[By Jared McDaris]
We haven’t done December shows in a while, but King Lear‘s late production coincides nicely with Unrehearsed’s first show ever back in 2009.
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’s 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 at 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 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.