It has been 400 years since Shakespeare's death, but the new local theater troupe, Shakespearemachine, are still finding ways to breathe new life into the bard's work.
Using experimental props, language and venue, Shakespearemachine will open their inaugural performance with "The Comedy of Errors" on Friday.
We asked co-artistic director Nick Tash a series of questions through email.
How did Shakespearemachine begin?
Tash: All of this trouble started when I was attending IPFW. I had started my love affair with Shakespeare back in middle school, when I started doing productions at First Presbyterian Theater. There, at IPFW, I met Halee Shutt, my colleague and the "co-" in our co-artistic director title. We found we both had an interest in Shakespeare and physical theater performance. We were both interested in what would happen when you combined the traditions of masked performance with Shakespeare’s language.
We also knew we wanted to start a company because we always felt that the best way to have consistent work as theatre artists was to make your own.
We were also thinking very hard about where to find a home for a theater company. Our thinking on this matter coincided with the extraordinary developments going on in Fort Wayne and its cultural scene.
Combine this with the fact that this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we felt it was the right time and place for this kind of thing.
What does Shakespearemachine offer that may be different to the theater community?
Tash: We are positioning ourselves as a company that explores Shakespeare’s entire canon of works (along with the more obscure works of his contemporaries) in strange and unusual ways. For us, that means exploring the combination of masked performance and Shakespearean language. It also means exploring different audience-performer relationships. To that end, we are interested in creating Shakespearean performances that happen outside of traditional theater spaces, taking them to places where the audience can step into the action themselves and immerse themselves in the world of the play.
Essentially, we are trying to find a way to breathe new life into these works from a sideways perspective.
What is it about "The Comedy of Errors" that makes it a strong pick for the inaugural performance?
Tash: It is an extraordinarily funny farce that lends itself to the kind of bold, broad characterizations that masks demand. The characters are larger than life. The situations are strange and absurd, which speaks to our sensibilities. It is also one of Shakespeare’s shortest, most streamlined plays. The language is less complex, more straightforward. For these reasons and more, we felt that it would make the perfect demonstration of what we are trying to achieve.
What do you want audiences to discuss after the show?
Tash: The thing I hope people walk away with from this show is how accessible Shakespeare can be. Not only that, but how funny it can still be, 400 years on.