William Shakespeare wrote words that engaged and connected with the audiences of his time, and continue to do so.
As one of the most revered groups to currently perform The Bard's plays, Actors of the London Stage know how important it is to create that audience interaction - so much so that it was a real problem during a recent performance when house lighting inhibited the performers from seeing the crowd.
"It changes the nature of the performance entirely," said Actors of the London Stage performer Henry Everett. "So the next night, we had to put the house lights up so that we could see the audience, and they could see each other."
Henry Everett of Actors of the London Stage performs in William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”
Everett and the other four London Stage actors in the touring production of "The Merchant of Venice" are looking forward to seeing the local audience as they perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10-11 in Schwab Auditorium on the Penn State University Park Campus.
The actors - most of whom come from prestigious companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - will provide a stripped-down, intimate rendition of this classic comedy, which touches on love, greed and loyalty.
Everett said "The Merchant of Venice" is an entertaining and funny story, but still touches on dark, relevant topics. And though the London Stage actors will perform a shortened version of the play, Everett said the text is presented in a way that Shakespeare purists can appreciate.
If you go
What: "The Merchant of Venice"
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10-11
Where: Schwab Auditorium, Penn State University Park Campus
Details: Tickets are $32 for adults, $25 for those 18 and younger. They can be purchased by calling 863-0255 or online at www.cpa.psu.edu/tickets.
"The essential story is very much there," Everett said. "We're winning over those people who have never seen this play before, or who have not seen Shakespeare before. ... The play itself wins over the audience because the language is so clear, the story is fun and easy to follow. And I guess we're doing a good job at presenting it."
Laura Sullivan, marketing director for CPA, said the group does a great job at bringing Shakespeare to life from what she has seen of the group's past performances.
"They are one of the best acting companies for Shakespeare, so you're going to want to take advantage of that opportunity," she said.
"It's incredible to think about the level of talent that will be on our stage with just five people."
The small size of the Actors of the London Stage cast warrants actors to play multiple roles. Everett plays Bassanio, Morocco, Arragon and Duke interchangeably throughout the performance.
"The change of character is about the actor's ability to inhabit the character's physicality," he said. "It often entails a slight change of clothing, maybe a jacket or a scarf or a hat, something quite visual which an audience can easily understand. But it's great fun, it really makes it really fun for the audience to watch actors change quickly, but also keep the story going and alive."
While they are in State College, the Actors of the London Stage will also attend classes at Penn State and read scenes from the show. Everett hopes the performances and interactions with students can remind theater-goers of all ages that live entertainment doesn't have to come in the form of big musical productions with elaborate sets. Instead Shakespeare's impeccable prose and lovable characters become the stars of the show.
"The thing that I love about Shakespeare is that the greatest character he ever conceived, in my opinion anyway, is the audience themselves," Everett said. "He wrote for a broad range of audience, from the lay person right up to the Queen of England and the Kind of England themselves."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.