student body of nearly 1000 students. Our artistic offerings now include Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Art. MHSA looks forward to providing another generation of students with outstanding artistic and academic opportunities.
Off The Cuff with Ron Scot Fry: The Hands-On Work of Telling Stories
Hot topics include:
Read all about it here
What brought you to theater?
I wanted to perform (read: show off) since I can remember. I also loved writing, drawing, making things and falling off of high places. Eventually I learned that I could do all of these things in theatre.
What did 10-year-old Ron think he'd be when he grew up?
What is the greatest challenge that you anticipate in directing A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Fitting this big play and these huge characters in this little space.
What do you hope that Shakespeare in the Park fans will take away from A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Lots of expensive OT souvenirs.
Kidding! Sort of.
I hope they leave feeling like they’ve been part of a magical, curious, hilarious adventure.
Who should play you in the feature film of your life?
Visually? Barry Manilow.
In terms of personality? Don Knotts.
In my dreams? The guy in Off Limits that explores places he’s not supposed to get into.
What Shakespeare character do you most resemble?
Either Launce from Two Gentlemen of Verona or Holofernes from Love’s Labours Lost. A bumbler who loves his dog to distraction, or a fatuous pseudo-intellectual. I’m trying to be honest here.
What's your superpower?
Tragedy, comedy or history?
Ultimately, everything in life is all three, though not necessarily in that order.
Truth or dare?
Dare. I never learned anything new by telling the truth about myself.
Reading a book in front of the fire instead of taking the dog for a walk. Or going to see a show. Or eating. Or pretty much anything.
More about Ron:
Ron has also directed The Tempest and Macbeth, and designed sets for those shows and for As You Like It and The Winter's Tale for Optimist Theatre, as well as for Alverno College, First Stage, Wisconsin Hybrid Theatre, Milwaukee Public Theatre and Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre. He has had performing roles in Twelfth Night and The Winter's Tale. Ron's one-man show To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now has been performed for more than 80,000 people, and he debuted an original show Bloody, Filthy Shakespeare in Florence, Italy in 2013, which was co-produced by the historic Teatro Goldoni.
In all of the excitement of this summer's The Winter's Tale, we neglected to share with you a guest blog that our own Ron Scot Fry wrote for the Wisconsin Humanities Council.
In fact, he wrote this piece during a rehearsal for the show. But, what better time or place to address his topic, "why Shakespeare matters -- especially for kids?"
So, without further ado, give it a read!
The title, Bloody, Filthy Shakespeare! (BFS) suggests lots of lust, gore and more -- and the performance delivers: Blood. Sex. Murder. Lust. Revenge. But for Susan and Ron Scot Fry, producing an original "Shakespeare" show in Florence, Italy was more along the lines of joyful, fascinating and delightful.
After seeing Ron's outreach work last summer in Tuscany, FESTA (Florence English Speaking Theatre Artists) commissioned Optimist Theatre to coproduce an original play. The production focused on the universal concepts of murder and death...Shakespeare's plays having no shortage of wrack and ruin!
Ron shared the stage with the talented Elia Nichols. Originally from Louisiana, Elia is an ex-pat living in Florence and one of FESTA's cofounders. Elia played The Boy, who enthusiastically aided in Shakespeare's exploration of art vs. popular entertainment. Although the violent bits were broadly drawn, the dialogue was in earnest. The Boy was also obviously a woman -- obvious, that is, to everyone but Will, until the end of the play. Let your imagination run wild on those breadcrumbs.
BFS was performed on March 28 & 29, 2014 at Teatro Goldoni in Florence. According to Ron, here's the recipe: a grand total of 48 hours face-to-face rehearsal time--GO! Start with 1 show featuring 2 actors playing 36 characters in 18 scenes from 20 plays with 3 fights involving 10 weapons and 9 blood packs. Sneak in 1 puppet with removable bloody tongue and hands and 1 severed hand. Interweave 34 costume pieces, 10 props and 3 poems. Corral 6 audience members on-stage, perform 2 magic tricks. Set up all of the above in a picturesque Florentine venue and the result: 3 encores from a lovely and generous audience and a happy, exhausted Susan and Ron.
The Frys are the first to admit how bloody filthy lucky they are -- to have the opportunity to do what they love together, in Florence, the hotbed of Renaissance creativity. It was magnifico!
There are plans afoot for BFS to return to Italy in August. Will we see BFS in MKE? "Stay tuned," Susan teased. And so we will....
'Blood. Sex. Murder. Lust. Revenge. And Sex. Lots and lots of Sex.'
In this production by Ron Scot Fry, "Dirty Bloody Shakespeare", William Shakespeare and his ‘Boy’ do battle with some of the naughtiest, raunchiest and bloodiest scenes ever penned by the Bard of Avon.
March 28 & 29 in Florence, Italy.
OT fans will get the details of this performance in a couple of weeks. For now, you can soak this in.
Optimist Theatre and BMO Harris Bank to Present 2014 Free Shakespeare in the Park’s Production of “The Winter’s Tale”
MILWAUKEE, WIS. – With great confidence that southeastern Wisconsin will have put the harsh winter of 2013-2014 behind them sufficiently by June to appreciate William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” Optimist Theatre and BMO Harris Bank announce the dates of 2014’s Free Shakespeare in the Park. The romantic comedy will be performed across three weekends: June 13-15, June 19-22 and June 26-29. There will be a media preview on June 12. Shakespeare in the Park will return to COA Youth and Family Centers’ amphitheater in Alice Bertschy Kadish Park for a second year.
The expansion of the season from two weekends to three was made possible, in part, by the organization’s achievement of a $20,000 challenge grant from 2014’s Presenting Sponsor BMO Harris Bank. Though fundraising for the free performances continues, the sponsorship of BMO Harris enables planning for the extended fifth season to proceed.
In addition to announcing the season for Shakespeare in the Park, Optimist Theatre further revealed the casting of “The Winter’s Tale.” The production will be directed by M.L. Cogar, who has been both the Dramaturg and Assistant Director for all four of Shakespeare in the Park’s previous productions.
Cogar is particularly drawn to “The Winter’s Tale” as “a panoramic adventure-romance that showcases some of Shakespeare’s richest language. The story stretches between two fairy tale kingdoms, across the genres of tragedy and comedy…it offers us a jealous king, a wrongly accused queen, a brave princess, a comic shepherd, and a singing thief—in other words, plenty of room for our team of local artists to explore the parallel inventiveness of both performance and production.” The audience, she explains, should “expect clear language and storytelling, evocative movement and music, and technical artistry that celebrates imaginative theater traditions. And puppets.”
The cast for “The Winter’s Tale” includes:
Allie Babich as Perdita
David Bohn in the Ensemble
James Carrington as Dion / Ensemble
Liz Fraglia as Dorcas / Ensemble
David Franz in the Ensemble
Ron Scot Fry as Antigonus
Cassondra Gresl in the Ensemble
Ethan Hall as Florizel
Jeffrey James Ircink as the Shepherd
Ashley Jordan as Mamillius / Ensemble
Mary Kababik as Paulina
Megan Kaminsky as Mopsa / Ensemble
Patrick Lawlor* as Polixenes
Linda Loving in the Ensemble
Brian Miracle as the Clown
Beth Monhollen as Cleomenes
Emmit Morgan as Camilio
Beth Mulkerron* as Hermione / Autolycus
Tom Reed* as Leontes
Genessee Spridco as Emilia
Susan Scot Fry as the Bear
*Member of Actor’s Equity Association
The cast includes the return of several actors from prior seasons of Shakespeare in the Park, alongside a number of Optimist Theatre debuts. Tom Reed, Optimist Theatre Associate Artistic Director and Shakespeare in the Park Producer, as well as the production’s Leontes, is “pretty darned excited to collaborate with this cast and crew. Each of our productions arises from the chemistry of the people we pull together. This cast of local professionals is so multi-talented—we have singers, actors, dancers, musicians—I almost can’t wait for the audience to see the results. We’ll be using all those talents to the best of our Optimistic abilities!”
About “The Winter’s Tale”
Generally believed to have been written later in Shakespeare’s career (1610-1611), “The Winter’s Tale” is a romantic comedy of jealousy and suspected infidelity, revenge, and ultimately, of redemption and reunion. It contains one of the most famous stage directions in English literary history: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Some speculate that, because the Elizabethan theaters were housed in the same sketchy entertainment district as the “bear baiting” pits, it is possible that one or more performances featured a live bear.
Of further interest to historians, the plot, in which a monarch falsely accuses his consort of adultery, appears to parallel the fall of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII, and may have been an allusion to which the Bard’s audience would have been attuned.
About Optimist Theatre
Optimist Theatre is a 501(c)3 non-profit theatre company and an affiliate member of UPAF, the United Performing Arts Fund. Free Shakespeare in the Park is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board. In addition to Free Shakespeare in the Park, Optimist Theatre offers interactive educational outreach performances such as “To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now.” The organization’s goals include reaching artists and audiences across the economic, ethnic, and experiential landscape by creating art that is accessible to all people. They aspire to educate, entertain, and inspire through creative works of artistic integrity and, in doing so, to serve as a “gateway” theatre experience, bringing new audiences to the arts. To learn more, visit OptimistTheatre.org, or contact Managing Director Susan Scot Fry at SSFry@OptimistTheatre.org or 262/498-5777 or Artistic Director, Ron Scot Fry at RSFry@OptimistTheatre.org or 262/498-9788.
Shakespeare in the Park is also support in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Milwaukee Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, the United Arts Performing Fund, and the Milwaukee County Arts Fund (CAMPAC).
"To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now" News
Didst thou survive “the ides of March” (Julius Caesar, Act 1, sc. 2)? Congratulations. Spring is here (verily) and in honor of Optimist Theatre’s upcoming Shakespeare in the Park production of AS YOU LIKE IT, may I share…
It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.
As You Like It, Act 5, sc. 3
"To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now" News
“To Be!” is going international!
Mid-June to mid-July, Ron Scot Fry, our favorite Bard of Avon, will be teaching Shakespeare in Florence with FESTA Theatre. In addition to teaching, three performances of “To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” are on the docket. Ron’s challenge will be adapting his show for interpreters to share with an Italian speaking audience via huge projector screens.
Two weeks will be spent teaching theatre skills in the mountains at Dynamo Camp. Located in the midst of a World Wildlife Foundation reserve in Tuscany, Dynamo is the first camp in Italy specifically designed for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses.
For all of us here in the USA, the bad news is that Ron won’t be available for presentations in June, but the latter half of July is wide open. Wait a moment – that’s bad news?! Hah!
Soldier's Grove Public Library / North Crawford School
William Shakespeare celebrated the Ides of March with a visit to Soldier’s Grove, WI – pop. 595. The Village of Soldiers Grove is nestled among the steep hills and narrow valleys of the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin near the Kickapoo River. The business district is the first in the United States to be powered by solar energy.
Soldier’s Grove Public Library hosted a visit by William Shakespeare to North Crawford School. Over the course of two presentations at the school on Friday, March 15th, he got together with all the students at the school – K through 12.
Ron performed in the school theater, which was decked out for the play “Shakespeare in Hollywood”. Throughout the day, he had great conversations with many of the cast members about the play they would be doing that evening. “Shakespeare in Hollywood”, by Ken Ludwig, was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and won the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play of the Year. Of course, having received guidance from Shakespeare himself, the play presented that night in Soldier’s Grove was a smash hit.
Over the years of offering “To Be! Shakespeare Here and Now” it’s been wonderful to see the close relationship that so many of our Wisconsin libraries have with the schools in their communities. It’s often thanks to the library that Shakespeare is able to also visit the school. Great partnerships.
In Honor of April Fool's Day
In 2010, the BBC perpetrated a delightful hoax when they ran a piece claiming that Shakespeare was Frenc h.The story wove a convoluted chain of ‘proof’ that his mother was actually French, ergo as was Will by birthright. The radio article (link via the BBC logo) is quite a fun listen.
Sharing Resources and Inspiration: No Fear Shakespeare
In the course of portraying William Shakespeare, Ron Fry fields numerous questions about ‘his’ works. With Ron’s wealth of knowledge, he usually has much more ready answers than I do. So, when I find myself needing to research a particular play, the interpretations I often end up reading are from No Fear Shakespeare.
No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English. The full, original text is still there, matched with a thorough and credible modern translation. Of course, the ideal way to understand the works is to see it performed live. If you that opportunity isn’t available, this handy reference is one of the next best things.
Q: What are your favorite reference materials for understanding Shakespearean text or context?
Upcoming Presentations for National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month so perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the greatest playwright and poet of all time will be visiting 20 schools and libraries for a total of 44 presentations throughout Wisconsin this month.
From Milwaukee to Cable to Eau Claire, Shakespeare is going to be racking up some major mileage on the Bard-Mobile.
To see a Google map of upcoming travels, follow the link by clicking on the National Poetry Month poster.
As you know, Shakespeare coined many words and phrases that are still in common use today. A few favorite “household words” (Henry V) …
Until Next Time...
“O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day;
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.”
Proteus, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1, sc. 3
Thank you for sharing the joy of the Bard of Avon. We hope to see you soon.