Saturday, September 26, 2015

THE WORLD BEGUN • Shakespeare in the Streets: Old North St. Louis

Last weekend, Shakespeare in the Streets took to Old North St. Louis -- at the intersection of N. 14th and Montgomery streets, to be exact. For the past four years, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has mounted an original work based on one of Shakespeare’s plays in one of the city’s neighborhoods, with contributions from the community’s residents for a weekend of free performances. This year Shakespeare in the Streets performed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, “Twelfth Night” called "The World Begun" written by Nancy Bell, playwright-in-residence at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

After a rousing warm-up by the band, Renaissance Blues, Viola (Marlene René Coveyou) finds herself out of space and time -- a 16th century woman who winds up in 21st century St. Louis after being shipwrecked, mourning the twin brother she thinks is dead. The shipwreck was gracefully represented by dancers from Jennifer Medina’s Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company. Once she gets her bearings, a librarian named Mike (Patrick Blindauer) gets Viola up to speed on the neighborhood, and she ends up disguising herself as a man, “Cesario”, and takes a job at Headhunters, the local barber shop, and falls for one of the barbers, Orsino (Lawd Gabriel). But Orsino has his eye on Olivia, the podiatrist (Erin Renée Roberts), and sends Cesario to her to communicate his love, but Olivia ends up falling for Cesario -- the disguised Viola.

Photo credit: David Levy
Then we have an Old North police officer named Toby, (like, a for real police officer named Richard Schicker), who is buddies with a goofy Andrew Aguecheek (Carl Overly, Jr.), who’s infatuated with Maria (Lisa Tejero), the owner of La Mancha coffeehouse. Malvolio (John Bratkowski), an antagonistic resident, is smitten with Olivia as well, but given his disposition, Maria slips him a fake love note that causes him to make a fool of himself in front of Olivia. If you’re familiar with “Twelfth Night”, you know how it unfolds. Olivia ends up with Viola’s twin brother Sebastian (Michael Cassidy Flynn), Viola ends up with Orsino and Toby the policeman marries Maria.

Photo credit: David Levy
This production also benefitted from a local girl scout, Aniyah Wilson as Antonia (Tarecka “Queenie” Smith on alternate performances) and Christoffer Ware, a spoken word artist who plays Feste. Mark Wilson’s production design used the neighboring buildings for projections, and director Jacqueline Thompson keeps the shenanigans compelling. All of the performances were terrific, with Coveyou proving a standout.

Old North St. Louis gets a bad rap for being “a bad part of town”, but this delightful adaptation, blocks from Crown Candy Kitchen and across from Firecracker Press and Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group, worked beautifully to highlight the tight-knit fellowship in one of St. Louis’ oldest neighborhoods. Bell's eloquently smart script is a wonderful love letter to this charming part of town. My only wish is that these productions ran longer! Keep an eye on the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis website to see what they’re up to for next year.


THE WORLD BEGUN

Written by Nancy Bell, adapted from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”
Directed by Jacqueline Thompson
Run concluded | tickets: FREE
Performances 8pm nightly

Cast:
Patrick Blindauer (Mike, a history teacher), John Bratkowski* (Malvolio, a concerned citizen), Marlene René Coveyou (Viola, later disguised as “Cesario”), Michael Cassidy Flynn (Sebastian, her twin brother), Lawd Gabriel (Duke Orsino, a barber at Head Hunters), Robert Green (Robert, a patron of La Mancha), Carl Overly, Jr. (Sir Andrew Aguecheek Toby’s friend), Erin Renée Roberts (Olivia, the podiatrist), Ofc. Richard Schicker (Sir Toby Belch, a police officer), Tarecka “Queenie” Smith/Aniyah Wilson (Antonia, a girl scout), Lisa Tejero* (Maria, owner of La Mancha coffeehouse) and Christoffer Ware (Feste, a spoken word artist).

Creative:
Production design by Mark Wilson; costume design by Felia Davenport; choreography by Jennifer Medina; sound design and assistant stage manager, Michael B. Perkins; properties master, Meg Brinkley; production manager, Tom Martin; stage manager, Richard B. Agnew*; assistant director, Amber Enke.

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

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