Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission to host 21st annual celebration of ‘The Bard’
By Navar Watson
The Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission will be bringing audiences back to Depression-era circus life with their interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” this summer.
The comedy will mark the 22nd show in 21 years of “Shakespeare in the Park,” running July 24 through Aug. 2 at Seminary Park, between 10th and Hannibal streets near downtown Noblesville.
Director Christy Clinton has one primary goal for the audience – that they leave with a love for Shakespeare.
“Our mission for ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ is to do a show that helps people … understand why Shakespeare has endured and why he continues to endure,” Clinton said.
This year’s interpretation of “As You Like It” follows the story of circus performers, who have been forced to flee to a forest by the evil Duke Frederick, Artistic Director Ryan Shelton said. Themes of mistaken identity, lessons in love, and enjoying life in the forest make it a “fun and entertaining night of theatre.”
“This isn’t a well-known piece. It’s not ‘Romeo & Juliet,’” said Marcus Waye, who plays antagonist Duke Frederick. “It’s nice for (the audience) to come and get exposed to something a little different.”
Though relatively unknown, the play includes one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues, “All the world’s a stage.”
Hamilton County Historian David Heighway, who plays Adam, said this will be the third production of “As You Like It” in the festival’s 21 years. To change it up from previous interpretations, they chose to take the plot out of its typical 17th-century French Court setting and place it in a circus in the 1930s.
Since Shakespeare’s plots are so “real,” Clinton said they are also very transportable.
“There’s the whole standard doublet and tights kind of thing,” Heighway said. “It’s interesting, though, when somebody (sets it) in a different time period…. It’s a way of making it more accessible to the audience.”
Shakespeare wrote for an audience “that’s 400 years older than the ones we’ll be working with,” Heighway said, so they had to make some adjustments. For example, when editing the script, they removed some archaic words and phrases, since nobody would understand them.
Though the audience will not be able to understand every word, Clinton said they will understand the passions, emotions and hopefully some of the “bawdy” jokes, thanks to the actors’ interpretation of the text.
“We look for the people that fit the parts and will accomplish that mission of making it the best show possible for the people who come,” Clinton said.
The cast includes a combination of new and veteran actors. Clinton said they like to cast familiar actors because it improves their skill. It also resonates with the way Shakespeare performed, since he worked with a specific troupe.
Actor Ken Klingenmeier, who plays “ringmaster” Duke Senior, is experiencing his first “Shakespeare in the Park” with the Noblesville cast. He said as actors, they’re all here for the same purpose.
“We’re here to entertain,” he said. “Everything we do is for an audience. They’re the reason (we’re) doing anything.”
With the play’s new setting comes new music too. David Hartman, orchestra director at Noblesville High School, wrote all original music for this year’s production. Heighway said they are looking for a way to record the music since it’s so “fun and original.”
By the end of the night, Clinton hopes the audience will walk away with a lot of laughter, as well as a realization of how silly the play was and how “we’re all silly in love.”
Shakespeare’s plays seem to be on an upswing lately, Clinton said. Despite varying trends, the Noblesville festival intends to do Shakespeare “for a long time to come.”
The festival plans to move to an amphitheater in the new West Gateway Park as early as 2016. Though it has gathered considerable crowds outdoors, Clinton said an amphitheater will draw even bigger crowds.
Heighway said that Noblesville’s “Shakespeare in the Park” is the oldest in Central Indiana and the second oldest in the state. He called it an asset to the city.
“This is kind of a unique institution here in Noblesville,” he said. “It really makes the city look good.”
“As You Like It” begins at dusk on July 24 through 26 and July 31 through Aug. 2. The pre-show begins at 7:30 p.m., pushing the play’s start time to about 8:15 p.m. Admission is free and guests are encouraged to bring food and lawn chairs.
Actors for “As You Like It” include: Becca Wenning, Rosalind; Daniel Shock, Jacques; David Heighway, Adam; Marcus Waye, Duke Frederick; Mark Tumey, Lord Amiens; John Parks Whitaker, Orlando; Tom Shelton, Charles; Travis Ireland, Silvius; Greg Simpson, Corin; Dave Eckard, Oliver Martext; Curtis Bittle, Circus Cook; Ken Klingenmeier, Duke Senior; Molly Grooms, Hymen; Abby Kim, Phebe; Kelly BeDell, Celia; Rhonda Tinch-Mize, Audrey; Jeff Bick, Giant; Greg Dunn, Oliver; Rowan Whitcomb, Ballet Clown; Brian McCarley, Bearded Lady; and Ryan Shelton, Touchstone.