Titus’ Dinner Guests! – Brian Elliott

Titus Andronicus is throwing a dinner party, and he’s inviting all his friends!


Brian looking dignified as shiz in Much Ado About Nothing

Brian looking dignified as shiz in Much Ado About Nothing

Brian first joined us in Antony & Cleopatra, in collaboration with Bard in the Barn way back in 2012. Since then, he’s made us sneer as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing and made us laugh as Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night (and also sneer a bit). He’s most recently performed in Les Mis (yes, that Les Mis) and makes a respectable living in the emerging Dog-walkery market. His favorite authors are JRR Tolkien and Terry Pratchett.

Will Brian MAKE the dinner, EAT the dinner, or BE the dinner?

Place your bets now.

You can find out April 7th and 14th
@ Black Rock Pub, 3614 N Damen Ave
Doors open at 7, show starts at 7:30
$5 at the Door

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Titus’ Dinner Guests! – Kaelea Rovinsky

Titus Andronicus is throwing a dinner party, and he’s inviting all his friends!


Kaelea as Gretchen in 906's Boeing Boeing

Kaelea as Gretchen in 906’s Boeing Boeing

Fresh out of our most recent Unrehearsed Shakespeare workshop, Kaelea spends many of her evenings collaborating on the creation of a sketch/improv revue (or watching Master Chef Junior with her roommates). She works as an HR Assistant at the An Ounce of Prevention Fund, as well as an Audience Services Representative with Emerald City Theatre. Most recently, you may have seen her as Gretchen in 906 Theatre Company’s Boeing Boeing.

Speaking of Master Chef Junior!

Will Kaelea MAKE the dinner, EAT the dinner, or BE the dinner?

Place your bets now.

You can find out April 7th and 14th
@ Black Rock Pub, 3614 N Damen Ave
Doors open at 7, show starts at 7:30
$5 at the Door

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Titus’ Dinner Guests! – Robbie Bersano

Titus Andronicus is throwing a dinner party, and he’s inviting all his friends!

Robbie Bersano celebrates in Julius Caesar (2014)

Robbie Bersano celebrates in Julius Caesar (2014)


Robbie’s a fairly new acquisition of the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, and this is his first performance this season. He first appeared in Much Ado About Nothing as a hilariously befuddled Verges, and has also performed in Julius Caesar and Romeo & Juliet.

In his spare time, Robbie plays bass in a band with no name (which, itself, would be a pretty awesome name). He’s also working to produce Sh!thead, a musical he wrote. Undoubtedly though, his proudest accomplishment is eating every burger on the menu at Kuma’s.

Speaking of eating:
Will Robbie MAKE the dinner, EAT the dinner, or BE the dinner?

Place your bets now.

You can find out April 7th and 14th
@ Black Rock Pub, 3614 N Damen Ave
Doors open at 7, show starts at 7:30
$5 at the Door

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“Blood and Vengeance are hammering in my head!”

Come see Shakespeare’s first tragedy, written in the bloody tradition of the Romans. Pick a side and cheer them on, as Goths and Romans vie for control of the World’s greatest empire.

April 7 & 14
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
@ Blackrock Pub
3614 N Damen Ave
$5 at the Door

Be something great: the Audience! We literally cannot do this without you!

Twelfth Night Photos Are On The Way!

iNDie Grant Productions is releasing photos from our most recent Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night!

Watch the gallery grow right here!

"He's a coward and a coystril that will not drink to my niece 'til his brains turn on the toe like a parish top!"

“He’s a coward and a coystril that will not drink to my niece ’til his brains turn on the toe like a parish top!”

Eyes on Actors – Aiyanna Wade


Aiyanna Wade is a new addition to the Unrehearsed Powerhouse, having appeared last year in Double Falsehood (Gerald et al) and most recently in Henry V (Sir Jamy). She performs tonight as the lovestruck (and shipwrecked) Viola.

Q: What was your first Unrehearsed experience like?
AIYANNA: I went to an Unrehearsed workshop before ever having seen the technique. I’m someone who worries about having their lines feel stale by the end of a show’s run, so the idea of going without rehearsals and minimal performances was just too tempting to pass up. Plus I just nerd-ed out at the idea of performing Shakepeare’s works how they were meant to be. In school, Shakespeare was taught as sort of stuffy and over-worked, but I wanted to debunk that image for myself. At the workshop, after doing a scene from the-play-that-shall-not-be-named, I was strangely exhilarated. Without any “moment before”, or character development, or even blocking- a scene was still able to happen. A really interesting one, at that! I was amazed how much was packed into the words themselves. And I was hooked.

Q: How does Unrehearsed differ from your other work with Shakespeare? What about other conventional shows?
AIYANNA: One of my favorite things I learned through this technique is to actively listen to my teammates on stage. It’s not something I run into a lot through conventional shows, but it can apply to any acting. Some of the coolest moments can happen when you stop introverting, look at your scene partner, and just listen. In Unrehearsed you don’t have a choice, since your next stage direction or cue will come from someone else!

Q: What (if anything) is your biggest challenge so far with this technique?
AIYANNA: First Folio spelling. I said it when I learned the technique, and I’ll say it again – I hate sight reading First Folio. Each time I get a little better, though each show I seem to have new curve balls thrown at me (Comme les Français dans Henry V). You’re killin’ me Shakes…  But it’s a challenge I really enjoy, since I can consistently see progress.

Q: One of the defining traits of Unrehearsed is the lack of a 4th Wall. How does that affect you? Is it a challenge, or is it more liberating?
AIYANNA: At first, I was intimidated by the audience. After years of being trained to ignore the fact you’re being watched by a group of people, I thought it would be very difficult to abandon. However, the great thing about the Unrehearsed audience is that you can feel their energy immediately – it’s incredibly encouraging! They’re right there with you cheering you on (sometimes literally!). That makes it so much easier to direct a line towards them.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about Twelfth Night?
AIYANNA: Viola has legit been a dream role of mine. Plus I’ve got some sweet wrist muscles building from that big scroll… I’d say I’m equally excited for both.

Come check out Aiyanna’s crazy wrist muscles tonight and next Monday (the 12th)

Jan 5th & 12th
Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro
3905 N Lincoln Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5 At the Door

Twelfth Night – The Catholic Conspiracy

Written by Jared McDaris



Twelfth Night was written in the opening years of the 17th Century, near the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. While her sister and predecessor, Queen Mary I, had been both Catholic and violently anti-Protestant, Elizabeth was a Protestant and (perhaps paradoxically) far more tolerant of papal followers. Elizabeth believed that Catholics should be allowed to follow their own faith (relatively) openly, so long as it did not interfere with the peace. This of course did not stop the occasional persecution from other figures both public and private, but it was generally an era less bloody than Mary’s.

However, Twelfth Night was written near the end of Elizabeth’s reign, long after the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. This second Mary was a figurehead-champion (both willing and unwilling) of numerous Catholic plots (small and large, hypothetical and genuine) to retake the crown from the Protestant Elizabeth. Put simply, the religious freedom endorsed by Elizabeth I was, although presumably more liberal than her predecessor, a shadow of the freedom we enjoy today.

So the Twelfth Night Catholic Conspiracy is, by a wide margin, not the most ridiculous conspiracy theory linked to Shakespeare (witness the continually debunked and continually resuscitated Anti-Stratfordian movement).

In essence, the idea is this: Twelfth Night was written as a semi-covert celebration of Catholicism and a barely disguised mockery of Protestantism. At the time, British Catholicism was the sect associated with celebration, festivity, and casual liberality. Conversely, Protestantism was against excessive celebration, idolatry, and most tellingly: saint-worship (which they viewed as pagan), even going so far as to call Catholicism the “Cult of Mary” for their veneration of the Virgin Mary.

I know. There’s a lot of Marys.

Sebastian (Glenne Widdicombe) is wooed by Olivia (Bridgette Well)

Sebastian (Glenne Widdicombe) and Olivia (Bridgette Well), framing a Virgin Mary (Photo by Danielle Levings)

So what’s so Catholic about Twelfth Night? To begin with, it’s named after a holiday. Protestantism was the more puritanical of the two sects (this will come up again later), generally opposed to holidays (also considered a pagan concept) and festivity. Moreover, Twelfth Night features an unusually large number of characters named after Catholic saints: Andrew, Antonio (Anthony), Sebastian, Valentine, even Maria (another name for the Virgin Mary). All of these names can be found in other Shakespearean plays, but only in Twelfth Night are they all together. It’s also worth noting that Olivia is called Madonna several times (also a reference to the Virgin Mary).

Speaking of names: I am hardly the first to point out that Viola, Olivia, and Malvolio all have the word “lov” mixed into their names (“lov” being an easy misspelling of “love” in the earliest days of Modern English, when it was entirely commonplace for words to have several different spellings). “Viola” is presumably a reference to the musicality of love (Twelfth Night has a lot of music, and many references to music), “Olivia” perhaps alludes to the peaceful or peace-making qualities of love (kind of ironic, given her mercurial nature for most of the play). “Malvolio,” meanwhile, means ‘bad love.’ Olivia herself says of him, “you are sick of self-love.” Malvolio, then, is the Duessa to Olivia’s Una (or Viola’s Una, if you prefer).

And what do we know about Malvolio? He is called prideful, a poseur, pompous, vain, easily deceived. He is called something of a puritan, is accused of practicing formalities to his own shadow, and most intriguingly: he is several times insulted with terms typically used to insult a “loose” woman. Almost all these terms could easily be applied to Duessa, Spenser’s spokeswoman for the ‘False Church’ in his epic The Fairie Queene. Of course, Spenser’s false church was the Catholic church, and here the false church is Protestantism, but all the same: the symbolism is powerful. Malvolio is a puritan who hates celebration, has pretensions above his rank, tells Maria how to behave, and presumes to speak for Olivia, the Madonna.

Although Viola is clearly the romantic lead of this piece, and Sir Toby is the largest role and (intended) fan favorite, it’s Malvolio who has commanded the most attention historically (King James, in his copy of Shakespeare’s works, crossed out “Twelfth Night” in the table of contents and wrote “Malvolio” in its place). Maria and Feste’s deception and abuse of Malvolio are the clear comedic center of the play. So we see the Puritan (whom Sir Andrew boasts to beat “like a dog”), duped and made a fool by Maria, then abused and driven mad by Feste the Jester: festival in human form and the musical (and ritual) emcee of the play.

The madly used Malvolio (Ethan Hall)

The madly used Malvolio (Ethan Hall)

Feste (Tawnie Thompson) sings to Sir Andrew (Eric Scherrer)

Feste (Tawnie Thompson) sings to Sir Andrew (Eric Scherrer)

Taken in this light, Twelfth Night seems to be a merry ribbing of the dominant belief-system, and a good-natured celebration of celebration itself. But with Shakespeare, things are never that simple (except in Comedy of Errors, of course).

A quick look at these Catholic namesakes reveals a less than flattering picture of the sect Shakespeare is championing.

Viola (Erin O'Connor) & Antonio (Zack Meyer) '13

Viola (Erin O’Connor) & Antonio (Zack Meyer) 2013

Antonio, by turns portrayed as the avuncular guardian of Sebastian or more often (and more successfully, I’d argue) as the boy’s enamored admirer, is shunted aside by Sebastian the instant Olivia presents herself. Saint Anthony is the patron saint of finding lost things (and people), which is exactly what Antonio does: he rescues the drowning Sebastian and expects nothing in return. He gives the young man money to buy himself trinkets and even risks venture into Illyria; Antonio is an enemy of the state and likely to suffer dearly if seen. Whether Antonio is genuinely in love with Sebastian or just a kindly older man, his sacrifices and his risks are ultimately rewarded with nothing: Sebastian offers him a single kind word in 5.1, and Antonio is forgotten for the rest of the show.

Sir Andrew (Jessie Mutz) & Fabian (Emma Couling) '13

Sir Andrew (Jessie Mutz) & Fabian (Emma Couling) 2013

Andrew Aguecheek is a clown and a dope of the first order. No doubt played by John Sinklo, a Shakespearean actor know for his bony physique and sickly pallor, Andrew is portrayed either as a wan-looking wimp or a flamboyant fool (sometimes both). Most interesting is his sacrilegious oaths (he swears by God’s eyelid at one point) and his utter inability to comprehend Latin. This is particularly interesting: one of the major points of contention between Catholicism and Protestantism was Latin. Catholics insisted that the Bible (and all readings therefrom) should be in Latin, as they had been for over one thousand years. Protestants argued that the Bible should be written in ‘the Vulgate,’ so everyone could understand it. Andrew the knight’s complete ignorance of it and Feste’s presumably deliberate mangling of it show a less than holy respect for the traditionally biblical tongue. And let’s not forget that Andrew is also a braggart, a prodigal, and a clueless coward, ultimately no better than Malvolio, save for his love of festivity (if that’s a virtue).

Valentine is a minor role, but even he has one or two intriguing lines. When the Duke asks if his words of love were delivered to Olivia, Valentine replies:
“So please my Lord, I might not be admitted,
But from her handmaid do returne this answer:
The Element it selfe, till seven yeares heate,
Shall not behold her face at ample view:
But like a Cloystresse she will vailed walke,
And water once a day her Chamber round
With eye-offending brine: all this to season
A brothers dead loue, which she would keepe fresh
And lasting, in her sad remembrance.”
(italics mine)

In order for the Scansion to work (if you’re interested in that sort of thing), Valentine must say “vail-ed,” not “vailed,” and even more interesting: “remem-berance,” not “rememb’rance.” Even more, why does Valentine need to say “The Element itself, ’til seven years heat / Shall not behold her face at ample view,” rather than simply “She’ll see no one for seven years,” or instead of “And water once a day her Chamber round / With eye-offending brine,” why not simply “She’ll weep once per day for her brother’s love.” There are absolutely many ways to interpret this, but one such interpretation is that Valentine is more than a little stuffy, more than a little pompous himself. Such stretched out fancy-talk is not uncommon in Shakespeare, but slightly unusual for a mere messenger. And why does Valentine, an incidental messenger, even have a name? He is a courtier, and has a handful of lines in 1.4, but again that hardly justifies such fanciness. It’s a weak argument, but only one among several stronger.

Maria is a gentlewoman, or so called, but she behaves little better than the coarse knights Toby and Andrew. She is both cunning and cruel, demands the same quiet that Malvolio does, and visits cruel deception and vengeance upon the Puritan, ostensibly for nothing more than a casual chastisement that she aught to discipline the rowdies more effectively.

We are led to believe that Malvolio couldn’t have fallen for Maria’s tricks if he weren’t so pompous, so vain, but how do we know he’s so vain? Everyone says so, especially Maria, but all his behavior in Acts 1 and 2 are at the behest of Olivia. Olivia demands quiet, so he demands it. Olivia demands harsh treatment of Orsino’s messengers, so he is rude to Caesario. Maria does exactly the same: she demands quiet of Toby and Andrew, mocks Feste and tells him to behave himself, and is rude and dismissive of Caesario. Yet Maria is ‘clever’ and Malvolio is ‘foolish.’ If talking to no one (“practicing behaviors to his own shadow”) is a sign of vanity, then every Shakespearean lead is far vainer than Malvolio, including Orsino and Viola.

Malvolio presents his yellow stockings (Ethan Hall)

Malvolio presents his yellow stockings (Ethan Hall)

So what are Malvolio the Puritan’s crimes? He mocks Feste, just as Olivia does. He is rude to servants and demands quiet, just like Maria. His overt pomposity, his clear claims of superiority, don’t show up until Olivia’s (fake) letter tells him to be dismissive and superior. In fact, when he first enters in 2.5, he is already fantasizing about Olivia, wondering if she might have feelings for him. Malvolio is easily duped, not because he is vain, but because he is desperate for Olivia’s love. Sure, he daydreams of talking down to Sir Toby, but who hasn’t had the same thoughts about a belligerent and drunken superior? Any other alleged crimes are only spoken, not proven. And for that, he is imprisoned and abused, humiliated and terrified, nearly driven mad, deposed and replaced in favor (if he ever had favor) by the pretty and vacant Sebastian. And when all’s said and done, we’re treated by Feste to another beautiful song with a strong hint of melancholy: “For the rain, it raineth every day.”

Feste (Andrew Behling) & Sir Andrew (Jessie Mutz) party '13

Feste (Andrew Behling) & Sir Andrew (Jessie Mutz) party, 2013

So what does Twelfth Night really say about religion, and about festival? More than anything else, it says that Shakespeare was wise enough to keep his political opinions (if he had any) well hidden behind three-dimensional speakers. Incredibly, this play also features the same terribly tasteless jokes (one of Viola’s most beautiful speeches may well contain a seemingly-random bit of scatological humor), the same vapid fools, and (if Unrehearsed theory is right) the same cartoonish gesticulations, as any other Shakespearean comedy. And like every other comedy, it still has a volume of commentary on the zeitgeist and human nature as a whole. Even the Bard’s simplest, most cartoonish comedies still offer a wealth of insight about our species.

Except for Comedy of Errors.

HEY! Be sure and check out our third annual Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night.

January 5th (Twelfth Night) and January 12th (the twelfth night… of January)
Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, 3905 N Lincoln Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5 at the door
Come be something great… the Audience!

This ‘n’ That Way Madness Lies

By Jared McDaris

The year was 2008. It was a more innocent time. I was wearing blue stockings, oversized pants, an oversized white shirt, and an oversized… I wanna say jerkin, but I know I’m wrong.

Still wearing glasses. What a tool.

Still wearing glasses. What a tool. (Volpone, 2008)

The play was Volpone. I was playing Voltore, a greedy lawyer who gives a slanderous speech in court. I had to tell a story to the audience, an untrue story, involving several characters who were onstage, but with whom I’d had no interaction. I had to remember who was whom based on what I’d already seen that day, get those people close to each other, keep the action downstage, and move quickly enough to keep the energy high.

On top of all that, I had a challenge that, at the time, had never been addressed.

Most of the basic rules of Unrehearsed Shakespeare are simple verbal interpretation, and none of these is simpler than the this/that rule. Simply put, when you say “this glass,” you must be touching the glass; when you say “that glass,” you must not be touching the glass. Easy as pie.

But there was another issue. It’s easy enough to grab a sleeve or point to a shoe, but what about “this argument,” “these illusions,” “that vile deception,” or my personal favorite, “these deeds?” How do you touch, or point to, an abstract idea? How do you indicate a thing that is no longer there?

Eventually, these would come to be known as “Abstract Thises and Thats,” but at the time, I just saw words highlighted in yellow and orange, which meant I had to touch something or point at something. So, not knowing what else to do, I grabbed the air. I pointed at the sky. I patted the ground. I gesticulated wildly. It was cray.

This was somewhat tenebrous ground at the time. We had been given clear instruction not to “interpret” our characters unless the text said so. I couldn’t “gesticulate wildly” unless someone described me as doing so, or if I described myself thusly.


But on the other hand, there were those words. I had to grab something. I had to point at something. So I did.

What I didn’t know was, later in the play, the two leads come on and comment on my character. In essence, they say: “That guy sure was crazy. He was shouting and gesticulating wildly.”

BAM!! Shouting (I had a lot of exclamation points, a rarity in original Elizabethan copies), and gesticulating wildly! Bam! Remember, nobody told me I was flailing my arms about, and Voltore sure never describes himself as an amateur windmill. How could I have possibly known to do that?

That’s the greatest thing about Unrehearsed Shakespeare: it works. We’ll probably never know if this is really how they did it back then, how carefully Shakespeare (or in this case Ben Jonson) chose his words, or how strongly cod-pieces figure into the phrase “my willing love,” but we do know that when we apply these guidelines to scripts from the era, any scripts from the era, it creates dynamic performances that are always new! Exclamation point!

Twelfth Night (coming to Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, 3905 N Lincoln Ave, Jan 5th and 12th at 7:30pm) is a play I have worked on six times, both in Unrehearsed productions (this is our third annual Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night, and my fourth Unrehearsed performance of it) and in more conventional shows (most recently up in Milwaukee this last Summer). But it took me until now to realize: this script has more Abstract Thises & Thats than any other I can remember working on. And what’s really cool is, most of these Abstracts are spoken by Olivia and Malvolio. What do these two have in common?

Besides the fact that they’ve both been played by Danny Pancratz, looking ridiculous.

Malvolio (Danny Pancratz) is released from prison '12

Malvolio (Danny Pancratz) is released from prison 2012

Chad Tallon (Malvolio) and Danny Pancratz (Olivia), 2013

Chad Tallon (Malvolio) and Danny Pancratz (Olivia), 2013

Well, there’s another chapter in the Volpone Voltore story. See, after his first impassioned lie in court, the lawyer’s situation reverses. He’s betrayed by a confederate and has to go admit his folly to the court. He does this (at the suggestion of the title character) by pretending to be possessed. He goes mad, convulses on the floor, pretends to vomit up needles (that was fun) and otherwise acts stereotypically insane (all at the direction of Volpone). In a way, his wild gesticulations were a prelude to the coming comic madness.

Voltore, being told to vomit up pins... yikes

Voltore, being told to vomit up pins… yikes (Volpone, 2008)

So what do Olivia and Malvolio have in common? In a play about repressed passions exploding forth, they are the two characters who are most often called crazy. Olivia is simultaneously called a madonna and a mad-donna, both madam and mad-dame. Most of these epithets are hurled by Feste, liberally; and shortly after she proves him right by madly lusting after the young Caesario. Malvolio’s madness is more straightforward: falsely accused of demonic possession, he is locked up and driven mad (or nearly there), also by Feste.

It rocks my world that these two different authors, in these two different comedies, would assign such a heavy amount of Abstract Thises & Thats to characters who have the label of ‘insanity’ attached to them.

We’ll never know if Unrehearsed Shakespeare is historically accurate, but it works, and even after eight years, it continues to yield new and fascinating ideas for me, and new ways to apply those ideas to performance.

Be sure and check out our third annual Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night, and judge for yourself.

January 5th (Twelfth Night) and January 12th (the twelfth night… of January)
Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, 3905 N Lincoln Ave
Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 7:30
$5 at the door
Come be something great… the Audience!


Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night!

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Unrehearsed Shakespeare is launching its third full season with our third Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night.

Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro
January 5th (Twelfth Night) @ 7:30
January 12th (The twelfth night of January) @ 7:30

We’re kicking off our third full season with a couple new kicks:
#1: We’re finally cutting our shows! We’ve trimmed 15% of the script for the fastest Twelfth Night ever!
#2: We recast Twelfth Night every year, but with only a few actors to choose from, our casting gets more creative every year!

TWELFTH NIGHT: After surviving the shipwreck that took her twin brother, Viola washes up on the strange island of Illyria. She’s thrown into a court awash in romantic intrigue and mischievous festival. Featuring perennial favorites like Sir Toby Belch and Malvolio, as well as gems like Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia, Twelfth Night remains one of the best, if not the greatest, of Shakespeare’s comedies.

In the meantime, enjoy some blasts from the past.

2015 Season

It’s official! Unrehearsed Shakespeare releases its 2015 Season:

TWELFTH NIGHT ON TWELFTH NIGHT ’15: Our third full season opens with another production of Shakespeare’s greatest comedy. As the show returns again and again, look for more creative casting to color each production.

TITUS ANDRONICUS (Spring): Blood and revenge and pies. This operatic tale of spiteful passion and vicious cruelty gets the high-energy treatment it deserves when Unrehearsed gets its thumbs into it.

AS YOU LIKE IT (Summer): All the world’s a stage, and never is that more apparent than when Unrehearsed brings the verse to the people. Shakespeare’s largest female lead, the first wrestling scene, his most famous speech, and perhaps his best cross-dressing scenes, make As You Like It a perennial favorite.

COUNTESS BATHORY (original production): An original Elizabethan-style history play, Countess Bathory will be Unrehearsed first conventional play production. Bathory tells the story of the infamous ‘Blood Countess’ and her bid for immortality through the torment of her servants.

RICHARD III (Autumn): Before Winter falls, we’ll find the Winter of our discontent. One of history’s (and fiction’s) most compelling villains takes us on a romp through the end of the War of the Roses. Manipulation, murder, and tongue-in-cheek soliloquies make this one of Shakespeare’s most original and dynamic dramas.