GOSHEN - The source material is classic. This is shaking things up a bit.
The name promises as much.
GoShakes is a new Goshen-based Shakespearean theater company. Its debut production, a revamped take on “Romeo & Juliet,” opens Friday for a two-weekend run at The Goshen Theater, 216 S. Main St.
The GoShakes venture sprang from an initial collaboration between Lindsay Nance and Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall. The actors had worked together before, and found themselves back in Goshen.
According to Bland-Kendall, she comes from a musical theater background while Nance comes from more of a classic and dramatic background.
“So we wanted to learn from one another and bring our talents together,” Bland-Kendall said. “...Me personally, being a song-and-dance girl, I really wanted to explore the classics more.”
The duo expanded to include other local people with theatrical interests.
“When we started asking around, people were very, very interested in being involved,” Bland-Kendall said. Soon there was a full-fledged team of experts in their field.
Thus, GoShakes was born.
“We really want to pay homage to, of course, the greatest writer we have ever known in our history,” Bland-Kendall said. “So much of his work, including ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ is always current, no matter which generation is performing it.”
That said, GoShakes is re-adapting “Romeo & Juliet” to reach a new generation and serve as an introduction of sorts.
“The way we’re re-imagining this piece is very physical, very visceral and very digestible as well,” Bland-Kendall said. She pointed out that rather than being staged in traditional “in the round” fashion, “Romeo & Juliet” will include the audience onstage with the performers.
“They get to be surrounded by the story, literally,” Bland-Kendall said.
Michelle Milne, formerly with the Goshen College theater department and now teaching at Columbia College in Chicago, was at the top of the GoShakes crew’s list to guide it through the first show. The “Romeo & Juliet” director is an expert in and advocate of the “viewpoints” theater technique, according to Bland-Kendall.
“It really gets down to the realness and the truth behind storytelling, which we really want to try to stay to as much as possible with GoShakes,” she said. “We hope every person (in the audience) can relate to something in the story as it unfolds in front of them.”
Milne said that staging will provide the audience with a more “live” experience — something she feels theater can do really well as opposed to TV and movies. In her view, that engagement can connect the audience to the story on a deeper level.
To ease any misgivings, she noted that audience members won’t be expected to act. Milne also pointed out that while much of the action will take place onstage, other action will transpire elsewhere in the Goshen Theatre venue, such as the balcony.
Milne said one of the things she’s interested in is the context in which the “Romeo & Juliet” love story and tragedy takes place.
“I’m really interested in what surrounds and leads to the culmination of that tragedy,” she said. “Romeo & Juliet” deals with a world divided, and also how people are connected.
According to Bland-Kendall, connecting with students and teachers is part of the GoShakes vision. The theater group is planning pre- and post-show programs for educators and high school and college pupils. Through that outreach effort, students will have the chance to experience a work they’ve read in class adapted in front of them.
“It’s something we want to make a regular part of GoShakes productions,” Bland-Kendall said.
At this stage, GoShakes is an experiment. The team is curious as to whether the venture could survive in Goshen’s artistic community.
“We think it can,” Bland-Kendall said. “But we need to see how things go beyond ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ We’ll take a breather, we’ll review, we’ll discuss how to move forward. But if things go the way we all hope they will, we do have some ideas for the future.”
GoShakes is looking at doing no more than two main-stage productions a year, the better to focus on quality of work; some smaller-stage shows could be a possibility, according to Bland-Kendall.
The group also received much positive feedback for a recent fundraising cabaret performance at Kelly Jae’s downtown, and more cabaret show may take place in the future.
GoShakes has its offices at Goshen Art Center along Lincoln Avenue. Bland-Kendall said there’s gallery space available there in which Go Shakes would like to do small readings.
“There’s such a plethora of talented writers in the Goshen area, and they want to do new works,” she said. “We’d love to do table readings for them, invite the public. There’s just so many ideas beyond doing classical pieces, beyond doing mainstages, that we’d really love to explore and just grow as artists and have the public be aware of it and be a part of it as well.”
GoShakes will have a focus on Shakespeare’s works, Bland-Kendall said, but also indicated, “We are definitely leaving ourselves open to what we will produce.”
The GoShakes Team
Company and staff
Anne Horst Hanby, consultant and grant writer; Brad Weirich, producer; Dave Kendall, graphic designer and director of media arts; Grace Swartzedruber, producer and stage manager; Jerry Peters, technical director; Lauren Morales, properties designer/manager; Lewis Caskey, educational outreach coordinator and assistant stage manager on “Romeo and Juliet”; Patrick Ressler, music director and sound designer; Travis Yutzy, set designer/builder; Rafael Barahona, graphic designer; Stephanie Honderich, associate producer; and Val Collins, marketing committee
Board of directors
Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall, president; Adam Scharf, vice president; Brad Weirich, treasurer/secretary; Lindsay Nance; and Myron Bontrager
Aaron Nichols, creative consultant; Bland-Kendall, producer; Nance, creative consultant; and Scott Jackson, creative consultant
‘Romeo & Juliet’ crew
Patrick Ressler, music director and sound designer; Jerry Peters, technical director and sound design; Grace Swartendruber, stage manager and producer; Lewis Caskey, assistant stage manager; Stephanie Honderich, assistant stage manager and associate producer; Jay Mast, choreography; Travis Yutzy; set design; Lauren Morales, properties design; Nicole Miazgowicz and Phoebe Brubaker, costume design; Scott Jackson, creative consultant; Emily Stuckey and Suzanne Miller, house managers; Carrie Lee Bland-Kendall, Stephanie Honderich, Lindsay Nance, Grace Swartzendruber, Brad Weirich and Missy Weirich, producers
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