Playing around with Shakespeare

by Tori Sheets


Thespians will hit the stage in July to bring Ouray theatre lovers "Shakespeare as he intended it." The theatre company No Holds Bard will return to the Wright Opera House after a year on hiatus. The company's goal is to recreate Shakespeare's plays as he originally produced and wanted them to be performed.
Originality means going back to the scripts of the 1600s. According to actor and founder of the company, John Kissingford, going back to the original scripts means resurrecting the spelling, grammar and punctuation Shakespeare wrote, as well as removing stage directions.
Stage directions were added, much to the chagrin of high school students throughout the years, to make Shakespeare's works more literary and readable. However, as many theatre enthusiasts declare, Shakespeare is better understood performed, not read.
"We use the original spelling and punctuation because Shakespeare's actors looked at punctuation as marks for elocution, and not in regard to grammar," Kissingford said.
He said the productions of No Holds Bard incorporate the audience into the show like modern theatre can't.
"We don't do high brow Shakespeare, we do Shakespeare for everyone," Kissingford said.
In England during the 1600s Shakespeare's audiences were common people. Kissingford believes his works can be just as accessible to audiences today if they are performed as Shakespeare intended them to be.
"A whole bunch of drunk, illiterate people were his audience," he said.
The main difference between Shakespeare's productions and modern day theatre productions is that actors had little to no time to rehearse for each show back then. Each week a troupe would perform five to six different shows and repeat a show only about twice a month. Kissingford said the way it worked was actors would receive their lines the morning of the show and only have the opportunity to rehearse fight scenes and dance numbers. The lines, or "roles,” were rolls of paper containing only the actor's lines and two to three word cues. No actors would receive the entire script, so they would have to be on their toes throughout the production.
No Holds Bard performs in a similar way. The actors don't receive the entire script or get to rehearse all together, but the stage directors are prepared for the action to unfold.
"The end result is that there's an electricity and it's much more like playing a sports game," Kissingford said. "The action is fast and furious and wild, and everyone in the room is involved."
Another difference between modern productions and Shakespeare's style is that he couldn't use technology to draw the audience into the story; he could only rely on what nature gave him. His plays were performed during the day in an open-topped theatre, so natural lighting and weather were very much a part of the productions.
Kissingford said modern day productions are much more internal because they can rely on artificial lighting and props to portray the story. In Shakespeare's day, however, the story unfolded based on the actor's ability to deliver lines and physically move the action along. This made productions more personal for the audience.
"Language is there because we're talking to people who are in the same room with us. There's no artificial separation between us and the audience," Kissingford said.
This year No Holds Bard will perform “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Taming of The Shrew.” Shows will be at the Wright Opera House on July 8-10 and 15-17. Friday and Saturday shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows will begin at 4 p.m.