With a powerfully transformative year behind us, we launch into this Year of the Horse at full gallop. An original Bare Theatre production begins to tour, three other productions explore oft-overlooked plays by William Shakespeare, and we begin to delve into some of the other noted Jacobean writers.
Five full productions are on tap for this year, three to finish out our ninth season and two in our our tenth. We will return to some of our favorite places to play as well as discover new spaces. Here’s a quick rundown of things to come:
February 21 – March 16: Let Them Be Heard (In Winter)
The critically-acclaimed original drama based on real slave narratives returns to Historic Stagville in Durham, this time with new characters and stories from North Carolina history. The program is a walking tour that moves in and out of the original slave quarters at Horton Grove, stopping by the bonfire pit outside. Narratives detail life during slavery and The Civil War, and they give insight into life during Reconstruction and beyond.
After a two-week run at Historic Stagville, Let Them Be Heard moves to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro for our first-ever performance there. ArtsCenter Stage Director Jeri Lynn Schulke will take over directing to adapt the show to the theater space and the show will expand to 75 minutes with more narratives. Let Them Be Heard runs at The ArtsCenter March 7 – 16.
Later in the year, in June and July, we will also begin to tour Let Them Be Heard to other historic plantation sites, including Hope Plantation and Historic Somerset Place.
March 27 – April 12: Cymbeline
At the end of March, we take on an oft-overlooked gem from William Shakespeare. Cymbeline is a true favorite of some of our company members, and has been referred to by some as “Shakespeare’s greatest hits.” The play is epic, spanning locations and genres, and thus it is difficult to categorize. As such, scholars have listed it among Shakespeare’s comedies or tragedies.
We place it among the comedies because it fits the original sense of the term “comedy” – meaning that the protagonists succeed and there is a happy ending. There is still plenty of humor, however, often provided by the villains of the play. There is betrayal and sadness as well, and the play culminates with a huge battle. There’s romance, laughs, tears, even a beheading…This is a play well worth taking in!
Laura Bess Jernigan, who performed in the very first Bare Theatre production ever, directs Cymbeline with a cast of nine who will double and triple-up roles. She is very interested in the recurring theme of rebellion found in the text, and is taking this production “underground.” We will be performing for our first time in the Cordoba Arts Center at Golden Belt in Durham.
May 23 – 31: Two Noble Kinsmen: Fire & Shadows
This Spring we return to Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre for the third time with a play not usually included in Shakespeare’s canon. The Two Noble Kinsmen is attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher, another renowned writer of the era who took over as house playwright for The King’s Men after Shakespeare.
“Kinsmen” is a re-telling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales, and the story centers around two cousins of nobility who both fall madly in love with the same woman and are eventually forced to fight each other to the death.
The theme of this production, “fire and shadows,” reunites Bare Theatre with fire and pyrotechnics artists from Cirque de Vol Studios and Mesmerizing Arts, and will also include shadow play mixed in with live action. The mix of light and dark, fire and shadow, along with a gripping script will captivate audiences in the beautiful outdoor setting.
- Mundi Broda with fire fans in last year’s The Comedy of Errors.
Our tenth full season kicks into high gear with another lesser-known work by Shakespeare: Coriolanus. This time Bare Theatre will team up with parkour/freerunning athletes from the newly-opened Enso Movement to perform an unforgettable outdoor experience. Inspired by the Moral Monday protests at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh (which tie in remarkably well with the political climate in the play), we will turn the government complex into our stage and lead audiences on a thoroughly modern take of this gripping tragedy.
We then turn to the pool of other Jacobean playwrights that get overlooked because of Shakespeare’s prominence. Veteran actor Matt Schedler, who last directed The Merchant of Venice for Bare Theatre, directs a bloody tale called The Revenger’s Tragedy. The play, originally published anonymously in 1607, was performed by The King’s Men and attributed later in the century to Cyril Tourneur, although modern scholars believe it more likely to have been written by Thomas Middleton. Nonetheless, fans of violent revenge dramas will enjoy this show next October.
It’s going to be an exciting year.
We want to thank everyone who has participated with Bare Theatre in 2013 – the actors, directors, crew members, Kickstarter supporters, and of course, audience members! Theatre is about community – live, in person, visceral and intimate – and it is about memorable experiences that cannot be duplicated in the same way on film or television. The community we have found in the Raleigh-Durham area has been wonderful, and we simply could not do any of this without all of you.
2014 stands before us. Come join us for the fun!
2013 certainly has been a watershed year for this little theatre company that could. Four different productions took us from Common Ground to Historic Stagville to the amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre. We collaborated with amazing circus artists from Cirque de Vol Studios and brilliant musicians brought to us by PineCone.
Here’s a look back…
February: WINTER ACTS 2013
Our fourth collection of short works showcased a mix of circus acts and dark theatre, with two original new plays and one piece from the 1960’s. The incredible talent from Cirque de Vol opened the show, featuring a different act each night. The acts included dazzling hoop work by Paige LaWall (“Papyrus”), acrobatics from Liz Bliss and Jewels, sword dancing from Raleigh’s own bearded lady, “Gatita,” and an eye popping juggling act from Adam Dipert. This began the collaborative work that would be featured in The Comedy of Errors in May.
- Mary Forester and Loren Armitage in “Fun House,” part of Winter Acts 2013. Photo by G. Todd Buker.
The first play up was “The Hitler Youth Knife,” written by former Rogue Company member R. Alex Davis. Matt Fields and Justin Smith played college roommates discussing the betrayal of a mutual love – and its consequences. Heather Strickland directed “Fun House” by Tarboro playwright Jordan Carlson. Mary Forester and Jeff Buckner explored a surreal dark world inhabited by a mysterious Loren Armitage, who brought back a final memory. Closing out the night was “The Tape Recorder” from English-born playwright Pat Flower. The piece, which was featured in the first color broadcast on the BBC, found an innocent young woman (played by Maegan Mercer-Bourne) taking dictation from author Loren Armitage’s reel-to-reel tape recorder – only to discover a diabolical plan waiting for her.
May: The Comedy of Errors
- The set of “The Comedy of Errors” at Stephenson Amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre. Photo by Paul Cory.
Our first production in the Stephenson Amphitheatre had us going big. Working with the incredible Sara Phoenix and Cirque de Vol studios, the play was set in an antique circus environment, complete with “nimble jugglers,” belly dancers, acrobats, and aerial artists who performed high above the stage on the huge aerial silk and trapeze rig we constructed and dismantled every night. Pyrotechnics and fire spinning/juggling lit up the nights, and we even made a couple of new friends with the albino pythons that took the stage with us!
I’m proud of every production we take on, but I will always have a special fondness for this one. The company tackled a lot and conquered several fears along the way – of heights, fire, blades, snakes – and got the audiences rolling with laughter along the way at one of William Shakespeare’s earlier works.
- Mora Harris, Rebecca Blum, Brian Fisher and Chuck Keith in “The Comedy of Errors.” Photo by Paul Cory.
The Comedy of Errors brought in audiences numbering almost 2,000 over four evenings. Our previously most-attended production, Much Ado About Nothing (2011), saw about 480 over the course of ten performances. Getting this many people out to see one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays is an achievement in itself, and one I hope all involved are very proud of.
June: Let Them Be Heard returns to Historic Stagville
Hot on the heels of Errors was the remount of our 2012 original production based on North Carolina slave narratives. This time, however, the cast powered through three times as many performances, completing 11 shows in all.
The show had already made INDYweek’s “Best of Triangle Theatre” list for 2012 in the categories of Best Ensemble, Best Direction, Best Production, and Special Achievement in the Humanities. 2013 brought new honors, including a 5-star review of the show, and additional recognition for Best Costumes in the 2013 “Best of” list (congratulations to David Serxner and Phillip B. Smith for that honor!).
Barbette, Phillip, Kyma, Warren, Gil (the new kid!) and Justin even deeper into the characters that gave us these important narratives, and they continue to make this show an overwhelming success.
August: As You Like It
We opened our ninth – yes, ninth – full season with one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. Heather directed her personal favorite Shakespeare play on the very stage on which she played Rosalind back in 2005 – right before Bare Theatre returned to Triangle stages. This time we worked with PineCone: The Piedmont Council for Traditional Music, who taught us a lot about live music and bluegrass, and introduced us to some truly excellent musicians.
We knew we were in luck when The Zinc Kings contacted us about doing the show. Not only did they rehearse and play live throughout the performances – they wrote all original music for Shakespeare’s songs and recorded a new album! Mark, Christen, and Dan were so much fun to work with, and we hope we cross artistic paths with them again some day. Incidentally, they picked up a “Best of” honor from INDYweek in the category of Best Original Music!
I have to say that for me personally, this was one of the most fun shows we’ve ever done. The cast was so positive and the energy was absolutely contagious. This production, like Errors, brought in almost 2,000 audience and we couldn’t be more pleased to see such enthusiasm for these plays.
September: SPARKcon 2013
Our third appearance at “the creative explosion of the South” was a bit different this year. Since we were on early break and were not promoting any show specifically, we decided to have a dance party in the street. Actors from at least nine different productions over the past nine years dressed up as their favorite characters and danced like no one was watching. Not only were people watching, but many of them joined in with us! If you missed it, the video is here.
November: Company Meeting
- Heather J. Strickland being distracted from directing “Fun House.” Photos by G. Todd Buker.
The first company-wide meeting was held on Nov. 7, and we shared some sad news. Heather J. Strickland, who had served as Managing Director from 2005 – 2009 and had been serving as Artistic Director ever since, had decided to step out of that role to give her growing family more of her time and energy, and she had just started a new day job as well.
Though I will really miss having Heather in a strategic and artistic decision-making role, I am very pleased that she will continue to be an important member of the company, acting and doing fight choreography in our upcoming Cymbeline, and working on fights in Two Noble Kinsmen.
A great deal of positive ideas came out of this meeting, which was just a first step as we chart new territory with Bare Theatre. We will continue to seek input from company members moving forward, and we will always strive to make this company a safe, fun, and welcoming environment for artists to create and explore.
What a year. As amazing as 2013 was, 2014 looks to go even further, with Let Them Be Heard returning to Stagville in winter before touring to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro and later in the year to Hope Plantation and Somerset Place near the NC coast. Veteran director, actor, and writer Laura Bess Jernigan – who was in the very first Bare Theatre production – directs Shakespeare’s Cymbeline at the Cordoba Arts Center at Golden Belt in Durham. We close out Season IX with Two Noble Kinsmen: Fire & Shadows, which will reunite us with Cirque de Vol performers in the amphitheatre at Raleigh Little Theatre.
More great things to come! We hope you will be there with us. Happy New Year!
“The Hitler Youth Knife” has been on our desk for a while. It was written by R. Alex Davis, who performed in our first three Rogue Company productions beginning with Titus Andronicus (2005). He played Reverend Hale in The Crucible (2006) and the title role in King Lear (2007).
With that background, Alex is obviously no stranger to dark psychological material. This short play is a disturbing but fascinating study of two college friends.
Mike is typical of many young men – once at university, he pushed his boundaries. Towards the beginning he got heavily involved with drugs and became sexually promiscuous. He has since moderated his drug habit, but there is some question about his relationships with women. He claims to have fallen deeply in love with at least two women in particular, but also seems to have a “love ’em and leave ’em” attitude – which could be an act.
Norman also has gone through some pretty serious experimentation, but doesn’t appear to be as callous with regards to women. Whereas Mike found meaning in the writings of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, Norman is more interested in religions of the world. In fact, he seems to fancy himself something of a teacher, perhaps even a prophet of sorts. He is particularly occupied with atonement and retribution.
Mike and Norman have a young woman in common. Mike dated Therese first, and took her virginity in a night of drug-fueled excess. According to Norman, this was not a consensual experience, and Mike’s abusive behavior and callousness towards Therese afterwards left her extremely hurt and confused.
Norman is now with Therese, and he is focused on exacting punishment on Mike. The two have not spoken to each other for a while, presumably since Norman and Therese have been together.
“The Hitler Youth Knife” is the conversation that occurs when Norman confronts Mike with what he now knows about Mike’s relationship with Therese.
I’ve tapped Matt Fields, who has been performing with Bare since he was 14 (he’s now in college himself), to play Mike. Matt has been in almost every show I’ve directed. Justin Smith debuted with Bare in our critically-acclaimed adaptation of NC slave narratives, Let Them Be Heard (2012), and he plays Norman.
Both actors are talented individuals who are fearless onstage. I am looking forward to the energy they bring to this piece, and I think it will be an electrifying part of WINTER ACTS!
Kittens. Babies. Warm fuzzies. These are not things that are part of our next production.
In a way this, our fourth annual collection of contemporary one-act plays, is a return to what began this project. Five years ago we were doing mostly Shakespeare, and while that is fantastic and fun, we felt a need to stretch ourselves in different ways every now and then.
The first set of one-acts was incredibly dark.
Though it was simply titled Boys & Girls, it contained death of a parent, alcoholism, drug abuse, murder, psychological trauma, molestation, rape and revenge. It was not the feel-good hit of the summer.
The material was disturbing, and it did push us. It challenged us as actors and directors, but also challenged the audience – who even got to vote on whether one of the characters lived or died after he confessed his crimes to them.
These one-act collections – which we are now simply calling WINTER ACTS – come about from a variety of processes. We accept original script submissions each year, we collect interesting plays from a variety of sources, and we workshop new material. We don’t set out to create a theme, but rather let the various works speak to us and see where that guides our directors.
The goal is to tackle new material and show audiences something different, that they may not otherwise see. It’s not The Music Man.
We’re kicking off 2013 with an evening of entertainment that will amaze and thrill. For starters, this WINTER ACTS will feature performance artists from Cirque De Vol Studios in Raleigh. This is a preview of coming attractions – we’re performing The Comedy of Errors in May with an old-fashioned circus theme in collaboration with Cirque De Vol and their affiliates.
The scripted material gets decidedly more ominous, as you may be able to tell from the title, “The Hitler Youth Knife.” This is a play from a former member of our Rogue Company student conservatory, R. Alex Davis. We’ve been talking about doing this short piece for the last three years, but the starts finally aligned this time out. Playwrights, take note: just because we don’t choose your script one year, it doesn’t mean we won’t ask you about doing it in the future!
Heather is directing a piece called “Fun House” that caught our attention among the scripts from our last call for submissions. It’s by a young playwright named Jordan Carlson, who is originally from Tarboro, NC (we love doing work from local playwrights!). This supernatural story keeps twisting in new and creepy ways, and has been a lot of fun in rehearsal.
Finally, we have “The Tape Recorder” by British television writer Pat Flower, a transplant to Australia. This play was originally a teleplay, and it was the first color transmission of the BBC back in the late 1960’s. Despite it’s being obviously dated (how many readers remember tape recorders?), it is a fascinating psychological thriller. It is rare in that it involves two actors, neither of whom has to memorize any lines. One is seen onstage the whole play, but never speaks; the other is heard but not seen (or is he?).
We’ll post more details in coming posts. Go ahead and put it on your calendar, though, because we’re only doing one weekend of shows. Or, grab tickets early: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/323181.
Happy New Year! Hope you kicked off this year of the snake with a bang.
We are gearing up for what will be an ambitious year. It will involve collaboration with some amazing artists and organizations in the Triangle and it will be a ton of fun.
We will be returning to our roots and mounting TWO Shakespeare productions this year…but first we will explore short works that have not been previously seen in the area. Our fourth annual installment of Winter One-Acts at Common Ground Theatre runs February 21-24, and it will be funny and creepy! More on that to come.
This Spring, mistakes will be made. We perform Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s amphitheater May 24 – June 1. We are looking to collaborate with Cirque De Vol and local circus artists to turn the town of Ephesus into a vintage circus! Bring a picnic or grab some grub from a tasty food truck and enjoy amazing feats and mistaken identities under the stars!
Bare Theatre is also in talks with Historic Stagville to remount Let Them Be Heard. If last year you did not get a chance to see this show, taken from the testimony of former slaves in North Carolina, this is a powerful experience not to be missed. More details will follow.
This Fall, Artistic Director Heather J. Strickland will return from baby-break to direct Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It at the RLT Amphitheater. This show is shaping up to be incredible already. We are partnering with Pinecone – the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music – to create a bluegrass version of the show with live music!
All in all, it’s going to be a good year. Stay tuned!
2012 was a challenging year in many ways for a lot of people. The economy was still a bit shaky and we all endured a grueling election cycle. There were challenges for us in Bare Theatre – the most notable being the unfortunate closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players, which had seemed to be the perfect new home for us in Raleigh after Much Ado About Nothing.
It’s always interesting to me to look back at what we’ve done and where we’ve been. 2012 brought a lot of firsts for us, and it saw our “little company that could” transitioning into a more established company here in Raleigh and in the Triangle as a whole.
Here’s a brief look back:
February. Winter One-Acts: One Night of Absolute Dismay
February held our third collection of one-acts, a mix of short plays from playwrights new and well-established. We presented new works by Lucius Robinson, Rajeev Rajendran, Ben Ferber, Donnie McEwan, and Mora Harris, as well as a favorite by Christopher Durang.
We premiered three installments of “Hot Greek Porn,” a mashup of Greek tragedy, the European debt crisis, and well…porn. We bloodied the stage with “Everything Seems So Plausible at 1 A.M.,” and explored a couple’s faith being tested by a homeless person. The show wrapped up with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls,” a twisted retelling of Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie.
Notable firsts included Jason Bailey’s first time directing on stage and Olivia Griego’s first time directing with Bare!
May. We had so much fun with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” in Absolute Dismay that we decided to mount the entire collection from which it came, Durang/Durang. That show, originally scheduled for May, had to be postponed because of the closure of REP.
We had already rehearsed well over a month by the time we got the sad news, so rather than cancel the show entirely we moved it to July, thus canceling our summer youth conservatory, Rogue Company.
June. Let Them Be Heard
Our first location-based production, Let Them Be Heard, took place at Historic Stagville in Durham, NC. The seven monologues taken from the Slave Narrative Project were staged in actual slave quarters and a hand-built mule barn at the site.
Let Them Be Heard was a powerful experience for us. The fact that the narratives came from men and women who lived in Raleigh and Durham and grew up as slaves made already compelling stories even more meaningful.
Among many firsts with this show was our first Kickstarter campaign, which successfully raised over $1,250 to cover the costs of the production. This in turn helped us donate 100% of ticket sales – over $1,800 – to Historic Stagville to support their mission of historic preservation.
It was also our first appearance on WUNC 91.5 FM’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio. It was also our first (of hopefully many more) production that was audio recorded and broadcast with the help of Kurt Benrud and Triangle Radio Reading Service.
Additionally, the sold-out show was recognized by Byron Woods and The Independent Weekly as among the best of 2012’s Triangle Theater, receiving recognition for best achievements in ensemble, directing, production, and a special achievement in the humanities.
July saw Durang/Durang finally get its run (with a few new cast members), and it was a blast. Olivia was a fantastic director, and we even got her husband Drew onstage with us!
Not only did this show have the honor of being our first-ever production at Burning Coal’s Murphey School, it was also the second-highest grossing show in Bare Theatre history (after our 2011 run of Much Ado About Nothing).
September. SPARKcon 2012
SPARKcon 2012 was Bare’s second appearance at the huge four-day creative explosion in downtown Raleigh. TheatreSPARK wanted to go bigger and better, so local theatre companies took to the streets with an interactive scavenger hunt. With our upcoming clown-centric show, The Leader, rapidly approaching it was time to send in the clowns.
October/November. The Leader
The Leader involved several firsts. Using Eugene Ionesco’s short 1953 play by the same name as a jumping-off point, we explored a creative process unlike our typical process. The devised short plays and sketches that filled out the show were created by the ensemble, with several pieces written by Chuck Keith, and Todd Buker.
Our pals, The Nickel Shakespeare Girls, came to participate in our clown workshops, and we took what we learned out onto the streets of downtown Raleigh to field test it. The Leader was our first production in an art gallery, too – at the wonderful Visual Art Exchange. We also got to visit Frank Stasio at The State of Things again to talk a little about political theatre!
What a year. There were so many unforgettable moments on stage and back stage. We had the pleasure of working with a ton of great new actors, and trying new things with old friends.
Here’s to 2013, which we’ll discuss more on the next post! Wait ’til you hear what’s in store!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I’m getting this question a lot these days.
The short answer might be that THE LEADER is a dreamlike collection of sketches, movement and clowning that looks at leaders and their followers in a variety of different ways.
That would be accurate, but probably doesn’t convey the emotions we are finding in this process. I hope and do think we are progressing towards a show that is wildly entertaining, funny and disturbing all at once.
It’s a really hard thing to describe. I know what it looks like in my head, but we’ve only even conceptualized half the show at this point (which is amazing to me, considering that we’ve only been at this for a little over a week).
I was describing it to a friend the other day as more of an experience than a play. I used to spend as much time as I could in New York City, especially when working on a show that went to the International Fringe Festival several years ago. I was really influenced by De La Guarda, Fuerza Bruta, Snow Show, and Arias With a Twist. These aren’t plays. They’re non-linear and they don’t even necessarily tell stories, but they do convey emotions and thoughts, and there’s something about them that engrains them in the memory.
The imagery used in these shows is extremely powerful, as is the music. Where words may well be forgotten days or even hours later, the images and the sounds persist, as do the sensations and emotions they create together.
This is the kind of show I’m looking to create in THE LEADER. I’ve been wanting to do a show like this for years, and this fall seemed like the right time. We don’t have the budget of those New York companies, but their shows in a way are very Bare Theatre. They’re not overly complicated, and they go right to core emotions of joy, fear, and sadness.
It is my hope that audiences in Durham and Raleigh enjoy this type of theatrical experience in much the same way as I have enjoyed these type of shows in New York.
More will, of course, be posted…