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Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks T-shirt one way to get words of Bard out

| Friday, June 27, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
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Pittsburgh Shakespear in the Park is hoping to sell these shirts to promote its free outdoor performances of 'As You Like It.'
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Garrett Storm is Ferdinand, and Tessa Markle is Miranda, as they perform 'TheTempest,' at Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. The performance was presented by Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Michael Mykita is Prospero and Allie Wagner is Ariel as they perform 'TheTempest,' at Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. The performance was presented by Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Frankenberry is a self-confessed nerd whose only article of sports-related attire is a Scottish rugby shirt.

But he couldn't resist the lure of a Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks T-shirt that said “As Yinz Like It.”

“I live in Pittsburgh where we are surrounded by sports-related T-shirts,” says Frankenberry, the music director for Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. “I'm kind of nerdy, and I love theater and Pittsburgh. If I can wear something that says Pittsburgh and Shakespeare … It's a unique thing and an opportunity to show community ownership.”

The T-shirt, which promotes Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks' September production of Shakespeare's comedy “As You Like It,” is a limited-edition item.

Only 50 shirts will be printed and it's available for order through July 6 for $25.

The company had been looking for something to help promote its 10th season. Created in 2005, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks performs one of Shakespeare's plays outdoors in three or more Pittsburgh parks. Admission is free.

Its mission is to create performances that are accessible and enjoyable for first-time attendees, children, those who stumble upon it while visiting the park and Shakespeare fans. Blankets, thermoses and picnic baskets are encouraged.

Inspiration for the T-shirt was born when Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park's board member Yvonne Hudson jokingly put a Pittsburgh spin on Shakespeare's title while members of the company were participating in Lawrenceville's Memorial Day Parade.

Hudson's life-and-business partner and a fellow board member, Lynette Asson, saw the Pittsburghese title's promotional value and knew just how to employ it without a lot of work.

While attending a workshop on marketing, Asson and Hudson had been introduced to Tfund, a service of CafePress, an online company that prints stock or customer-created designs on a variety of products from mugs and shirts to shower curtains and iPad cases.

Individuals and groups can create a design, choose an item, set a price, decide on a quantity and a time limit and promote the item.

If enough buyers commit to purchase the item by the deadline, CafePress then prints, delivers the product directly to purchasers then sends a check for profits to the fundraiser. If the T-shirt falls short of its sales goal by the deadline, the offer disappears without any cost to the organization.

The program is ideal for small-budget organizations such as Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks, Hudson says. “We wanted something that would create more recognition and something that would be fun even if you never get to our shows,” she says.

The T-shirts would accomplish those goals without forcing the organization to pay in advance for a large quantity of shirts that Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks would have to store, transport and sell.

If the sale is successful, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks will earn $650, a large sum for an organization with a projected annual budget of $20,000.

“It would pay for half of a union contract for one Equity actor or half of our costume budget,” says Jennifer Tober, the company's artistic director.

As of June 27, 17 of the 50 T-shirts had been purchased.

Details: www.tfund.com/pghshakespeare or www.pittsburghshakespeare.com

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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