"Much Ado About Nothing" runs on Thursday July 26 and Saturday July 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 29 at 2:30 p.m. "The Comedie of Errors" runs on Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 28 at 2:30 p.m. All performances will take place at Stevens Institute of Technology's DeBaun Auditorium located at Hudson and Fifth streets
The Actors Shakespeare Company formed 10 months ago. Made up of over 20 actors, both seasoned and fledgling, ASC is dedicated to producing "vibrant, accessible productions of Shakespeare's works, based on the performance practices of Shakespeare's own acting company, The Lord Chamberlain's Men," Artistic Director Colette Rice wrote in the Company's mission statement.
"There are very few people out there who are looking at Elizabethan performance practices," Rice further elucidated Thursday. "Most people are looking at [Shakespeare's works] from a scholastic reading rather than an accessible performance perspective. We wanted to get the best of both worlds."
In order to achieve accessibility, ASC works from the First Folio editions of William Shakespeare's works. Printed in 1623, the First Folio texts contain plays and sonnets recorded by members of Shakespeare's original company. According to Rice, these editions hold clues as to how Shakespeare directed his actors. By working from these texts rather than modern reprintings that have been altered by editors, ASC can produce a more accurate presentation, she said.
"Everything you need to know in Shakespeare is in his words," Rice said. "People don't speak falsely. We try and look at the words and color and paint them for the audience very specifically so it doesn't become a wash of Shakespeare-speak."
The company also recreates an Elizabethan theater environment. Original Shakespearean productions took place outside during the day, so the crowd was always well lit. To simulate that environment, ASC leaves the house lights up so that the audience and the performers can interact with each other, breaking down the fourth wall, modern theater's imaginary barrier separating the audience from the actors. ASC theatergoers are encouraged to interact with the characters on stage, and the characters on stage are encouraged to interact with the audience. "We have certain conventions that we follow, but we also keep it loose," Rice said. "Our actors play off each other and the audience so it's a little different each night."
The company hopes to interact with the community off stage as well. Acting classes for high school students are among their future plans.
"Our goal is to build a combination reparatory theater and conservatory for actors of all levels as well as people in the community," said Rice. "We want to create a place where audience members can participate in the production on all levels."
Tickets for "The Comedie of Errors" and "Much Ado About Nothing" are $15 to $20; $5 for students and seniors. For more information or to make a reservation, call 216-8937 or visit the DeBaun Web site at www.debaun.org.