Bard on Bower is back for its seventh year with Antony & Cleopatra and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, both by William Shakespeare.
Presented by Prime Stock Theatre Company, The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy, directed by Eric Pettifor, while Antony & Cleopatra is a tragedy, directed by Albertus Koett.
Koett said they are setting Antony & Cleopatra in New York City in the early 1970s
“Instead of the rulers of the world as the original script is, these are street-wise, up and coming gang types, and so instead of countries and continents, they rule streets and allies,” he said.
Pettifor said The Two Gentlemen of Verona starts with two really good friends in Verona.
One of them goes off to Milan and falls in love with the Duke’s daughter Silvia who is betrothed to someone else. The other one is in Verona, who is in love with Julia, but then goes off to Milan and falls in love with Sylvia, too.
Pettifor described Proteus, the friend who was in love with Julia, as a proper villain, betraying his friend and getting him banished.
“He’s almost like a Richard III, except set in the context of a comedy,” said Pettifor with a laugh.
Using the same cast in both plays, there are 12 actors in the Antony & Cleopatra performance, playing about 16 characters and 10 actors in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, also playing a few different parts.
Koett said the challenges came through in understanding the text of Shakespeare.
He said making that accessible to the audience when you are doing Shakespeare is always at the forefront of the challenge.
“So putting that through the characters and the actors and getting that out to the audience so that the audience can understand the journey that these characters are going on I think is an important part,” said Koett.
He said they tackle that by understanding and knowing the text and what it means, and once they understand what it means, they can help make it more accessible to the audience, because the actors’ intentions, objectives and goals drive forward the action.
The cast of Antony & Cleopatra had a total of 19 rehearsals starting at the beginning of June, meeting about three to four times a week.
When going about the audition process, Prime Stock puts out the audition call with actors coming in with prepared classical pieces.
“Prior to that, each director has to come up with a vision for the show and a break-down of characters and what we see those characters as – and then we will see actors,” said Koett.
He said for himself, he organically feels things out when it comes to selecting actors for each character.
“My belief, and it’s a belief shared by many directors, is that 80 per cent to 90 per cent of our job as directors is putting together the best cast possible, so casting is my number one job and then everything after that a director just leads the cast through,” he said.
Playing Antony is Stefan Theriault, a local actor who just graduated last year from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.
Cleopatra is played by Alecia Pagnotta, who is studying musical theatre at the University of Ohio.
Pagnotta also plays Sylvia in the other performance.
Playing Valentine, who Pettifor calls the good guy is Zachary Strom, who has quite an experience in improv.
Playing Proteus is Mihai Alex Dan, who also has an acting background.
Meanwhile, Koett said the community feedback for Bard on Bower over the years has been great.
“Steadily every year the audience gets bigger and bigger. It’s a fun event,” he said.
Both plays take place on the Bower Ponds Stage.
Antony & Cleopatra takes place July 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd and 27th at 7 p.m. with a matinee on at 1 p.m. on July 22nd and 29th.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona takes place July 20th, 21st, 22nd, 26th, 28th and 29th at 7 p.m. with the matinee at 1 p.m. July 23rd and 30th at the same location.