A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Jul 23, 2013
Shakespeare in the Field
When it’s summertime in Madison, don’t you want to do nearly everything outdoors? The Madison Shakespeare Company shares this sentiment, and for its second annual production, the community theater group is again staging a Shakespearean play at Breese Stevens Field.
Co-founder John Varda recently answered a few questions about this year’s show, Antony & Cleopatra, which opens tomorrow.
Why did you choose Antony & Cleopatra for this year’s production?
It was part of our initial conception that we would do Julius Caesar the first year and Antony & Cleopatra the second. It made sense to be able to carry some of the same costumes and props from one year to the next, and to concentrate on plays set in the same era. Though Antony & Cleopatra picks up where Julius Caesar left off, stylistically and thematically they are very different. Caesar is far more political and classic in its structure. Antony & Cleopatra is almost experimental in the way it stretches across time and space.
How are you approaching the play?
It’s a love story above all. Antony and Cleopatra’s love, at times, was damaging to themselves and those around them, but it also added meaning to their lives. It’s their story. Large, world-changing events occur around and through that love, and their relationship colors every decision they make. The play shows the difficulty of reconciling our personal selves with our public responsibilities. This is the focus of our treatment of the play.
Tell me about the cast.
We have Mike Dartt returning as Antony this year, another consistency with last year’s production. He is joined by Deanna Martinez, who is returning to acting after a break due to a busy job schedule. Part of the fun of doing a new show each year is meeting actors we haven’t worked with before. Also returning in new roles are Dave Sapiro as Enobarbus, Jason Compton as Pompey and Dolabella, Francisco Torres as Octavius. We are developing a core of actors that we hope will continue to come out each summer and join us, and we delight in the newcomers each year will bring.
Last year you staged Julius Caesar. What did you learn from that experience and what are you doing differently this year?
We improved our set design and our sound system, which fell a bit short last year. This year we will be using body mics to improve the audience’s ability to hear our actors over the traffic noise inherent to our location. The set includes platforms to give us levels and more interest to the staging. We spent more time analyzing the rhythm and meter of Shakespeare’s verse, giving the actors a stronger hold on the language.
What’s it like performing at Breese Stevens Field?
Breese Stevens is a unique venue for theater. It’s a beautiful location, especially on a summer evening, and it’s in the heart of Madison. However, because it’s made for different types of events, we have to live with some interesting limitations and challenges, like traffic noise. We also lack a typical backstage area, making it difficult to bring actors on stage in the right places. This year’s set design helps solve that challenge. We enjoy being part of the neighborhood and offering Shakespeare in a surprising location.
What do you hope audiences get from attending a Madison Shakespeare Company performance?
We hope they can enjoy the show, Shakespeare’s poetry and the timeless story in a casual, summertime sort of way, with a picnic that they can bring right into the venue with them. Our price is low [$10] so that more people can afford to come, and we imagine that some of our audience is seeing Shakespeare on stage for the first time.
What’s next for your organization?
We plan to continue to offer summertime shows at Breese Stevens each year. Next summer, we leave Rome behind for Verona, and the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
Antony & Cleopatra runs July 24–28 at Breese Stevens Field. Performances start at 6:30 p.m., and food carts will be on hand from 5–6 p.m. Audience members may also bring their own picnics, and they’re encouraged to bring their own chairs. Find more information at madisonshakespeare.org.
Photo courtesy of the Madison Shakespeare Company.