King Lear: Coming this December

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The Seven Ages of Unrehearsed Shakespeare

[By Jared McDaris]

December 5th was the seventh anniversary of our first production of MacBeth. Mildly frustrated with grad school, I made a somewhat impulsive decision to help facilitate the verse education of my classmates and myself by throwing together an unrehearsed production. My classmate Danny Pancratz had actually put more work into Unrehearsed than I at the time, and I knew the ol’ Scottish King was a dream role of his, so I (again, impulsively) chose the ol’ Scottish Tragedy and went to work.

It was a very lucky choice for my first play. Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, it relatively simple as far as historical plays go, featuring many roles of fairly surmountable size and complexity. There was only one particularly daunting role, and I knew ahead of time that the performer of said role was very motivated to do it justice. The fairly overt morality was rendered even more black-and-white by an engaged audience, who delighted in booing MacBeth and his wife like music hall villains the instant they began discussing Duncan’s murder, and did not let off until the bloody King’s beheading. This and the increasingly broad violence, and of course the infamous chanting of the witches, conspired to create a virtually fool-proof show.

We ‘remounted’ Mackers in early 2010 under Western Illinois University’s aegis, for the 2010 KCACTF festival. Starting the show at 11pm and encouraging audience commentary while performing in what was essentially a giant theater party, was another recipe for success.

Since performers just want to perform, the low overhead and ready access of Unrehearsed was attractive to many actors. In my last semester at WIU, we staged The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet, where I self-indulgently played the title character on my birthday. We also learned a lot about riling and teaming the audience, responding to all stage directions (even unexpected ones), and balancing pacing with specificity.

That same year after graduation, despite our many uncertain futures, we moved to Chicago and staged our debut in late 2010: Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. This was when I began to appreciate methods by which we might introduce some elements of conventional acting into Unrehearsed shows without damaging technique. This continued to grow, though relatively slowly, in 2011, which featured only our next double-header: Shrewthello, Taming of the Shrew and Othello.

It wasn’t until 2012 that things began to really pick up again. Unrehearsed collaborated with Orion Couling (founder of EDGE Theatre) to perform Comedy of Errors on a ship at Navy Pier. We also performed Act 3 of Pericles with Blunt Object’s Shakespeare I Love You, and thanks to TheaterRED we were able to bring the ol’ technique up into Milwaukee.

Things truly blew up in 2013. We started our annual Twelfth Night on Twelfth on Twelfth Night (which was also brought to Milwaukee by TheaterRED), brought back Much Ado About Nothing, debuted our Midsummer Night’s Dream and MacBeth in Chicago, and got to stage Two Gentlemen of Verona with TheaterRED in Milwaukee. This, a couple of staged readings, and some workshops helped to make the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company resemble some kind of theater company.

In 2014, we were a little more planned out. Our Twelfth Night was in full swing, and we added Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet, and Henry V to our roster, as well as a double-header: Comedy of Errors and Double Falsehood. It was a big year for us (though a poor one for photography). It was also the year our managing director Jessie Mutz left to pursue her graduate degree in Florida. She left some excellent performances behind her.

It was in 2015 that our membership began to grow appreciably. Intro classes became a little more regular, as did our tendency to keep with Shakespeare’s more popular works: Twelfth Night, Titus Andronicus, Richard III, and The Tempest was our lineup. With Richard III, we had to say goodbye to another central figure in our success, as Zack Meyer took off to undertake his own graduate career in Ohio.

2016 has been a little quieter, but our ranks are slowly growing, we did manage to reach a new audience in Elgin, and with four potential new directors for next year, I have reason to believe our future is pretty bright.

We’re closing our 2016 season a little later than usual with King Lear. Please be so kind as to join us next week for some epic intrigue and the strangely relatable tale of the clueless ruling generation and their unwise investment in the most evil elements of their children.

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Eyes on Actors: Lana Whittington

lwhittingtonLana is a new Apprentice, debuting with King Lear. You can also see her this December in EDGE Theatre’s A Steampunk Christmas Carol as the Mad Madam Fizzlewig. Lana will be performing in Lear on Tuesday, Dec 13.

Q: How were you first introduced to Unrehearsed Shakespeare?
LANA: I first heard about it through my good friend Charlie Baker. We went to school together and he has been a part of Unrehearsed for a few years now. Then I was cast in Countess Bathory written and directed by Jared and I knew I needed to work with this guy more.

QHow does Unrehearsed differ from other acting experiences for you?
LANA: It is completely different from what I am used to. In college mostly I worked with many directors who blocked us to a tee and gave us our characters’ motivations. Though Unrehearsed has set rules you should follow to make it interesting there is much more freedom to do what feels natural and to find your own motivations even if they might not be perfect. I’ve never been in a show where I didn’t have weeks of rehearsals and had no idea who was playing who until I was on stage. This is a little frightening, but mostly exciting.

Q: What, if anything, is your biggest challenge with this technique so far?
LANA: This technique relies massively on listening skills, and that has been a challenge of mine in the past with shows that have rehearsal time. It’s easy to become complacent when you know what will be said and when your next cue is. Unrehearsed keeps everyone on their toes which is what I like most about it.

Q: One of the defining attributes of Unrehearsed is the lack of a Fourth Wall. How do you feel about this? How does it affect your work and/or prep?
LANA: Well in many of Shakespeare’s works we often see actors performing their soliloquies to the audience, but Unrehearsed gives you more opportunities to use the audience outside of those monologues. It’s almost like the audience is it’s own character in the show. While I’m rehearsing my sides, I try to look for instances where I can use the audience even when my character doesn’t have speeches or asides. It’s also interesting to use the audience for story telling purposes, so I keep an eye out for chances to use the audience as characters for that purpose as well.

QWhat, to you, is the most intriguing thing about King Lear?
LANA: It’s quite interesting that it takes Lear so long to discover that the only people who love him and have his best interests in mind are the ones that he banished just because they did not tell them what he wanted to hear. It’s strange how not getting our way can skew our judgment and our trust in others.

Lana recently appeared as “Jane” in sister-company We Three’s production of Countess Bathory

Q: If Lear asked you to flatter him, would you answer more like Cordelia or more like Goneril and Regan?
LANA: I’d probably be similar to Cordelia. I don’t like to play games with people and I prefer to be honest to other people rather than let them hear what they want to hear.

Q: So what’s next for you?
LANA: Come see Steampunk Christmas Carol; you will see many Unrehearsed actors and it is tons of fun. I’ve been in/seen many productions of Christmas carol but this one is special. You will be on the floor laughing with Christmas joy by the end.

Click here to see Lana in the upcoming A Steampunk Christmas Carol (with EDGE Theatre), or here to see photos from her recent performance in Countess Bathory (with We Three).

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JJ Gatesman is the Storm

JJ is an Unrehearsed veteran of seven years who has helped to spread the technique as far west as Las Vegas. He is currently working with the Milwaukee Rep’s The Foreigner, playing until December 18th. Also keep an eye out for upcoming productions of Henry VI part 1, an unrehearsing of the traditional play using the first folio technique;  and Blade of the Child, an original play by JJ, coming to Milwaukee this summer.

You can see him as a special guest performer in King Lear on Monday, December 12th.

Q: What first turned you on to Shakespeare?
JJ: I’ve always been interested in poetry. I learned about Shakespeare in high school and almost immediately got to perform it. The second show I ever did was Merry Wives of Windsor. I was drawn to the visceral energy that one can feel speaking in iambic pentameter and I’m constantly in awe of the different metaphors that pop up in Shakespeare.

Q: How has your approach to Unrehearsed altered over the years?
JJ: One of the best parts of Unrehearsed is giving and receiving stage directions, and I’ve become better at spotting the places for them. It creates a great spontaneity that you don’t typically see in more traditional performances of classical pieces. Also, I’m hoping that the more I use First Folio Technique the more grounded I can become while using it. It’s easy to get caught up in the hullabaloo and forget to breathe or flail around making gestures that aren’t supported by the script. I’m hoping that in King Lear I’ll have a bit more economy of action.

QWhat, to you, is the most intriguing thing about King Lear?
JJ: The multi-tiered story that provides us with no specific protagonist, but instead we have arguments for any and all of the characters to be the “main” focus. It gives the opportunity for an ensemble to shine as a whole rather than some of Shakespeare’s other plays like Hamlet or Macbeth.

Q: How would you compare directing or teaching Unrehearsed to performing it? For that matter, how does Unrehearsed directing compare to more conventional productions?
JJ: It’s akin to driving a car. When learning there are so many individual things that have to go right (i.e. I have to shift into gear, put my foot on the gas, oh I forgot to adjust my mirrors, etc.). When you’re performing, there isn’t time to focus on these individual parts and instead you have go with the flow of how things are happening in the “now”. I think it takes performing in the actual shows to really understand how everything fits together, so when you’re teaching/directing one of these productions you have to accept that students new to the technique are going to miss some steps until they have the opportunity to make some mistakes in a performance.
I’ve only recently started directing traditional theater projects, and I find that whenever I’m stuck, I always go back to unrehearsed Shakespeare. Who’s speaking to who? How close or far away from each other do these characters need to be? Could any part of this be to the audience? These are questions we’re always asking ourselves while looking at our tracks in unrehearsed and I think they are excellent starting points for scene work.

Feste (Jared McDaris) & Sir Andrew (JJ Gatesman) party it up '12

JJ as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in our annual Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night (2013)

Q: What’s your favorite Unrehearsed role to date?
JJ: Proteus, nothing beats winning a crowd over that is actively booing you.

Come see JJ try to win over the crowd Monday, December 12th!

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Kevin Johnson is the Storm

Kevin Johnson Headshot 1 (1)Kevin is a recent Apprentice who debuted this season as Sylvius in As You Like it. He’s also appeared in Hamlet as Guildenstern and as Balthazar in our Comedy of Errors with Janus Theatre in Elgin.

Q: What first turned you on to Shakespeare?
KEVIN: In 2013, I saw the Q Brother’s production of Othello: The Remix, which is a four-man show of Othello, told entirely through hip-hop (similar to Hamilton, though O:TR came first.)  I wasn’t into Shakespeare or rap before seeing that show, and afterward, I was a fan of both.

Q: How has your approach to Unrehearsed altered during your first year? (or is it too early to say?)
KEVIN: I don’t know if it’s altered that much, but I’ve worked on cutting down on and specifying gestures.

Q: What, to you, is the most intriguing thing about King Lear?
KEVIN: It seems with most tragedies, the main character is introduced as a pretty decent guy (even Macbeth starts as a hero).  Lear enters in the first scene, immediately banishes the only two people who are honest with him, and then has to get the audience on his side from there.

Q: If Lear asked you to flatter him, would you answer more like Cordelia or more like Goneril and Regan?
KEVIN: I’d probably plan on being honest, and then as soon as he asks I’d panic and say he’s the best thing ever.

Q: What’s your favorite Unrehearsed role to date?
KEVIN: Sylvius.  Getting to lead the infamous (at least among Unrehearsers) “What ’tis to love” scene was an honor.

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Kevin retires the guard in the opening scene of Hamlet, 2016. Photo by iNDie Grant Productions

Q: So what’s next for Kevin Johnson?
KEVIN: Performing February 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg is a truly life changing production of The Lion King with the special needs inclusion based program, Ups For Downs.  I’m playing Scar on the 2nd and 4th.

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Eyes on Actors: Sarah Franzel

sarah-franzel-headshot-2Sarah is a recent Apprentice who debuted this season in Hamlet as the First Player and Fortinbras. You can catch her TONIGHT in the Conspirators’ The Resistible Rise of Her Helmut Drumpf, running these two weekends before the election. You can also see her this December in EDGE Theatre’s A Steampunk Christmas Carol as the Engineer. Sarah will be performing a leading role in King Lear on Monday, Dec 12, and a supporting role on Tuesday, Dec 13.

Q: How were you first introduced to Unrehearsed Shakespeare?
SARAH: I went to see friends in Richard III, attended several performances after that, and finally took the Unrehearsed technique class this summer!

QHow does Unrehearsed differ from other acting experiences for you?
SARAH: One of my favorite things about performing is the rush of adrenaline you get right before you enter the stage. After so many shows, so many performances, it’s easy to lose that feeling and slip into autopilot. Due to the nature of Unrehearsed, it’s always there.

Q: What, if anything, is your biggest challenge with this technique so far?
SARAH: Keeping gestures relevant and specific to the text, rather than flailing about if I get lost (though that’s better than doing nothing!) Also, you may go into a scene knowing exactly what you intend to do with it, and then your scene partner throws you a proposal that completely shakes things up and you have to adapt to what’s actually happening, rather than cling to what you planned. It’s times like that where Unrehearsed can be the most fun!

Q: One of the defining attributes of Unrehearsed is the lack of a Fourth Wall. How do you feel about this? How does it affect your work and/or prep?
SARAH: It’s so much fun! (Especially because Unrehearsed audiences tend to react enthusiastically). The lack of a Fourth Wall can be especially helpful during a soliloquy when you have no one else onstage to interact with.

QWhat, to you, is the most intriguing thing about King Lear?
SARAH: The frequent references to the natural world and how the chaos that springs from Lear’s banishment of Cordelia is mirrored by the storm.

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Sarah performs the Pyrrhus Monolog in Hamlet, 2016. Photo by iNDie Grant Productions

Q: If Lear asked you to flatter him, would you answer more like Cordelia or more like Goneril and Regan?
SARAH: Gah, what a question. I’d like to think that I would answer with Goneril and Regan’s positivity but with Cordelia’s genuineness so we’d all live happily ever after. End of play.

CLICK HERE to see Sarah in our recent production of Hamlet, or HERE.

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The Hour of Errors Heads to Elgin

ElginShakes

In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s shuffling off, Unrehearsed is joining Janus Theatre in Elgin, IL for a production of our short-cut of Comedy of Errors.

Mural Alley
66 S. Spring Street, Elgin, IL
Saturday, August 13, 1:30pm

FEATURING:
Chris Aruffo
Robbie Bersano
Bill Daniel
Nathan Ducker
Gilly Guire
Kevin Johnson
Kate Lass
Jared McDaris
Kamron Palmer
Kaelea Rovinsky
Chad Tallon

One Chance Left to see Hamlet Unrehearsed

hbTO BE OR NOT TO BE? Unrehearsed Hamlet returns one last time, August 2nd (Tuesday).

BLACK ROCK PUB
3614 N Damen Ave
$5 At the Door

CAST, August 2 (Tuesday)
Robbie Bersano
Adam Betz
Bill Daniel
Marcee Doherty-Elst
Christopher Elst
Sarah Franzel**
Gaby Labotka
Jared McDaris
Kamron Palmer
Stephen Rowland
Jack Sharkey
Mike Speck*
Aiyanna Wade

*Special Guest Artist
**Student Performer

Feel free to browse some photos from our last production of Hamlet, 2010, or from our recent performance, July 19.

Jessie Mutz Returns for Hamlet

The famous Jessie Mutz is back! (Soon!) Jessie will be joining us for Unrehearsed Hamlet this coming Monday the 25th, at BlackRock Pub (3614 N Damen Ave, 7:30pm, $5 at the door).

Here’s a thing I wrote about Jessie when we first learned of her departure to grad school.

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Jessie Mutz, Managing Director of the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, is picking up and moving back to Florida to further her education. It’s an exciting future, and I (like everyone) wish her the best. Parting is such sweet sorrow, though.

Jessie first met the Unrehearsed World in Summer of 2010. She attended and observed our ReUp, then watched our Chicago debut: Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. She immediately expressed interest in spreading the technique, fostering classes, and performing more.

This was a dark time for Unrehearsed Shakespeare. Virtually every aspect was managed by one man: me. I had all the company props and costume pieces in my car, since I was homeless. It was a full year before I had the security I needed to produce another show (Shrewthello: Taming of the Shrew and Othello). Jessie was onboard from the get-go, spearheading our advertising, discussing recruitment opportunities, and very happy to finally perform the technique onstage after waiting a full year.

Jessie in her debut as Curtis in Taming of the Shrew

Jessie in her Unrehearsed debut as Curtis in Taming of the Shrew, with Danny Pancratz as Grumio. Photo by John McDaris, Jr.

Most of us were introduced to Unrehearsed via the annual Bard in the Barn festival in Macomb, IL. Even though we’d performed four additional shows in our final year of Grad school, we were still used to getting to perform Unrehearsed just once a year.

Without Jessie Mutz, things may well have stayed that way.

Both our 2010 debut and our 2011 Shrewthello had insular audiences. We weren’t reaching new people (we didn’t even make Facebook events!), and even some of our base was dwindling. In 2012, thanks in no small part to Jessie, we finally started to grow.

Collaboration is how companies thrive, and we kicked that off with Blunt Objects’ Shakespeare I Love You. We worked with four other companies to produce Pericles, each of us handling one of the five acts. Thanks to Jessie, we greatly expanded our notoriety in Chicago with this single performance.

Then we went on a Pirate Ship! With the Tall Ship Windy, we got to perform an hour-long cutting of Comedy of Errors at Navy Pier.

Jessie as Luciana in Bard on the Boat! Opposite her friend and mentor Tiza Garland as Adriana

Jessie as Luciana in Bard on the Boat! Opposite her friend and mentor Tiza Garland as Adriana

It wasn’t until Comedy of Errors that we became a real company, I think. We started having regular meetings (often hosted by Jessie), responsibilities were divvied up and assigned (often to Jessie), and the freedom of delegation allowed us all to thrive in our specific areas of expertise. Imagine producing a show with no design budget and little-to-no control over a cast of 12-to-16 actors, and you can imagine the frustration that was magically lifted from my shoulders, thanks to Jessie.

Along with all these heavy responsibilities (she consistently handled the most mundane and arduous tasks), Jessie has also performed major roles in many of our shows. And deservedly so: there are few actors who so quickly take to the rapid pace, powerful energy, and deep commitment that Unrehearsed requires; or at least, that good Unrehearsed requires.
Probably my favorite photo. Jessie and me at a ReUp before Bard in the Barn 2012

Probably my favorite photo. Jessie and me with Brian Elliott at a ReUp before Bard in the Barn 2012. Photo by John McDaris, Jr.

In 2012, Zack Meyer and I took over a flagging Bard in the Barn festival in Macomb, and Jessie was cast as Rosalind in As You Like It: the largest female role in a single play and the largest Comedic lead in the canon. Preparations for As You Like It were frequently eclipsed by Antony & Cleopatra, the other show in the festival. Despite all this, and despite scheduling and managing text sessions for two shows at once, and despite hosting and managing track proofing sessions, she still managed to deliver a powerful and dynamic performance.

Jessie as Rosalind/Ganymede in As You Like It, assertively interacting with an audience member

Jessie as Rosalind/Ganymede in As You Like It, assertively interacting with an audience member

Oh! and later that year we staged Comedy of Errors again. TheaterRED in Milwaukee put up Bard in the Bandshell, and Jessie performed her first male lead: Antipholus of Syracuse, where (among other things) she got to beat up a Dromio that outweighed her by about a hundred pounds of muscle.

Jessie as Antipholus of Syracuse, practicing some violence with Christopher Elst as Dromio of Ephesus

Jessie as Antipholus of Syracuse, practicing some violence with Christopher Elst as Dromio of Ephesus

2012 was a good year for us, where we sowed and reaped a lot from our new friends in the biz. But in 2013, things really started to explode.

The low overhead of Unrehearsed shows makes it easier to put up productions, and in 2013 we produced nine shows: productions both in Chicago and Milwaukee, small staged readings of new verse plays, and even a high school workshop in Carbondale that Jessie and I ran. In 2013 alone, Jessie played Viola, Hipolyta, Beatrice, the Host of the Garter (AND Anne Page), AND Lady MacBeth. All in a single year!

Jessie as Hipolyta in Midsummer Night's Dream

Jessie as Hipolyta in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Corey DiNardo

2014 is a bit slower, but she still managed to knock Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Julius Caesar, and Juliet herself off the ol’ Shakespeare bucket-list.

"Ay me..."

Jessie in the Balcony Scene. Photo by Jill Meyer

I’ve frequently said that genius exists in small moments. Jessie’s “Banishment” Monolog in Romeo & Juliet was one of those moments. Her combination of physicality and psychological gesture, her commitment to emotional truth without sacrificing technique, her language, her refusal to judge, and her connection with herself and others, is a rare privilege to observe in Theater. And this was at least 90 minutes in, just when exhaustion starts to set in (and after the crowd-pleasing Mercutio and Tybalt are gone), and less experienced actors might start to flag or fail.

The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company is suffering a serious loss, but we have grown so much stronger because of Jessie, that we will continue to flourish and grow stronger. And while I hope deeply that she will still be able to attend and perform in some of our shows, I am heartened by the ever-increasing number of actors who show a genuine interest in the technique and freedom and personal growth we can offer. None of this would have been possible without her, and I wouldn’t be the artist I am without her.

Jessie Mutz is a gift to any person or institution that meets her, and I hope Florida appreciates what it has.

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

-Sonnet 44

By for now, Jessie!

Bye for now, Jessie!

Zack Meyer returns for Hamlet!

Zack Meyer is returning one night only for Unrehearsed’s performance of Hamlet. Here’s a thing I wrote around this time last year for Zack’s last official performance with us in Richard III.

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Zack Meyer, Fight Director and founding member of the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, will be leaving to pursue his graduate degree very shortly. He has deep roots here in Chicago, so it’s not likely that we’ve seen the last of him, but it goes without saying that he’ll be leaving a noticeable chasm in the Unrehearsed community.

I first saw Zack perform in a studio show at Western Illinois University while I was earning my MFA. His natural charisma, ease with elevated language, and (most importantly) his genuine connections with other actors were immediately palpable. Although I allege without hesitation that he is one of the greatest conventional actors I have yet met, it is in the realm of Unrehearsed Shakespeare where he remains unique.

Zack has been doing Unrehearsed longer than I have. He played Archidamus in The Winter’s Tale, the first first production of the Bard in the Barn Festival, which means Zack spoke the first Unrehearsed words in Illinois and probably in the Midwest. He also portrayed a hilarious Lucio in Measure for Measure, and Romeo himself, all before achieving his degree. Most topically, he played Richmond in Richard III, 2008

Somewhat ironically, Zack and I never interacted onstage while at WIU. We were never cast together, and even when he returned in 2009 for Unrehearsed King Lear, we were scarcely ever onstage and barely spoke to each other.

Zack as as dying Mark Antony, with Tiza Garland as Cleopatra (2012)


So it was a bit of a surprise even to me when I realized that Zack has been one of the most influential artists in my development, and that there quite literally would not be an Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company without him.

Like many school theater societies, WIU held an annual award show managed entirely by the students: in this case the Grannies (a nod to Irene Ryan awards). Being the president of WIU’s theater society in 2009, Zack gave a short speech at the award show’s end. I’m paraphrasing of course, but essentially he said: “No matter how many opportunities you have here at WIU, no matter how much you do, when it’s time to leave, it still won’t have been enough. So take advantage of every chance to get to make some art.”

Zach Roberts and Zack Meyer as Don Pedro and Count Claudio

Zack’s brief speech inspired me to get more out of my final year at WIU. Despite some noticeable and (in some ways) almost fatal attempts to do so, this eventually led to my throwing together an Unrehearsed production ofMacBeth. It went well enough, and led to further productions of Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet, all before getting my degree in May of 2010.

Things were rough after that: jobless, directionless, often homeless (both of the couch-surfing and the genuine variety), clueless but never without ideals. Despite having no income and no idea where I was going to sleep next week, I helped bring Unrehearsed to Chicago with Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. Zack played Claudio in Much Ado; he’s never been a creature of ego, despite his abilities, so he also played Adrian in The Tempest.

I had extremely limited means, so we were only doing one or two shows a year, usually at the same time (next year was Shrewthello, which brought us Jessie Mutz and a slightly wider audience). It wasn’t until Orion Couling (coworker and friend of Zack) brought us on the Tall Ship Windy for Comedy of Errors, that things had the chance to take off. This was early 2012, and I had resolved to quit Unrehearsed Shakespeare for good as soon as Comedy of Errors was over.

Zack as Antonio in Twelfth Night (2014)

By complete coincidence, Zack and I crossed paths while walking to the performance early, and so had a quick lunch together. During this lunch, he commented several times on how great it was that Unrehearsed was catching on, and the powerful sense of creative autonomy that having our own acting technique afforded us. Once again, Zack had inspired me, unintentionally and without agenda.

It was shortly after that (again, thanks to Zack) that a team was assembled to help produce shows, and a proper Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company was formed: Jessie Mutz, Danny Pancratz, Brian LeTraunik, and Zack Meyer. There was an immediate upswing in the number of shows we could produce, and the fate and direction of the company was no longer linked to my (often mercurial) financial/housing condition. Now, we have regular seasons and produce four to eight shows a year. Despite the limitations of our esoteric acting style, we are always trying new things and discovering new insights.

Zack as the First Player (Hamlet, 2010), which led to the revolutionary Story-Telling aspects of Unrehearsed.

Zack has delivered some stellar performances in the last few years: Mark Antony (twice), Benedick, Henry V, and the director of Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet. But I will always be most grateful for the sincere words he offered to his classmates at Western Illinois: no matter how many opportunities you get, they will never be enough.

Tonight, Zack is performing in Hamlet. Seeing him perform is a rare treat, and I urge everyone to take advantage of this artistic opportunity, while you can.

Hamlet
July 19 & 25, August 2
7:30pm
@ Black Rock Pub
$5 at the Door