What Shakespeare play best fits an unofficial wander-around-town performance?
May 11, 2011 10:13 AM   Subscribe

If you were doing an outdoor guerrilla community Shakespeare play, where each scene was performed in a different public place, which one would you choose?

Some friends of mine want to put on an unofficial Shakespeare Around Town play, where we wander from site to site in town between each scene change (i.e., start in one park, walk to another).

What play fits this aesthetic best? Considerations:

* Should almost certainly be a comedy. One of us has an irrational aversion to Shakespeare's histories, and tragedy doesn't seem like summer fun. Will happily entertain arguments to the contrary.

* The fewer main roles, the better.

* Minimalist sets and costumes that travel easily.

* Potential to do a truncated version that's still fun and makes sense.

We have some ideas, but I'd like to hear the wisdom of the hive mind before getting into our first impulses for consideration.
posted by jeffmshaw to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Twelfth Night, right??? And you can lock up Malvolio in a bank ATM kiosk!!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:19 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, Midsummer Night's Dream is set in a forest, and the park seems a fine stand-in...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:24 AM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I agree that Twelfth Night seems like a logical choice. Even random passersby can laugh at the obvious cross-dressing humor without having to follow the story or listen for puns or something.
posted by amicamentis at 10:26 AM on May 11, 2011


Second Midsummer's. It does have a biggish cast, but it's fanciful so you can kind of go with it, and fancy hats/shawls would suffice for different costumes.
posted by Miko at 10:28 AM on May 11, 2011


As You Like It has 20 named characters (though I think some of the secondary ones could be combined), is set in the Forest of Arden, and includes gender-switching romantic comedy! Costuming can be very simple, as all the Forest of Arden portions feature exiled gentry living in the countryside, with local peasantry for comic effect.


(spoiler: there's a wedding at the end!)
posted by Kpele at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Instead of doing an actual play, maybe you could pick scenes that sort of stand alone from various plays and do one at each location. That way the lack of context for the surprised audience at each location won't really matter.
posted by COD at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stand-alone scenes that are set in public and where the characters are adressing the crowd may work. Off the top of my head: Julius Caesar ('Friends, Romans, countrymen...') and Richard III (for instance the scene where his cronies try to persuade him to take power while he refuses and pretends to desire a life of prayer).
posted by rjs at 10:43 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: maybe The Tempest?
posted by rjs at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2011


I have seen Midsummer Night's Dream this way, and it was AWESOME.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:51 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Twelfth Night would certainly be good, but I think Much Ado About Nothing would also work fairly well. One of the advantages of Much Ado is that most of the action is naturally fractured, with the girls scheming one place, the boys scheming someplace else, Don John being evil in a corner, and Constable Dogberry being insane off on his own.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I'd do Much Ado, which has lots of boisterous group entrances that can be fun to stage in public, especially in semi-modern dress – when a group of people who have been approaching the set and talking among themselves suddenly join in the action. If you can find an old Sixty-Minute Shakespeare version I think it cuts all the Dogberry stuff.
posted by nicwolff at 11:09 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Midsummer would work. As You Like It and All's Well both have a sort of "running from place to place" feel with different settings, so those might be good too.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:13 AM on May 11, 2011


I'll put in another vote for Dream.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:13 AM on May 11, 2011


Love's Labours Lost takes place in various nooks of a royal park. There are 17 named characters; several can be combined, and two (Sir Nathaniel and Holofernes, the pedants) can be cut entirely for a great saving of running time.

Bonus: it's awesome.
posted by Iridic at 11:24 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that Midsummer and, to a lesser extent, any of the zany comedies makes the most logical sense for the sort of atmosphere you're likely to have with guerilla public Shakespeare.

But!

I think it would be pretty awesome to do one of the weightier, fucked up tragedies. I suggest the Tempest, and my boyfriend thinks Titus Andronicus.
posted by kavasa at 11:54 AM on May 11, 2011


And by the tempest I mean King Lear. WTF is wrong with me. Particularly the scenes with Lear wandering about blind and betrayed.
posted by kavasa at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it would be pretty awesome to do one of the weightier, fucked up tragedies.

I agree. Though I'm usually fairly uptight and traditional about my Shakespeare preferences, when I read this question my first thought was that it would be sort of hilarious to do Hamlet like this. Or something that's bizarre anyway, like Cymbeline.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:12 PM on May 11, 2011


Stand-alone scenes that are set in public and where the characters are adressing the crowd may work. Off the top of my head: Julius Caesar ('Friends, Romans, countrymen...') and Richard III (for instance the scene where his cronies try to persuade him to take power while he refuses and pretends to desire a life of prayer).

Ooh, I like this. You'd have to include St. Crispin's Day.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:15 PM on May 11, 2011


Comedy of Errors? Helps that it 90% takes place on a street.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:15 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's another vote for Twelfth Night. There's lots of slapsticky humour with Toby Belch and friends; there are many outdoors scenes, and it can be done with very little in the way of props or scenery.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:54 PM on May 11, 2011


I was recently planning a project very much like this and my choice was Romeo and Juliet. Yes, it's a tragedy, but only because, you know, everybody dies. Until the Mercutio/Tybalt fight it's a straight-up romantic comedy. Much of the play takes place outside (or what could be in outdoor locations). The balcony scene begs for some creative staging - like up in a tree. Best of all - there is no Shakespeare play more suitable for tweaking and reworking. Everybody knows the basic story, which gives you great liberty in cutting. Witness the number of adaptations already out there.
posted by zanni at 4:10 PM on May 11, 2011


I'm voting for Much Ado too. The Kenneth Branagh film has a lot of outdoor, about-town scenes. But it also fits well, for the reasons enumerated by nicwolff.
posted by Kattullus at 4:10 PM on May 11, 2011


I would say midsummer, since it's about the humans intruding into the fairy world and vice versa. Also, it has a small cast if you double up on parts (girls & boys play the mechanicals except Bottom, also extra fairies).
posted by jb at 5:47 PM on May 11, 2011


I was thinking Romeo and Juliet too, for all the reasons Zanni mentions. Much of it would work outside, and people are familiar enough with the story that they would be able to understand what is going on even if they're seeing a fraction of the story.
posted by apricot at 6:35 PM on May 11, 2011


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