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.