Next week, Boozy Bard Productions presents its latest Shakespearian journey as it presents All’s Well the Ends Well. For the past few years, the group has been bringing a breezy approach to classic theatre to the Best Place Tavern in the Historic Pabst Brewery. Actors arrive at the venue the day of the performance having familiarized themselves with the script. Actors are then paired with characters at random. Actors are allowed 5 minutes to get into character, grab a drink and the show progresses from there. It’s a fun approach to that which is all too often taken all too seriously. (Even in comedy.)
Jeremy Eineichner is perhaps the most responsible for the show. He answered a few questions about the show for The Small Stage.
You’ve been doing these shows for kind of a long time. How many shows have you done at the Best Place Tavern?
Ok, so we did Mackers* first back in October of 2014; then in 2015 we did a 9 season show with “Much Ado”, “Shrew”, “Julius”, “Tony and Cleo”, “Titus”, “Midsummer”, “As You Like It”, “Merchant” and Mackers again; an 8-show season in 2016 with “Hamlet”, “12th Night”, “Henry 8”, “Richard 3”, “Tempest”, “Winter’s Tale”, “Measure for Measure” and Mackers a third time; and this is our 6th show this year with “R+J”, “Much Ado” again, “Coriolanus”, “Comedy of Errors”, “Julius” again and now “All’s Well”. So 24. Unless you want to count individual performances, then it’s 72. But if you’re talking plays themselves then it’s 20 plays. Math! It’s fundamental!
It’s an historic place. It may not look as impressive as the Pabst Theatre, but it’s one of the oldest performing spaces in the city. Do you ever look around and feel weird about performing light comedy in a space that goes back to the late 1800s?
It is a bit of a trip at times. It’s such a gorgeous space and I am a bit of a low-rent chump. I often feel like I should have been turned away at the door. I remember when we first started as a company, just doing workshops and stuff and we were working in a 4th floor walk-up in a warehouse. We weren’t able to gain traction there and it looked like the project was going to be DOA. It was around this time that Josh [Bryan of Cabaret Milwaukee] asked me “Have you ever been to Best Place?”. I said that I hadn’t and that the name sounded a *bit* on the nose, but I’d check it out (I didn’t have much going on that afternoon and could have used a beer). I walked in and as soon as I saw the room the wheels started turning in my head. My zeal had returned. After I had all but given up, I instantly thought “I am doing this show here no matter what it takes”. So we arranged a meeting and the rest is history.
As far as, like, do I feel uncomfortable performing this material in this sort of space, not at all. Yeah, the Brewery dates back to before this city was even a city; but these plays were old when the Brewery was new. And while the venue is beautiful, it is still a beer hall; so we may as well perform accordingly.
Who is in the cast for this month’s production?
I don’t really like to advertise who is performing. One, I honestly often don’t know the full lineup until the day of (It’s a pretty loose format show so it’s kind of whoever’s available, plus stuff happens and at the last minute we may need to do some replacing). Two, the cast changes every night so it’s kind of complicated to do so. Three, I feel the show is bigger than any of its individual performers; I honestly don’t even like how much attention I get in connection to it (I’ve taken to hiding backstage and letting one of the performers do the MC work these days to try and combat this). I’d say if you think you know someone is going to be in it, your best bet is to ask them.
This month you’re doing ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL Shakespearian romantic comedy stuff. I think of it as being really, really light comedy. You’ve done really heavy drama in this format for Boozy Bard in the past. How is it different working with light comedy over a heavier drama?
There is definitely a different energy to the tragedies than the comedies. I think there’s generally a greater familiarity with the tragedies than the comedies which may affect it somewhat. But even when we do the heavy drama, it’s still tempered with a light-heartedness. It’s kind of hard to avoid some silliness when you’re working in the format we are. We kind of pride ourselves on never taking it too seriously. We play it straight when we have to but still get fun when the opportunity allows. The comedies, however, already have the fun built in so there isn’t as much...let’s say “coloring outside the lines”. Also, as previously stated, odds are the audience isn’t going to be as well versed in a comedy as a tragedy, so we need to stay on point to keep things on track. This isn’t to say that the comedies are any less fun, plus there are way more dirty jokes in the comedies and that’s always funny.
If I’m not mistaken, you’re pretty much hammered into a Monday through Wednesday thing for these shows. This makes it kind of difficult to make it to the show for those of us who work day jobs on those evenings. (ahem.) Why Monday through Wednesday night?
The short answer is, no one else was. I understand the schedule doesn’t work for everyone, but there are plenty of people who can’t do weekends due to service jobs and the like. There wasn’t really any option for them to go out and see something so I decided “Why not?”. Plus, it allows performers who may be otherwise occupied (you know, with performing) on weekends to be a part of this as well. You can only see so many shows if they’re all Thursday-Saturday between 7 and 10 with a Sunday matinee. I’m not interested in trying to slice that pie further (because I will lose) so I decided to go brave the wild frontiers of weeknights. It was, admittedly, rough getting started. Everyone tried to convince me that it was a bad idea to go with weeknights, but I had a gut feeling. And then we started getting a fanbase. People started coming, and then those people brought other people, and so on and so on. I don’t know if it would be different if I’d stuck to a more “traditional” schedule, but I wouldn’t trade what we have built.
I would imagine that this approach to staging Shakespeare gives you a rather unorthodox relationship with the playwright. What have you learned about Shakespeare, theatre and life in general from taking this approach to these classic works?
It’s interesting that you put it that way, because I’d argue that it was more my experiences in theatre and life in general that led me to this format. I’d taken all of my best and worst experiences and used them to inform how I decided to approach this show. When I was first kicking around this idea, I decided to embrace the fun side of Shakespeare’s work. I figured, there are enough people diving deep into the serious end of the pool; let’s give them something else. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with being serious, I just decided to embrace the fun side of it. And the “unrehearsed” side of the equation came from the idea of trying to wring the most amount of show from as little work on behalf of the performers as possible. Not everyone has time to show up for weeks of rehearsal for only a few shows. But, if all you have to do is show up and read, it’s a lot more manageable.
As far as what I’ve learned *from* doing this, the biggest lesson is to let go of control and let other people in. When we first got started, I did everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) outside of actually performing in it (which I still did from time to time when someone flaked out). It quickly drove me to the brink of madness and I do not recommend it. But I lingered on like this for a while, trying to keep dozens of plates spinning at all times. Eventually, it came to the point where I either had to give in to the people pressuring me on all sides to let them help, or completely burn out. And ever since I can’t believe I tried to do this alone for so long. I am incredibly grateful for the help everyone gives.
Boozy Bard’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well runs Aug. 14 -16 at The Best Place Tavern at the Historic Pabst Brewery on 901 W. Juneau Ave. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook Events Page.
*(In case it’s not obvious that’s a...term of endearment...for Macbeth)