Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer Shakespeare returns to Fort Worth tonight

When Fort Worth lost its summer Shakespeare festival several years ago it was a tragedy, but thanks to TCU’s theatre department, perhaps it’s now all’s well that ends well.

Summertime Shakespeare returns to Fort Worth tonight as the theatre department stages a preview performance of "Twelfth Night." (Tomorrow night is the preview performance of "Romeo and Juliet.") Shows will be performed in rotating repertory, running through June 28 in TCU's air-conditioned Buschman and Hays theaters. They'll use the same cast, so you can see the same actor playing Romeo one night and Sir Andrew Aguecheek the next, for instance.

The festival will use professional and student actors and designers. For the first two years, it is funded by a $250,000 Vision in Action grant from TCU. Organizers hope to be self-sufficient by 2011.

T.J. Walsh, associate professor of drama, said he and colleagues saw an opportunity when the university’s VIA effot promised to fund initiatives that embodied the university’s mission statement, including connecting TCU to the community.

“We wanted to bring together our students and area professionals to give something really special to the community — a Shakespeare festival that’s done right,” Walsh said, who is serving as artistic director. Harry Parker, chairman of the theatre department, is managing director.

Ticket prices are around $20 and available on the festival’s Web site www.trinityshakes.org.

“I know some people will miss being outside like the old festival was, but they won’t when it starts pouring rain right after the opening scene,” Walsh said. “Besides, we’ll offer a more intimate setting of 200 or so people — it’s the way Shakespeare should be seen.”

Walsh says he's excited that the festival allows TCU students to work alongside professional actors. Of the 18 actors of the inaugural company, 10 are students and eight are professionals. Students also make up much of the 15-person production crew.

“For our students the benefits are enormous,” said Walsh. “For one thing, they’ll be paid. We’re paying 40 to 50 people through the festival and in this difficult economic time, that’s a big impact. Plus, our actors will have to go toe-to-toe with very talented professionals. It’s going to be a challenge for them to step up.”

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