Unseam’d Shakespeare Company is tackling two Shakespeare plays A Midsummer Nights Dream and Two Gentlemen of Verona. The twin production is called “Shakespeare in the Raw” described as being “in the original First Folio Cue-Script Style” (sic).
Elizabeth Ruelas, a faculty member at Point Park University, directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Andy Kirtland directed Two Gentlemen of Verona. He has credits as a performer in the New England Shakespeare Festival and elsewhere.
They have explained their concept as stemming from original performances in Shakespeare’s time when the acting company was seen in numerous plays each week and didn’t have much time to rehearse. They point out that casts had scripts which actually only contained their lines along with a few cues from the others who spoke to them, with the scripts also giving stage directions.
I attended A Midsummer Night’s Dream when the cast included a man described as Prompter. He, Shaun Starke, told the audience that, given the concept, only the physical playing had been rehearsed in order to replicate the original experiences. Consequently all members of the cast carried scrolls, or rolls with their lines and cues and had to refer to them, with the Prompter on hand in case there were problems. The Prompter also encouraged the audience to participate by cheering or booing and by singing along a song included in the program book.
He was dressed in a striped shirt and carried a whistle, much resembling sports referees of today. The other members of the cast wore various rudimentary suggestions of costumes over modern street clothes.
There are nine people in the casts, all of them doubling and tripling. No one is specifically identified with any role. They are Kyle Bogue, Jeffrey Chips, Parag S. Gohel, Adam Huff,Jenny Malarkey, Devin Malcolm, Laura C. Smiley, Julia Warner and Cassie Wood.
Directors Ruelas and Kirtland say to expect performances by the seat of their pants.
The productions continue through June 23rd at the Studio Theater in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, in Oakland. Tickets at www.unseamd.com