Shakespeare on the Square
What: Tennessee Stage company outdoor productions of two Shakespeare plays
Where: Market Square, downtown Knoxville
- "As You Like It" 7 p.m. July 12, July 14, July 20, July 22, July 26, July 28, Aug. 3, Aug. 5, Aug. 9 and Aug. 11;
- "Julius Caesar" 7 p.m. July 13, July 15, July 19, July 21, July 27, July 29, Aug. 2, Aug. 4, Aug. 10 and Aug. 12
Admission: Free but suggested donation of $5 per person; VIP seating for $15 under a tent with complimentary bottle of water at tennesseestagecompany.com
Tom Parkhill is promising togas — and tunics — for the Tennessee Stage Company's summer production of "Julius Caesar."
The play is one of two the Knoxville-based theatrical troupe presents for its 10th season of "Shakespeare on the Square." The other play is an American-dress version of the comedy "As You Like It."
The evening shows alternate from mid-July to mid-August at downtown Knoxville's Market Square. Playgoers are invited to bring blankets or lawn chairs. Performances are free, but the stage company accepts donations and suggests a $5 per person contribution. This year the company, offering new "VIP" seating. For $15 patrons get a seat under a tent and a complimentary bottle of water. VIP seats can be reserved at http://tennesseestagecompany.com.
While this is the 10th year for Shakespeare on the Square, the theatrical troupe has performed outdoor summer Shakespeare for 23 years. It's the first time in some years the company has presented the tragedy "Julius Caesar," a version of the Roman politician/dictator's life and assassination. The only other production was two decades ago.
Performed in 1992 in the Tennessee Amphitheater of the World's Fair Park, that modern-dress "Julius Caesar" didn't really please Parkhill. At least one audience member wasn't happy either. On one of the comment cards given audience members a playgoer wrote, "Where the hell are the togas?!"
So this season "Julius Caesar" will be performed in the era in which events happen and Shakespeare staged it. That means some actors will be wearing togas. Others will don easier-to-wear tunics.
"We do get a lot of requests for it ("Julius Caesar)," says Parkhill, the TSC founding artistic director. "It is in people's minds. And most 10th-graders have to read it (in school.)"
But he wasn't definitely planning on the play for this summer. Then he recalled that the 2013 presidential election year is a good time to stage a study of politics and power.
Parkhill is directing "Julius Caesar" with its 18-actor cast. Running about two hours, "Julius Caesar" is at 7 p.m. July 13, July 15, July 19, July 21, July 27, July 29, Aug. 2, Aug. 4, Aug. 10 and Aug. 12.
Parkhill says he feels strongly that the annual "Shakespeare on the Square" should always include a comedy. This year's offering is "As You Like It" at 7 p.m. July 12, July 14, July 20, July 22, July 26, July 28, Aug. 3, Aug. 5, Aug. 9 and Aug. 11.
"As You Like It" was the first play performed for "Shakespeare on the Square" 10 years ago. It's a tale about lovers, banished family members and an enchanting forest. Parkhill says it's one of Shakespeare's funniest plays.
The "Ask You Like it" production's cast of 15 is directed by Kevin Velasco and set in the post American Civil War Reconstruction period. Parkhill says the actors have been instrumented to speak Shakespeare's words with "modest" Southern accents.
Some 7,000 people come to Shakespeare on the Square each year, Parkhill says. While the company asks for a $5 per person donation, he says contributions average "about $1.50 a head." Sponsorships, grants and contributions from Knox County and the City of Knoxville help pay for the plays.
Parkhill says "Shakespeare in the Square" is a magnet for downtown. Most playgoers note on comment cards they "seldom" or "not often" come downtown. "We feel we bring people downtown who might not otherwise have come."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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