Thursday, August 13, 2009

Long Time No Write: or, I Know What We Did This Summer

Hey there Tavern blog readers! Things have been whatever lies beyond crazy while we were leading up to, and then making it through, this summer.

What was so special about this summer, you ask? Many of you probably noticed that after our run of The Mystery of Irma Vep, the Shakespeare Tavern closed for the month of July and the first week of August, which is pretty unusual for us. But not everyone knows the motivation behind the close...and it was such a neat idea that we just have to tell you about it.

Summer is normally the toughest part of the year for us financially in the best of times (no school matinees, for instance, which means 2 fewer performances each week,) and in the current economic climate this summer was looking particularly grim. But while looking ahead to a range of unhappy scenarios our Artistic Director, Jeff Watkins, came up with an outside-the-box idea. See, in addition to being a leading actor, director, and entrepreneur, it just so happens that Jeff is also a master carpenter--in 1999 he designed and oversaw the building of the Tavern stage that many of you are familiar with, as well as that stage's previous incarnation. For a few years now the stage built in 1999 had needed repair: the lumber was cracked and old (some had been around since 1989,) the steps were creaky, the paneling had gaps in it, etc. And the backstage areas needed some help, too.
Jeff's main goal for this difficult period was to keep as many staff members employed as possible.

Since many of our artistic staff members also have carpentry and other technical theatre skills, Jeff's idea was to close the theatre for a few weeks and, during that time, to direct the Atlanta Shakespeare Company in rebuilding and renovating our own Shakespeare Tavern stage and playhouse. While we are still finishing up some of the renovations backstage, thanks to a lot of hard work and patience on the part of our staff and a desperately-needed booster shot of donations and support from our audiences, we made it through the summer and our new stage is ready for viewing! The stage was 'christened' by the cast of the second session of our Shakespeare Intensive for Teens summer camp, during their final performances of The Merchant of Venice July 25-27. Now it can be seen starring as its beautiful self in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged,) our pre-season production during August.

Because we have kept the same basic design inspired by the stage of Shakespeare's own Globe Theatre, the differences might not seem obvious at first. But much of the lumber is new, the stairs are sturdier, the paint has been refreshed and, most exciting of all, it is designed to be much more malleable to suit the needs of different plays--when all is said and done, it can be configured into six different Elizabethan playhouses!

Soon we'll have pictures up here of some of the off-stage summer renovations that audiences don't normally get to see, such as the new actor-friendly hardwood floor in our rehearsal hall, but for now you can use this link to check out photos of the renovation process that we posted to our Facebook page (by the way, did you know that we have a Facebook page? Be sure to become one of our Facebook fans! Look for us under “Atlanta Shakespeare Company”:

-Kristin Hall, Education and Development Coordinator

No comments: