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Stage set for first-ever Rochester Shakespeare Festival

Stage set for first-ever Rochester Shakespeare Festival

The iambic rhythms of William Shakespeare’s work will abandon the page for the west half of Peace Plaza this Saturday, as the Rochester Shakespeare Festival takes the space over from noon to 6 p.m.

According to festival organizer Misha Johnson, the local event will play like a day-long, miniature Renaissance fair. Traditional Shakespeare festivals, like Winona’s Great River Shakespeare Festival, choose a season and perform whole plays in schedules that run over weeks or months. Rochester’s festival takes place in an afternoon and features multiple organizations doing shortened scenes of Shakespeare.

Upstage Theatre of Stewartville will perform a section of “Romeo and Juliet.” For Absolute Theatre, Missy Hagen and Mark Hansen will reprise their roles as Titania and Oberon, and the Squirrel Association is doing Shakespeare-themed improv comedy. One act, a one-woman musical called “Play On! A Musical Romp with Shakespeare’s Heroines,” was performed at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

MCs Greg Miller and Jerry Casper will preside over the performances.

Johnson’s youth theater group, Immersion Youth Repertory, will perform a shortened version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for which they will prepare at a camp the week before. They will also stage pieces of “Hamlet,” but their take will be a little less rehearsed.

“Hamlet” will be done in first folio style, which is a kind of throwback to how actors performed in the days of the bard. On the day of the festival, the audience will get to choose who plays out the scenes, and the actors will receive their scrolls, then be thrust into a performance.

“You are handed a roll, a scroll, and those have all of your lines on them and no one else’s,” explained Johnson.

Street theater will be a big feature of the day, too, thanks to strolling minstrels, jugglers, and belly dancers. There will also be a craft tent, face-painting, henna, and a play stage, where kids can get up, sit on a throne, and maybe even deliver a soliloquy of their own. It gets back to the raucous nature of the original staging of those plays.

“It’s not the sit down and analyze the script type of Shakespeare festival,” said Johnson.“Shakespeare was meant for everyone; it was meant to entertain the masses, and that’s exactly what we are attempting to do.”

Admission is $5. More information is available here.

Bryan Lund covers politics and culture for Med City Beat.

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