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Geyer group taking theater to the park

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Marilyn Forbes | For The Independent-Observer
Karen Snyder and Martha Oliver have some fun as they rehearse for the upcoming show.

When live theater was enjoyed in its original format, the performances were mainly staged outdoors in the open air.

Performers from the Geyer Performing Arts Center are taking that step back in time to present four performances of Shakespeare in the Park Friday and Saturday in Loucks Park.

The theater approached the Scottdale Parks and Recreation Committee and the members of the Scottdale Fall Festival committee to see if a pairing of the groups was possible with a live performance that will be held during the annual festival.

“We were absolutely thrilled when we were first contacted about the theater here in Scottdale being interested in doing the Shakespeare in the Park,” said Rick Thomas, fall festival committee chairman. “We have been trying to get the theater involved in some way with the festival for years, and we love the idea of them doing the live performances in the park. It's a great way to bring everyone together and to introduce people in the area to Shakespeare in a fun way.”

Director Katy Pretz of California, Pa. chose the lively and fast-paced comedy “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare-Abridged” which is a show that features small vignettes of different works of Shakespeare such as “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Performed by our five actors and actresses, the show covers Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies, histories, and all the rest,” Pretz said. “Each player takes on a variety of roles throughout the show. Flying props, quick costume changes, and our audience volunteers, affectionately known as “Bob,” make this a show well worth the free admission.”

Pretz said she chose her cast based on experience, opting for performers who she knew could tackle the quick and sometimes off-the-wall humor and pace of the show.

“The show was originally written for three men, but I knew that I wanted a larger cast for this production,” Pretz said. “Martha Oliver and I have talked for quite some time about bringing Shakespeare to the Geyer, so I knew without asking that she would be interested, having taught Shakespeare to high school English classes. She recommended Chelsea Forbes and I am so glad she did. Chelsea is playing Juliet and Ophelia, among other parts, and makes me laugh every time Ophelia “drowns” on stage.

“I had the pleasure of performing with the multi-talented Rich Davis when I first moved here in 2011 and easily saw him playing both the fatherly “Polonius” in Hamlet and Juliet's nurse. Despite the fact Toby Maykuth is busy back in the classroom this fall, I knew I needed him to guide our audience along this hilarious journey. He and Karen Snyder recently directed “The Wizard of Oz” and I knew she would be the perfect fit to balance out the rest of the cast.”

The cast has been rehearing for weeks to bring the unique show to the park, and cast members have been taking time to get into character and learn their lines and cues, finding it interesting yet challenging.

“Understanding 16th-century Shakespearean dialect isn't easy, so knowing how to say the lines and react to various situations has been a challenge for me,” Karen Snyder said. “It is also important to have a knowledge of the culture of Shakespeare's time. Since I haven't read or studied Shakespeare since I was in college, I've forgotten a lot of that.”

Snyder feels the audience will easily be able to follow the flow and content on the show from the visuals.

The show will last about one hour, and is appropriate for all ages, although older youths and adults may get more of the jokes and content.

“Since it is Shakespeare, we recommend this performance for ages 12 and up,” Pretz said. “Language might not be rated G, but younger kids will enjoy watching adults stabbing themselves with plastic daggers, our puppet play-within-a-play, ‘Lion King' references, and playing football while we murder a couple of kings to start a Tudor dynasty.”

The show is free to attend.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.