Pennsylvania’s Gamut Theatre Group christens its new theatre with performance of Twelfth Night

Normally, standing ovations come at the end of a performance, but the opening performance of Gamut Theatre Group’s Twelfth Night was bookended by them.

As co-founders Clark and Melissa Nicholson took the stage to welcome the audience to the new theatre, the crowd erupted into applause, and as the actors returned to bow at the close, the same sound filled the new “cathedral to the arts”.

Full Cast
It has been a long journey to renovate and reinvent the historic church building into a top notch performance and education space, but one worth the work. Before the move, Gamut had to perform in a rented space in a city shopping mall. Admittedly, they put on great performances there, but the new space holds much more potential – and gives them a permanent home.

Harrisburg, most well known for being the bankrupt capital of the state of Pennsylvania, lacks a strong reputation for the arts. However, many people committed to both the city and to the arts have been working to change that.

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For the past 21 years, Gamut has been working to rejuvenate the city through the power of theatre. Even before the new space, Gamut mounted several shows a year, including educational shows that went on tour to schools around the northeast US, as well as offering classes on Shakespeare performance and education.

This new space will allow them continue and expand upon all their realms of work, with several classroom spaces, along with performance and rehearsal spaces.

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The design of the mainstage pays homage to Early Modern theatre with a wooden thrust stage and facade featuring three entrances as well as a balcony – very reminiscent of the shape of The Globe or Blackfriars. But, looking up doesn’t reveal starlight or candelabras, but a lattice of lighting and sound equipment. It’s a marriage between the past and the present.

Of course, what use is a beautiful theatre without performances to complement it? The opening performance of Twelfth Night matched the space perfectly. The actors brought the scenes to life with the Bard’s lines rather than elaborate sets pieces or props. When modern technology appeared, it subtly heightened the action of the scene without interrupting it.

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The same care that defines the new space was given to the performance of the text. Each character contained nuance and variety, creating a multi-faceted production full of laughs and drama. Tom Weaver’s performance as Malvolio contrasted in every way Francesca Amendolia’s performance as Feste, adding an undercurrent of humor and intrigue to the convoluted romance unfolding.

For their first season, the Gamut Theatre Group is bringing their usual array of children’s shows (such as A Christmas Carol currently running for the holiday season), Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti (opening after the new year), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in February. Interspersed amongst those main shows, there are also a number of performances from their improvisational team as well as community projects with their Stage Door Series.

Go here for more information on Gamut Theatre Group.

Shakespeare Highlights 2014 – the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project makes its debut

Elizabeth Ruelas has no hesitation in selecting her 2014 Shakespeare Highlight: “It’s the fact that my theatre company performed our first independent production this summer!”
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The company in question is the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for which Elizabeth is Artistic Director.
And excitingly, it’s a company that specialises in performing plays using the First Folio unrehearsed cue script technique.
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Elizabeth describes debut production The Comedie of Errors as “a great success!” Now, along with husband Andy Kirtland, who is co-founder and Managing Director of the company, she is currently putting together their next show for the summer of 2015, Much Adoe About Nothing.

Find out more about the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project here.

Revolution Shakespeare performs Orson Welles’ Five Kings in Philadelphia Museum of Art

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To continue the US celebrations of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, Revolution Shakespeare is staging Orson Welles’ Five Kings - a five-hour adaptation of Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V – in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When Welles first staged (and starred in) Five Kings in 1938, the massive length hindered the production, forcing it to close amidst negative reviews before it finished its tour.

The original vision for the production entailed a second part to cover Henry VI and Richard III. However, after the negative reception of the first part, Welles never finished the second.

To make it more manageable, Revolution has divided the play into five one-hour performances and is presenting one portion of the play each week.

Rather than taking place on a stage, each performance is in a different gallery of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The locations range from the rotunda - featuring Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – as the stage for Hal’s carousing, to the French Chapel for Henry V’s wooing of the French princess.

Taking place every Wednesday in July, performances start at 6pm. All performances are “Pay What You Wish”, and will feature a brief recap of the previous instalment for those who might have missed it.

Go here for more information.

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