It's a performance for the young, and those young at heart. A fast-paced, fun and interactive look at Shakespeare's work, "A Bit O' the Bard," will debut at the Brewery Arts Center on Wednesday.
The production is anything but typical. Actors introduce themselves and present a hat to the audience which contains random "bits," inspired by Shakespeare. The audience blindly chooses the next act and, in effect, creates the sequence of events, a mosaic of scenes and monologues.
Bard is a popular name for Shakespeare, who has dominated the English language since he first wrote his plays, according to Cameron Crain, managing director for the company.
"Every writer is in his shadow," he said. "He used every influence he could muster, from ancient Greek myths to common gossip on the streets and everything in between."
Shakespeare wrote 37 plays with vivid characters of all types, including drunkards, kings, pickpockets, hired killers, shepherds and philosophers. His characters are not symbolic figures.
His influence permeates modern theater and "Bit O' th' Bard" embraces that concept. The performance starts with characters from the "Fantastiks," the longest-running musical play in American history, its plot based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," according to Crain.
"I come onto the stage as the mythological narrator, El Gallo," he said. "The hat comes out, and it's the chaos theory after that."
Actors JeanMarie Simpson and Roderick Dexter accompany Crain on stage, all three a part of the Nevada Shakespeare Company, which Simpson created in 1989.
The Reno-based group recently brought Shakespeare's "Tempest" to the Bartley Ranch Amphitheater and Gardnerville's Heritage Park. "A Bit o' th' Bard" toured 36 Washoe County schools this spring and was seen by more than 10,000 students.
The challenge when dealing with children, according to Crain, is competing with the movies' special effects.
"The oral tradition is on the verge of being lost, but Shakespeare is alive and well as long as we keep telling his stories," Crain said. "These are themes dealing with 400 years of love, ambition, betrayal, politics and war. We challenge the children with some of the meatiest scenes from 'Macbeth' and 'Hamlet,' but we also give them the fun stuff with more modern treatments, scenes they can relate to.
"I love to perform," Crain said. "And I feel this material is brilliant and worth hearing, the story worth telling. That's what theater comes down to -- our first and final job -- did we tell the story."
Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for members of the Brewery Arts Center and Nevada Shakespeare Company. Children in kindergarten through grade 12 are free when accompanied by an adult. For information or to make reservations, call the Brewery at 883-1976 or the Nevada Shakespeare Company at 324-4198.
IF YOU GO
What: A Bit O' th' Bard by the Nevada Shakespeare Company
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7-10 and 2 p.m. Aug. 11
Where: Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St.
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