Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 12, 2013

Shakespeare takes to the rivers, ponds and lakes

BY LAURIE MIHOLER-ZACHRITZ Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Riverside Shakespeare may not be able to prevent ducks from waddling through the middle of its outdoor performances, but the company has figured out a way to avoid loud motorcycle engines that drown the actors out.

“On the weekend that the ‘Ride for Father Fred’ motorcyclists are in town, we leave and travel to another venue,” said Jill Beauchamp, who co-founded the theater group that has annually used Hannah Park along the Boardman River in Traverse City as its home base. “We don’t want to compete with the motorcycles, so we schedule them in.”

The Harleys can roar freely in Traverse City later this month without fear of interrupting the show because the Shakespearean troupe will be entertaining audiences in Elk Rapids and Fife Lake that weekend.

But first the company will launch its 14th season in Leland on Thursday with Shakespeare’s comedy, “All’s Well that Ends Well.” The performance will take place outdoors by the Old Arts Building starting at 7 p.m. The spot is one of six waterfront venues the company will rotate to this season.

Of the 16 comedies that Shakespeare wrote, Riverside Shakespeare has performed 10 already. Beauchamp believes the comedies are a good fit for the company.

“It’s summer, it’s time to lighten up,” she said.

Director Jeanette Mason said the group is putting its own stamp of lightheartedness on the upcoming show. She said the additional humor is helpful to the audience due to the nature of the play, which is known as one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays.

"We really don’t know if it’s a problem or a comedy," she said, adding that there's always something to throw the audience off. “We’ve added a lot of slapstick to it. We’re making it more kitsch-y.”

And that isn't all. Mason said the company also made some significant alterations in the script.

"We’re bringing it into a more contemporary situation, à la 'The Princess Bride,'" she said.

The play revolves around the female lead, Helena, who heals the king and is rewarded with her choice of a marriageable bachelor. She chooses the Count, but he doesn’t choose her.

The role of the unlikable Count Betram is played by Traverse City West Senior High freshman Zak Watson, who attended his first Riverside Shakespeare production with his parents at the age of 4, Beauchamp said. At 12, he informed his parents that he wanted to audition with the company. Now 16, he is playing the make lead opposite Madeline Kachadurian (Helena), a third-year veteran with the company who just completed her freshman year at Oakland University.

The play was not popular when it was first produced, because it breaks the rules, Mason said.

“A female pursues a male, not the other way around. This is a pretty strong female character,” she said.

Mason said she loves the fact that the company perform out-of-doors, though there are alternative indoor venues nearby each location in the event of rain.

“(Hannah) park is a wonderful place to perform,“ she said. “Kids and dogs can come. Families bring lawn chairs and picnic.”

Beauchamp said each outdoor venue brings something different to the table.

“Each site has its own little specialty,” she said. “In Suttons Bay, a teeny river runs through the site and we end up jumping over the river during the show. In Elk Rapids, it’s all pine trees behind us, creating a huge backdrop.”

There is no charge for the performances, but donations are appreciated and accepted, the women said.

Other performances this season include:

Friday, July 19, Water Wheel Park, Suttons Bay, 7 p.m.Saturday, July 20, Veteran’s Memorial Park, Elk Rapids, 6 p.m.Sunday, July 21, Lake Park, Fife Lake, 6 p.m.Thursday, July 25, Mill Pond Park, Kalkaska, 7 p.m.Friday, July 26, Hannah Park, Traverse City, 7 p.m.Saturday, July 27, Hannah Park, Traverse City, 6 p.m.Sunday, July 28, Hannah Park, Traverse City, 6 p.m.

The play centers around Helena, the orphaned daughter of a famed physician, who heals the king with the curative powers her father has taught her. Her reward from the grateful king is to choose the bachelor of her choice for marriage. She chooses her love, Count Bertram.

Loving this production, she said. First of all we have a hardworking cast.

Great age range in this- “nice, new young people involved who can really handle the language.

TRAVERSE CITY — Mason said a celebration theme for the king’s healingWe’re working on a celebration theme for the king’s healing, she said, and will have kazoos, horns, bells and maybe a little song, like “Happy Days” or “You are My Sunshine.”