According to Wikipedia, William Shakespeare is likely to have written 827 lines of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The Jacobean play which debuted in 1619 makes its way to the internet this year courtesy of a fully-produced multi-episode serial courtesy of Optimist Theatre’s No Hold Bard project. Each episode will be roughly ten-minutes long. The first two episodes became available just last week. Shot in and around Milwaukee in warmer months, the first couple of episodes of the serial are a refreshing echo of political drama from antiquity that recall vivid memories of Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park programs from the pre-COVID era.
Each episode is accompanied by a recipe foran accompanying cocktail on the No Holds Bard website. It’s a nice, little interactive interaction with the show. And as one cocktail every ten minutes might sound like a lot of homework for anyone’s liver, No Holds Bard suggests both an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic cocktail for each episode.
The series opens with a suggested Amaretto Sweet and Sour as Lauryl Sulfate sings an opening pop tune in the role of Gower: the poet who wrote the poem that appears at the top of each act. She’s singing the first song at the Washington Park Bandshell in a catchy casual rock moment. The song is captured to video in a simple presentation that (intended or not) captures the feel of a modest video from the dawn of MTV: no special effects. No clever editing. It’s just a catchy tune with lyrics drawn from the poet John Gower. It’s a fun lead-in.
The Washington Park Bandshell also serves as the site of the first scene: the court of Antiochus: the ruler of Antioch who has offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who can answer his riddle. Anyone hearing the riddle who can’t answer it is put to death. So y’know: no pressure. Andrew Varela makes a suitably regal appearance as the Sphynx-like monarch. Ethan Miles Perry wields formidable charisma as Pericles: Prince of Tyre, who wishes to challenge Antiochus. He knows the answer to the riddle, but asks for more time to think. Antiochus grants him 40 days.
The second episode sees Pericles retuning to Tyre. Standing-in for Tyre is Lake Park. It’s instantly recognizable by the placidly heroic lion statues which can be seen in the background. Caught in a lush, green mood, Lake Park feels like a calm, inviting contrast to the harsh intensity of the bandshell that is Antioch. Pericles has unwittingly brought a souvenir back from Antioch: the assassin Thalliard, played with a subtly stylish sense of menace by Tom Reed, who closes-out the second episode with a few thoughts spoken in front of the lions. Reed also hosts the opening couple of episodes from a basement bar with ML Cogar, who wrote the adaptation. Reed and Cogar are gracious hosts introducing each episode and closing out the initial two episode by answering questions from viewers online. It’s a very smooth bit of video that mixes formal drama with a cozy, casual atmosphere before and after each episode.
Optimist Theatre’s No Holds Bard production of Pericles will continue in the months to come with two episodes every two weeks. There will be a total of 16 episodes in the completed project. The initial webcast will be a YouTube live showing. The video will then be available on Optimist Theatre’s YouTube channel.
Here’s the entirety of the first video. There’s a long countdown lead-in to the actual content. Cogar and Reed pop-into the video after a brief intro at 14:20.
January continues unabated. Distance theater continues to be presented online from locally-sourced talent. There are a few really promising shows coming-up in the weeks to come:
In only a couple of days, The Constructivists will stage the next in their Under Construction play development series. They're presenting a reading of a completely new show live on their YouTube channel.
From the website: "Eliza on the Ice is a psychological thriller set in Slinger, Wisconsin. It's been forty days since Eliza went under. Forty nights since she's seen family, freedom, the light of day. Now today, with a storm on the horizon and time running out, Eliza is determined to make her escape."
Eliza on the Ice takes the screen January 14th at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit The Constructivists online.
Optimist Theatre has been busy bringing Shakespeare to the small screen in an upcoming free video serial on YouTube. Starting on Jan. 13, OT will be presenting a No Holds Bard adaptation of the lesser-known Shakespearian drama Pericles, Prince of Tyre. It’s an ambitious 16-episode serial with new chapters going live every Wednesday. The cast includes Andrew Varela, John Kishline, Deborah Clifton, Libby Amato, David Flores, Kelly Doherty, Rebekah Farr and more. For more information, visit No Holds Bard online.
Voices Found Repertory is going to be staging a Sunday afternoon “theatre and chill” reading of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Jurors. Better known as 12 Angry Men, the title of this reading leaves the company open to have a jury of men AND women, which should be really, really cool considering how very, very good the talent pool is with VFR. The staged reading takes place Sunday, January 17th at 2pm. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.
The interesting thing here is that Reginald Rose originally wrote the play for TV on CBS’ Studio One back in 1964. Over half a century later, VFR brings the show to the streaming service Twitch for a staged reading that could be viewed...on TV. (I watch their shows on the Twitch Apple TV app when I have the chance to do so.)
Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s first Distance Commission arrives on the 22nd. With music, book and lyrics by Matt Zembrowski (who is also the mind behind the popular Wisconsin musical Dad’s Season Tickets,) In The Cloud is billed as “a story in three songs.” Catie O’Donnell directs a three-person cast including Milwaukee theatre veterans Norman Moses and Marilyn White. They’re playing the mother and father of a daughter played by the magnetically appealing Rae Pare. The performance is the first in the company’s “Zoirèes.” It’s an intimate Zoom-based experience limited to no more than 18 devices per performance. It’s online. It’s intimate. It’s MOT. It’s going to be fun. In The Cloud runs Jan. 22 - 31. For more information, visit the show’s Eventrbrite page.
2021 moves into existence this week. Though COVID still has its grip on local stages, a few shows for the new year have already been announced. Here’s a look at a couple of shows coming in the coming month.
Kettle Morraine Playhouse will be staging a one-night-only virtual puppet theatre show. The Ruby is retelling of an ancient fable. Performed by Kristin Bayer, Deanna Gibeau, Bill Gibeau & Peter Gibeau, the strange, little experimental show looks promising. The performance will be presented for free. For more information, visit KMP online. Here’s a look at the promo video:
Water Street Dance has been conscientiously embracing the idea of live theatre. This month, they present a series of performances in Cedarburg that are already selling-out. Each socially-distanced performance is limited to 14 audience members. The performance space on a big 6,000 sq. foot facility on W62 N226 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg. For more information, visit Water Street Dance online. Water Street Dance has put together a promo video. The show is called Reveal. Here’s a look:
First Stage is bringing a new show to the stage at month’s end. Written by Finegan Kruckemeyer, the online virtual playhouse show Escape From Peligro Island is billed as a “createe your own adventure” play in which audience votes on the hero’s path. Callaway Brown is stranded on a desert island and it’s up to the viewers to help him out.
From the promo: “Will Callaway time travel to the Wild West and meet a talking horse? Develop superpowers and fight crime in the future? Or have a crush on a vampire? The choice is yours!”
The show runs Jan. 29 - Feb. 6. For more information, visit First Stage online.