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Bare Theatre of Raleigh prides itself on productions that are, well, bare. There is little to no set and costuming is minimal. This summer the troop will present Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona” in free, ‘theatre in the round’ shows at parks and public areas throughout the Triangle.
We sat down with Director G. Todd Buker and actors Sarah Leone, Dustin Britt, Courtney Christison and Rebecca Jones.
Todd, tell me about your goal for this production.
Buker: Bare Theatre always tries to do something different. With this one, the goal is to break down the barriers that seem to be around theatre. What we’ve found over the years is that if an audience is new to Shakespeare, they’re surprised at how much they understand and how much they can relate to it.
What drew you to audition for “Two Gentlemen?”
Rebecca: Shakespeare is so timeless that every time I read it, I feel connected to over 400 years of history, to 400 years of people who have enjoyed it, who have learned something from it.
Sarah: I acted in Shakespeare [productions] in Connecticut for about 15 years, but this is my first production with Bare. I really liked the accessibility because that’s the key. When Shakespeare was writing, it was accessible.
Courtney: The fact that all around the world they are doing celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Being part of a Shakespeare production right now makes me feel tied to the world in that celebration.
This production is a modern and urbanized take. What does that mean?
Buker: We’re doing it as hipsters. (all laugh) Really, one of the many things I love about Shakespeare is that you can pick up so many of his plays and put them down in any time period, any setting—some might be more bizarre choices than others. Our setting is going to be modern, urban areas so I thought let’s just costume it that way. It all goes back to being accessible.
Buker: It’s a play anybody can relate to because it’s falling in and out of love and jealousy and there’s betrayal, all this stuff that we all know.
Courtney: I’d like to add that this show is hilarious.
Dustin: Yes, and it’s some of the dirtiest Shakesperean humor I’ve ever seen on the page. It’s very raunchy. It’s like he wrote this for drunken frat boys.
Sarah: There are some lines that I didn’t even pick up on until I read it through more times like, “The shoe with the hole in it is my mother.” (all laugh) I mean, OH MY GAWD! And I was saying it so innocently!
Buker: It’s just the right amount of subversive. We can do this and people would say, ‘I didn’t see anything objectionable.’ But somebody in the audience is going to catch it.
Sarah: It’s a delayed reaction and then, “Boom!”
Dustin: And kids will not know any better. They’ll just love we have a dog in the show.
Tell me about performing in the round. Do you interact with the audience?
Buker: Yes. This has its roots in Shakespeare’s company. His plays would’ve been performed in the afternoon without the spotlights and effects we have now. It’s a whole different experience. The darkness of a theater kind of lets the audience shrink back; with this, they are talking to you.
Dustin: It’s always going to be different. You don’t know what kind of reaction you’ll get. You don’t know who will be standing in front of you. It’s going to keep us on our toes.
Is there fear with…
Courtney: YES! It’s terrifying. But, as an actor, you want to do things that scare you. I thought, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have a stage between me and these people are watching me.”
What should people expect when coming to the play?
Buker: The unexpected? Is that too cheesy? (all laugh) It’s a very fast, very energetic show. At times this play is hilarious, then it’s very serious, then it’s heartbreaking and you’ve got this poor girl who can’t get a break and her guy gives back her ring…
Dustin: I think this is one that high school age and college age [audience] can really relate to because it has the common themes of dating and…
Rebecca: First love and heartbreak…
Dustin: Yes, first love, heartbreak…
Sarah: Dog farts…
Dustin: Dog farts… I think this one is going to be particularly accessible to younger teenagers.
Jones: At the beginning of Shakespeare in Love, “Two Gentlemen” is the play and they’re treating it like a sitcom. This is not high prose. This is fun.
Buker: The modern education system has kind of trained people to not like Shakespeare. Forcing kids to read Shakespeare is about as dull as it gets when you’re 16. It needs to be shown. That’s why we do this.
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