Shakespeare on the Road » Paul Edmondson celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on a road trip to 14 Shakespeare festivals all around North America in one remarkable summer Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:41:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Interview with Ameican Shakespeare Comapny Actor, Patrick Midgely Thu, 11 Sep 2014 06:33:23 +0000 Our time with the last of our fourteen partners, The American Shakespeare Center at the Blackfriars Theatre, Staunton, Virginia was totally immersive.

When the founder, Ralph Cohen, shows people around for the first time he likes to hear and see their reactions on entering the auditorium. The shock of its beauty, craftsmanship, and attention to detail made us all gasp. Walking into the theatre itself is like opening a secret treasure-chest of gems. It is the only reconstruction in the world of the theatre at the former monastery of the Blackfriars that The King’s Men started to use from 1608.Here’s a photograph of the stage (Paul Prescott, left, and I, on either side of the founder and visionary of the place, Ralph Cohen).


The company there, the American Shakespeare Center, evoke original performance practices from Shakespeare’s time. There are twelve actors who form a single company and who performed with each other for over a decade. There are no varied lighting effects, so in Staunton they like to use the saucy slogan: ‘Here we do it with the lights on.’ The company performs in modern-day, contemporary dress with incidental references to other, appropriate time-periods, depending on the play. The actors perform modern music from the gallery at the beginning and in the interval. We saw three productions: a dress-rehearsal of Edward II, Macbeth, and The Comedy of Errors, for which I was able to take one of the gallants’ seats on the edge of the stage itself. This was an astonishing experience, as if the whole world of the play was happening around me.

The American Shakespeare Center inpsires a great sense of loyalty in its single company of actors, some of whom have worked there for ten years. Like the ensemble of men and boys who Shakespeare knew, worked with, and wrote for, their sense of ensemble deepens year in, year out.

Actor Patrick Midgely spoke with me about what it’s like being an actor there, the use of music in the productions, the sense of ensemble, and I was amazed to hear how many roles he is playing this year….

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Interview with Artistic Director, Denice Hicks Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:54:41 +0000 Denice Hicks is the Artistic Director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. It was our pleasure to interview her and to hear her talk about the distinctive qualities of the productions and how the festival relates to its communities. We were astounded to learn that the artistic choice to produce Henry V had changed to As You Like It because of the visit of Shakespeare on the Road. Here she talks about why that decision was made, and about the ‘bluegrass’ elements of the show we all enjoyed. She also looks ahead to Henry V in 2015, six hundred years since the Battle of Agincourt, and which, for Nashville, will be set in the American Civil War. She brings together Shakespeare, John Steinbeck and the Nashville community and talks about the important role of the Shakespeare reading group at the public library.

And it’s wonderful that the mayor of Nashville, a former aide to the Kennedys, and a Superbowl superstar have taken part in the festival. We were fascinated to find out more…

(We were in a bar during this recording, so listen out for the background sounds of the cocktails being shaken as well as the music for a hot early evening in Nashville.)

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A Sunday morning discussion in Nashville Sun, 07 Sep 2014 16:10:03 +0000 Well, we’re back in Stratford-upon-Avon after our Shakespeare road-trip adventure. But in some ways it feels as though the project is starting afresh. We have several more blogs we shall be posting here over the next week or so from Nashville, Stanton, and elsewhere. It was never the intention that the project would suddenly stop, as we always knew it would be greater than the sum of it parts.

Two weeks ago, we were treated to a wonderful lunch in the home of Rickey Chick Marquand, where around thirty of us gathered, all cast, colleagues, and friends of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival


Among them were the famous American Football player Eddie George (pictured above) who has played Julius Caesar and Othello at for the festival.


Also present was Country-music star, David Olney (pictured above) who composed songs for this year’s production of As You Like It.

I’ve extrapolated moments from our hour and a half discussion and in it you’ll hear several voices which include (in order of appearance):
Don Capparella (the founder of the festival), Rickey Chick (Director of Development), Eddie George, Nettie Kraft (Education Director), myself, David Olney, Denice Hicks (Artistic Director), Emily Landham (Rosalind), Amanda Card (Celia), and Houston Mahoney (Orlando).

It was a wide-ranging discussion and we all of us were ready to be open-hearted, open-minded and open with our laughter.

I hope you enjoy listening to these snippets as much as we all enjoyed listening and speaking with each other.

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for Don Capparella, Rickey Chick, Ann Cook Calhoun, Denice Hicks, Robert Marigza, and all who love the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:56:22 +0000 In this land of musician and poet,
Through our Country, our Blues, and our swing,
Shakespeare’s our song,
And the more he plays on,
The more you just want to join in.

Oh, sing with me, y’all, and be thankful
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
We will light up his name,
In our great hall of fame,
Like him we’ll treat all folk the same.

I am head over heels in this Arden,
O, come to Centenial Park;
My love in this dream,
Is like home-made ice-cream,
Or the wine that we drink in the dark.

Oh, feast with me y’all, and be thankful
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
Our hands and our feet
Will frisk in the heat,
As the stars throb to Amiens’ beat.

I can see my belovèd Orlando,
Hear the songs that he writes to the moon,
Does he know that his eyes,
Glance into my sighs,
Oh, I hope he keeps playing his tune.

Oh, let’s make a quilt and be thankful
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
If we all stitch our part,
Then the Bluegrass can start
To play on the strings of our heart.

We will never be absent in spirit;
If Shakespeare’s there, we’ll be found;
Whether happy or sad,
Through good times and bad,
Formed from the clay of this ground.

Oh, all of my days I’ll be thankful,
That our Shakespeare’s come home to Nashville;
Blow a kiss to the band,
And give me your hand,
As we dance on this honky-tonk sand.

by Paul Edmondson

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Bella Higginbotham welcomes us to Nashville as Puck Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:05:43 +0000 On our first morning in Nashville we were invited to give a presentation at the Public Library, where we met the Mayor, the Commissioner for the Arts and key people connected with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival.

But we weren’t expecting to meet Bella, who is eight years old and recently began her Shakespearian career in a local children’s theatre productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Some of her other acting credits include Cosette in Les Miserables presented by Studio Tenn and the Nashville Symphony, Gretl in Studio Tenn’s The Sound of Music, and Sorrow in the Nashville Ballet’s Madame Butterfly.

Here she is welcoming us to Nashville with some lines from Puck (just one year younger than Ellen Terry was when she played the part).

Thank you to Rob Higginbotham, Bella’s father, for sending us the video and clearing the necessary permissions.

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Interview with Rickey Chick, Director of Development Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:25:03 +0000 Rickey invited us to her home where she hosted a delightful brunch reception on our Sunday morning in Nashville. We were joined by many members of the festival company and we all of us enjoyed a group discussion for well over an hour. Extracts from some of that will be posted here in due course, and the discussion as a whole is a wonderful addition to the archive of this extraordinary road-trip.

Later, though, we were able to interview Rickey on her own. She spoke to us very movingly about her belief in community, what is distinctive about the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, its work with young people, and how she sees its values reflecting Shakespeare’s own.

Along the way she talks about a special quilt the festival is making and mentions the Dolly Parton song ‘The Coat of Many Colours.’ I didn’t know the song but am pleased I now do. It’s a great illustration of the truthful simplicity on which Country music relies and which we found in spades in the people and places we spent time in. You might like to listen to it on YouTube by clicking here

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Interview with Robert Marigza, Operations Manager Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:07:00 +0000 Robert has worked for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival for many years and is passionate abut what he does.

In this extract from our interview he talks about how the festival creates its magic, involves its audiences and reflects the values of Nashville itself.

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Two interviews from the Royal Box Sat, 30 Aug 2014 23:20:39 +0000 For the second performance of the Bluegrass As You Like It in Centennial Park we had the pleasure of sitting in the Royal Box – a small, covered area of raked seating to one side of the stage. We were in exceptional company.

Not only did we meet former Executive Director of the festival, Tony Mcalister, and his wife, but I had the great pleasure of sitting next to Ann Jennalie Cook, professor emerita of Vanderbilt University and Life Trustee of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and her husband Jerry Calhoun. Ann treated us to some of her delicious peach ice-cream, and we even managed to give some to Celia between scenes in the second half…

The Rosalind that Ann justly praises was played by Emily Landham.

And the very distinctive music she mentions was composed especially for the production by the famous Country music writer, David Olney.

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Interview with the Mayor of Nashville Sat, 30 Aug 2014 18:24:59 +0000 We knew it was going wonderful, but our time in Nashville surpassed our expectations. Not only did we see a splendid Bluegrass As You Like It (which seemed to burst off the stage in true Nashvillian fashion) but we were also taken on a special tour of the city last Monday. One of the highlights was being taken to the City Hall to meet Mayor Karl Dean, a keen supporter of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival…

And in true Shakespeare On the Road style, we took some photographs of Shakespeare’s Birthplace in front of two Nashville cityscapes. The first is in front of a photograph of an area of land regenerated during Karl Dean’s time as Mayor.


The second shows the Birthplace with the Congress building as the backdrop.


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Interview with Debra Charlton before the Bluegrass ‘As You Like It’ Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:47:55 +0000 The Shakespeare world is really quite small. I was bowled over and totally delighted to see my old and dear friend Debra Charlton at the splendid As You Like It presented by the Nashville Shakespeare Festival the other night. Debra has brought many an undergraduate group on short courses to The Shakespeare Centre and is now the Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Rep, South Carolina.

You’ll be able to hear the warm-up music in the background during this interview with her that I managed to capturer before the show. It was great to hear her mention our dear friend Jane Lapotaire who has taught many a masterclass to Debra’s students and colleagues over the years.

I asked her if it is possible to talk about an American tradition of Shakespeare acting…

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