From the Artistic Director
Dear Friends of WSC,
The truth about most theater companies seems to be that periodically they are forced to re-invent themselves…or they stagnate and die. Worcester Shakespeare Company again finds itself in the midst of one of those truths.
It was certainly true of Shakespeare’s own company. In 1599 it was forced to dismantle the theater they had built in Shoreditch north of the City of London. Then, in a dramatic episode, during the dead of a winter night, they spirited the timbers across the Thames to the south bank. There, they re-invented the playhouse that would eventually be called The Globe. (For the fascinating full story, read the eminent scholar James Shapiro’s book, “1599”).
For the 2017 Season, Worcester Shakespeare is “adapting” in primary ways. Practically this means for the first time since WSC began construction of its “Napkin Stage”…an historically accurate Elizabethan/Jacobean performance space…the stage will not be erected on the Piazza at Alternatives in Whitinsville. We’ll miss our beloved stage this year, but we may still continue to learn how Shakespeare’s plays might originally have been performed by configuring in a new way. In-the-round…with audience surrounding the action completely…just as Shakespeare’s company often did.
The survival of any company depends on the individuals dedicated to its continued life. Shakespeare had the Burbage brothers, Richard and Cuthbert; John Hemminges & Henry Condell (eventually responsible for the printing of The First Folio); and other
actor/entrepreneurs like the clown Will Kemp.
Fortunately, Worcester Shakespeare Company has the likes of Gillian Griffith (soon to be Doctor of Medicine); Christopher Gates, company production stage manager and lighting designer; Lori Rabeler costume designer and builder; Briana Lynn Naughton, associate producer, director and actor; Christopher Maloney, actor and marketing director, as well as other directors, actors, designers and craftspeople. Craftsmen like Michael Burrey of Plymouth MA, who for the last four years has been building WSC’s historically accurate Elizabethan/Jacobean stage. There are many others who have contributed to the life of the company over the years according to their availability: Annie Pluto and Terry Chance of Boston; Duane Boutte of New York; Joe Miller and Jack Griguoli. The list goes on and on. Without them there would be no WSC.
My own responsibility was and is to lead the company from both the production and artistic point of view. Given the news at the end of 2016’s successful 10th Anniversary Season that the growth of our stage was beginning to inconvenience our excellent hosts at Alternatives in Whitinsville, I was forced to conclude WSC was going to have to reinvent itself again. To that end, I went back to the Mecca of Shakespeare and to my friends and colleagues at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. I stayed there for the months of January and February trying to figure out what the next phase in the life of WSC would look like.
Of course there was no question that the basis of the 2017 season needed to continue its most familiar form. That is, two productions of Shakespeare’s plays performed at the home of our gracious hosts in Whitinsville (lead by Dennis Rice, Karen Goldenberg and Cristi
Collari). Guided as always by which company members could commit for the season, the
contemporary political environment, and the desires of our devoted audience, I decided
“Antony & Cleopatra” and “Coriolanus” would be both appropriate and exciting. The core
company members agreed.
I must add that without the generous support of local devotees like Paul Vederesee of
Fidelity Capital and The One World Fund of Boston, Erin Williams of the Worcester Cultural Counsel, and Dave Fullerton of Acoustic Java, the season would not be possible. Also old
friends at Shakespeare’s Globe in London like Patrick Spottiswoode, Pete LeMay, Bill
Barclay and others provided much needed inspiration and support.
With all this magnificent support important decisions still had to be made. How was our ever-growing historically accurate stage going to contribute? Besides Whitinsville, where
else might WSC perform to continue to contribute to the cultural life of Worcester, the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the northeast?
As has been true in the past, the answers to such questions were provided by those who
cared about such matters. Worcester Cultural Counsul (Erin Williams and Kim Driscoll)
again invited WSC to perform on the Common; And we are in negotiations to perform in the Memorial Auditorium. WSC is also in discussions with the Town of Plymouth about the
feasibility of performing in conjunction with their “Plymouth 400” celebrations. These and other possibilities, as always, are running head-on into the practical considerations of
funding, logistics and the always busy lives of company members.
Still, the intentions of WSC remain: To perform the plays of Shakespeare in a dynamic
and accessible manner; to contribute to the cultural life of the community; and, to survive. It cannot be emphasized too much that all WSC does depends ultimately on the support
of our loyal audience; who so far seem disposed to find us wherever we are; And keep
growing in numbers. WSC will do everything in its power to make sure this “growing”
From previous years writings…
We’re very pleased about our “New Stage” for the 2013 Season at Alternatives at the Old Whitin Mill.
See the “News” Page for one early design image.
More later about why it’s being called “The New Napkin Stage”…for now at least. The company can’t wait to see how the new stage affects the ways they move and speak Shakespeare’s words. Because the stage is based on archeological and scholarly investigations for stages of the period, we truly hope it will help our productions “come alive” in new ways.
Based on your support , Worcester Shakespeare Company is once again committed to a 2012 summer season.Even though difficult times continue for all of us, we feel bringing Shakespeare to Central Massachusetts is vital.
In order to simply survive, however, the company has had to make difficult decisions. We have had to move our performance location from our beloved Memorial Grove in Green Hill Park this year (we hope to return).And, we have had to scale back to a single production rather than our traditional two.The resources–both financial and among the personnel of the company—simply were not available this summer.
While such decisions have caused some sadness, we truly believe the “Alternatives” we have found to allow us yet another season will be worthy of your continued support.
The partnership with “Alternatives” at the Whitinsville Mill has given us a performance venue that is, to my mind, magnificent.Once you visit the setting and experience performances there, I think you’ll agree that there are aspects of the site that equal the “magic” in Green Hill Park.
The choice of Shakespeare’s Othello as the single production was a direct result of what the Piazza of the Alternatives complex offers us.The buildings, the piazza and adjacent river all suggest that most serene city, Venice.Therefore: “Othello, the Moor of Venice.”True, I’m a little sad that our traditional second production–an effort to speak directly to our younger and more madcap audience members—has been temporarily scuppered.Again, we hope in subsequent seasons to return to this important goal.At the same time, however, the more “adult” themes of Othello will maintain WSC’s reputation as a serious and worthy Shakespeare Company; the equal of any anywhere.
Add to that the possibilities offered by the 125 seat indoor Singh Performance Center immediately adjacent to the piazza performance space and we will no longer be subject to the fickleness of the weather.
I’m also told that mosquitoes are not allowed in Whitinsville.
WSC is continuing its search for an additional performance venue in downtown Worcester.Worcester is—and always will be—considered our home.We certainly will carry that name no matter where we mount our productions.We therefore trust that “Worcesterites” will continue to consider us theirs.And that a few extra minutes travel will not deter them from continuing to be a member of our family.