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Shakespeare troupe visits Collier Park

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Nicholas Browne as Antipholus of Syracusa and Anna Rich as Luciana perform their lines for 'the Comedie of Errors,' Saturday, June 28 at Collier Park.

As a plane roared by overhead during a presentation of William Shakespeare's “The Comedie of Errors” at Collier Park, Andy Kirtland blew his whistle.

Kirtland, co-founder of the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project, signaled his troupe to pause, then led them in a chorus of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

It wasn't the typical Shakespeare in the Park performance. That's exactly how Kirtland likes it.

“It's great and something a lot of actors aren't used to anymore. It's something an audience isn't used to a lot anymore,” he said.

Kirtland and his wife, Elizabeth Ruelas, founded the Project in 2011. Its actors employ the Unrehearsed Cue Scroll Technique, in which they carry paper scrolls containing only the final four words of their cue lines, their own lines and stage directions.

The actors in “The Comedie of Errors” never performed together until these weekend shows on June 28 and 29.

“This is the first time they've found out what those (cue lines) were and what happens in-between. They're encouraged not to read the play or see a production of it before they do this. Even if they have done a production of this before, you kind of forget what happens when you approach it looking at their own lines.”

The Shakespeare comedy tells the story of two sets of identical twins who were separated at birth.

“For the first go-round of this company, doing a complete show together, doing something most of them have never done before, it went really well.”

Lisa Novak, Collier's parks and recreation director, said the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project was looking for a park in which to perform.

“It's different. I don't think anything like this has ever been done. Of course, we've got sports going on all over the place and we're building the community center. This is a little bit of culture,” she said.

Kirtland said the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project is attempting to be the antidote to the “stuffy, academic approach” and intellectual stigma that is often associated with the Bard's work.

He told the audience in Shakespeare's era, plays were competing with many other distractions for the audience's attention. Different plays were performed each day, except for Sundays, and never repeated during a two-week period.

“It was written for the people and it was written to make money. Everybody forgets that. They think he wrote these large, intellectual, introspective views into the human soul and psyche. They were just trying to get butts in the seats. They were competing with brothels and gambling houses and bars.”

During the presentation, Kirtland acted as a “safety net,” wearing a black-and-white striped referee's shirt. He possessed the only full copy of the script and helped actors, if needed, to keep the play moving forward.

Kirtland, originally from Baltimore, has a bachelor's degree in theater from Dickinson College and studied with the British American Drama Academy and the International University Global Theater Experience.

He said “accessibility” to the works of Shakespeare is a “four-letter word” in some theater circles.

“That's totally not what this is.

“So many people have come up and said, ‘Wow, I actually understood that. I've never understood Shakespeare before, but I followed this. I understood the play,'”

David Mayernik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dmayernik@tribweb.com.

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