The lights at the DeBaun Auditorium won't be going down when the Actor's Shakespeare Company opens its season with The Two Gentlemen of Verona on Friday, March 22.
Instead, the theater group that has taken up residence at Hoboken's Stevens Institute of Technology will present a more authentic version of the performance. Since plays at the original Globe Theater in London were presented in full daylight, expect the lights to stay on.
The 500-seat theater is one of the cultural gems of Hoboken and will feature performances at 8 p.m. on March 22 through 24, with an additional 3 p.m. performance on March 24.
The company's artistic director, Colette Rice, said the theater was constructed in the Victorian era design. But the performance itself will seek to get away from the artifice Victorians put into Shakespearean performances, which has since become the routine for many modern productions.
"There are many ways of performing Shakespeare," Rice said. "We're trying to do the most authentic possible."
This means the company - in selecting from among the many disputed texts - will select the versions that best reflect Shakespeare's intent. These are often those found in the grouping called the First Folio. Printed in 1623, the First Folio contains the versions of plays recorded by the members of Shakespeare's original performing company. The company also researches and designs costumes to make them as authentic as they can be, and supplies each performance with live Renaissance music. The company also uses authentic Elizabethan styles of performance, and maintains the original setting.
"We don't dumb down the language or modernize the setting," Rice said.
The company has been at Stevens for about a year and a half, and features a mix of professional actors that have performed in various venues.
Rice said the idea was to get away from the idea of Shakespeare as a college course and return to the fact that each play is remarkably entertaining, full of lovers to admire and villains to despise, as well as loads of puns and pitfalls.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona displays Shakespeare's remarkable ability to manipulate plots to attain maximum comic effect. It is a play about two young male friends and their struggle to unite with their true loves. Like most Shakespearean plays, the plot is deeply enriched by strong characterizations and playful dramatic commentary on the human spirit.
The fact that DeBaun Auditorium is located on the campus of a celebrated engineering college was not lost on the company, and many of the sets and other production elements involve local talent.
"They do our lights and our sets," Rice said. "This allows them to exercise their engineering skills in a different way. And while this might not be artistic, it is creative. These students get to work side by side with seasoned professionals."
Rice said the relatively new company is gradually taking up more and more complex performances, starting off with the comedies such as this one and The Merry Wives of Windsor slated for June 7 to 10, then expanding with performances slated for the spring and summer of 2003.
"As it is now, we're doing short productions," Rice said. "Next year we hope to do productions that will run two weeks and perhaps a six-week production over the summer."
The company will also move into Shakespeare's much more celebrated tragedies, and may later venture into other the works of other Elizabethan playwrights.
DeBaum Auditorium is located at Fifth and Hudson Streets in Hoboken. Those arriving early will be treated to a half-hour of Elizabethan pre-show music. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and senior citizens). To make reservations, call the box office at (201) 216-8937. You can also purchase tickets on-line at wwww.debaun.org/audience/tickets. Proceeds from the Sunday show will benefit the Hoboken September 11th Memorial Fund. q