By Josh Cabat
I imagine it’s a dream that many English teachers secretly harbor. You leave it all behind and join a band of players who travel from small town to small town in a beautiful and remote area, performing works by Shakespeare and others in repertory.
In some ways, it’s about as pure as it gets, and that purity came through in every wonderful, ragtag moment of the recent production of 1 Henry IV as staged by the Adirondack Shakespeare Company.
The performance was held this past August in Schroon Lake, New York, at the Art Deco-era Strand Theater (whose survival is about as miraculous as young Hal’s victory at Agincourt two plays later), and was part of a summer repertory program that included all four plays in this Henriad, as well as The Tempest (in addition to an event down the lake a bit at the old grounds of Scaroon Manor where the audience got to choose the Shakespeare play they wanted to see on the spot).
What the audience got to see at these performances was what company co-founder Tara Bradway refers to as “Shakespeare in the Raw.” In this experimental technique, all production elements are stripped down to the bare minimum, including scenery, props, costumes, and music. Bradway also noted that the company’s rehearsal process is structured in such a way that the performance we saw was the first time the cast had run through the play in its entirety.
The result is spontaneous, fresh and, for fans of the Folger, exactly what Shakespearean performance needs to be: focused almost exclusively on the interplay among the actors, the audience and those words.
As an educator, I found that there were many connections between Adirondack’s process and how we might go about teaching Shakespeare through performance. (more…)