Sweet Tea Shakespeare presents “As You Like LIT” at the Arts Council, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. This program is the third production in the Lit Series, in which the Sweet Tea troupe interprets classic Shakespearean works in new and innovative ways. “We use the original text, cut down to the essential storyline, but peppered with modern language to make sure the audience is getting the full meaning of all the lines. Shakespeare was popular entertainment in his time, and people are often surprised by how many raunchy jokes are hidden within that seemingly ‘fancy’ language,” Director Marie Lowe explained.
Another unique part of the show is the role of the audience. In a traditional play the audience would just quietly observe, but the Lit Series aims to make the stories much more engaging. “There is no fourth wall in a Lit show. If we’re at a wrestling match, audience members are spectators at the match; if we’re at a wedding, they’re wedding guests,” Lowe said. “The audience participates throughout the show — it could be anything from contributing to our infamous ‘Monologue Mad Libs’ to playing a drinking game or a small walk-on role. However, all audience participation is strictly voluntary. No one gets hauled onstage unless they want to be.” Because each show relies on the audience so intensely, the experience is incredibly unique to each performance. This is further enhanced by the fact that each show is only presented for a night and each performance is hosted in a different venue; and each space can come with its own challenges.
Of course, the crucial role of the audience can pose a little bit of a challenge for the actors as they prepare for the performance. It is hard to simulate that live experience during rehearsal, but this unpredictability also creates an incredibly rewarding experience. There is a lot of creativity in this sort of performance.
“The main difference in rehearsing a Lit show is how collaborative the process is. Actors help create their own characters, but also the jokes, songs and drinking games we use. One of my favorite pieces of feedback came from a cast member who said that being in a Lit show was the best because the audience gets to see and participate in all of the fun we have in rehearsal,” Lowe said.
The show on April 21 begins at 7:30 p.m., but preshow entertainment begins at 6:45 p.m. It will feature live music performed by The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, also called WoCo. In addition to fantastic and fun music, this is also an opportunity for audience members to get acquainted with how this style of performance works.
“For the Lit shows, we sing some songs that everyone will know, and pre-show is when we solicit volunteers for drinking games and other audience participation pieces,” Lowe said. “I’d strongly recommend coming for the entire pre-show — seating is first-come, first-served, and it’s also the best time to get your food and drinks!”
While the Lit series is all about having fun and engaging with the audience, it is still about great theater and incredible actors. “We’re a company full of Shakespeare traditionalists, and this is how we have fun! Amongst all the silliness, traditionalists will recognize we’re using early modern staging conditions, such as static lighting and casting across genders, and achieving the kind of festive atmosphere for which Shakespeare’s troupe was known,” Lowe explained.
For more information and to learn about the other incredible productions that Sweet Tea Shakespeare will be presenting this season, visit : http://www.sweetteashakespeare.com.