As Company Manager for Hoosier Shakes, my prep time has consisted of organizing documents, creating documents, reading and writing mass emails, and becoming familiar with the scripts and directors’ concepts. Anything created and sent out is archived by me, so we can draw on it when needed. My prep time has also consisted of creating my kit, a helpful little collection of pencils, band-aids, gaff tape, you name it! A stage manager kit is like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag filled with theatrical goodies.
While I can physically show you my prompt book I’m creating (aka a massive binder that holds anything and everything needed for us to run the show) or stage manager kit, the preparation that I find the most important for a Company Manager to do is to establish relationship and communication with everyone in the cast and crew. One of the things I love about Hoosier Shakes is that it values the relationships it has with its company members and the community. By taking the time now to establish a relationship with the cast and crew, I hope it shows I value them as a person and artist. I hope it creates a space where they feel safe and able to create. So, yes, I send a lot of emails. I’m creating a bunch of documents. But when I stay on top of sending out materials when needed, staying in touch, and answering questions, I want to create a relationship where people feel safe, prepared, and willing to trust. It takes a lot of trust to put up a show. I trust the cast, crew, and producers with the story; I aim to prove that they can share their trust in me. A trusting and openly communicative relationship is what I am trying to build before we even meet. I’m so excited and honored to work with everyone, and I hope they’re ready to explore and play. If you need me, I’m just an email away!
Q: How has your experience with Hoosier Shakes been over the past few years?
A: It has been an interesting activity. As I have gotten older, my urge to be a life-long learner has increased. Hoosier Shakes is something that would not have been in my area of interest in the past. It seems to be a natural progression from my work with the Community School of the Arts in Marion, along with other performing arts groups in the area, (Civic Theater, Grant County Players, Dance Studios and the Drama department at IWU), to find myself involved with Hoosier Shakes and later to serve on the board.
Q: What is photographing HS like over the summers?
A: I have not really found anything I do not like to photograph, but I really enjoy theater and dance. Hoosier Shakes sticks with tradition in that these are not big, complicated productions with the audience somewhat removed from the production if it was on stage in a theater. The singular level, performers and audience, as well as the interaction during the performances is wonderful. I attend a lot of the summer performances and shoot from many angles. Some of my favorite images are reactions shooting back toward the audience members. I also find myself drawn to certain performers each year and may favor them with a higher count of pictures during the shows. I really enjoy the venues and the changes in the productions from location to location. Charlie Creek Gardens is a great venue when the weather cooperates and the performances are outside.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being involved with HS (board of directors), seeing the performances, and photographing?
A: I love the interaction with new people and my understanding and appreciation for the works of Shakespeare, though limited, certainly has increased. I enjoy the interaction with the community and wished the possibility for an arts community facility and permanent location for Hoosier Shakes could have taken place. We will see. As with many boards, getting everyone’s schedules to mesh is tough, but the meeting are generally good and convenient. I love meeting and photographing the performers and those connected with the venues and the productions. Experiencing the shows over the last few seasons and getting a chance to shoot them with a better understanding of the staging is helpful. Catching key scenes and interactions is always a goal with capturing images. I also shoot more video clips during the last season with a change in camera systems. I visited Staunton, VA this last week during the Christmas Holiday and made a stop at the American Shakespeare Center as a result of one of the actors from Hoosier Shakes. I did not have time in the schedule to take in a show, but will on a future visit. Expanding horizons and learning new things.
How can a pay-what-you-will theatre company like Hoosier Shakes engage in economic development? Great question. Certainly not by investing in buildings or property.
Hoosier Shakes does, however, intentionally find ways to help bolster economic development by drawing attention to some wonderful outdoor and other beautiful spaces. Hoosier Shakes devotes at least one week each summer to providing performances in the downtown Marion area. First, we stormed the 3rd Street Courtyard and later the Grant County Family YMCA. We sought to bring life to a seemingly abandoned part of our city where the shops and businesses closed up shop and “rolled up the sidewalks” around dinnertime. That was then; now times are a-changin’. Downtown Marion is undergoing a bit of a renaissance and Hoosier Shakes looks forward to playing our part(s). As long as Hoosier Shakes is around, we’ll devote part of our season to reinvigorating downtown spaces in the Marion area.
Hoosier Shakes also intentionally partners with local businesses and organizations to draw attention to Grant and Wabash Counties. By partnering with the Grant County Visitors Bureau, we’ve connected with restaurants such as Payne’s in Gas City, The Bridge in Upland, The Branch and Grains and Grill in Fairmount, Chapman’s Taproom in Wabash, and Folkies’ Tavern and The Abbey in Marion, among others, to encourage our patrons to eat and shop locally.
Hoosier Shakes also partners with College Inn Bed & Breakfast (Marion) and Haisely’s Hide-A-Way (Fairmount) to provide opportunities for lodging for our out-of-town guests.
Mississinewa 1812 provided free tickets for Hoosier Shakes to give away during performances to call attention to the annual reenactment of a local War of 1812 battle in Grant County. Our desire was to call attention to their good work and encourage our patrons to become their patrons as well.
Hoosier Shakes sponsors “meet and greets” where locals could meet and greet the cast during our season. We are always grateful to The Abbey Coffee Company and Folkies Tavern for their generous hospitality.
And we are always open to more ideas for partnering with local businesses and organizations. If you are a local business or work for one, let us know how Hoosier Shakes might partner with you.
I spent a significant portion of my life teaching undergraduate college students the discipline and practice of theatre in some relatively remote areas, remote with respect to New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
I struggled with training young artists and practitioners whose hopes and dreams of making it in the business of show was extremely different if not impossible.
So, one of Hoosier Shakes’ pillars is to offer students on-the-job training with professional actors. The net result allows students to rise to the occasion and “hold their own” up against more seasoned actors and directors. A wonderful side benefit to this on-the-job training if the relationships and networks students are able to develop with professionals from across the country. A couple of our past professionals have worked on national Broadway tours or on the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars stage.
As I’ve written elsewhere,
“During our 2016 season, senior theatre major Beverly Wagner was cast as part of the company. Beverly struggled as an actor in her university’s theatre program, but one of the two professional directors saw something in her audition that compelled him to cast her as Feste in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She grew exponentially as a performer over the three and one half weeks of rehearsals. Audiences were drawn to Feste and after each performance were surprised to learn that the actor was a student performer. Beverly grew more in three and one half weeks than she did the previous three years in her undergraduate program. The opportunity Hoosier Shakes provided to work with professional directors and alongside more seasoned actors allowed her to succeed beyond expectations.”
One student actor’s mother shared,
“My “Mom mind” thought, “Wow, his first paid gig in the field of acting. How exciting!” Little did I know that these weeks would be filled with so much more than just a “paid gig.”
“Austin moved to one of 3 homes rented for 12 actors who converged on our little community from across the US.
“These “strangers” became my son’s world for the past 6 weeks. They lived, breathed, loved, learned, ate, slept, sweat, cried, laughed and become as much “one” as twelve people can be.
“To each of these cast and crew members, THANK YOU! You have taken my breath, made me laugh heartily, and cry with raw emotion. These performances were truly remarkable! You are all truly remarkable!”
“It’s one thing to learn one’s craft from a class or textbook; it is something altogether different to learn your craft from a craftsman.”
Hoosier Shakes is all about community. The arts, in general, have a way of breaking down barriers for people. When Marilyn and I were living in New York City a few years back, we would occasionally frequent the Museum of Modern Art. Admission was free on Fridays and you would find people from all walks of life. There would be executives on lunch break, young families with children, homeless folks, etc, all occupying the same space. I enjoyed watching people clamoring around Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans or Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Funny how everyone wanted a selfie with Starry Night. Try taking a selfie with dozens of strangers in the background. I suppose patrons were different on other days; the admission price would be prohibitive for many.
Hoosier Shakes seeks to engage our community through accessible and entertaining experiences. Hoosier Shakes aims to make our performances completely accessible; many of the folks we’d like to reach with the Bard’s timely stories have little, if anything, to contribute to, much less really pay for, a ticket.
The Hoosier Shakes experience seeks to break down those barriers that separate us socially, economically, and culturally. From the moment folks arrive at a performance, they are drawn into the event through music, audience-actor interaction, and an a fair-like atmosphere. Everyone sees one another as fellow human beings rather than the categories with which they are identified and often stereotyped.
Hoosier Shakes intentionally seeks to provide that sort of Friday MoMA experience for the people of Grant and Wabash counties. At any given Hoosier Shakes performance, you are likely to find, young families with children, local businessmen and women, people of color, public servants, homeless folks, high school and college students, young and old alike. There is no attention give to our differences, only to our common bond around the theatre experience.
“You wanna go where people know the people are all the same” (Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart-Angelo).
One of Hoosier Shakes’ goals is “to vitalize the performance of Shakespeare…for the diverse communities of Grant and Wabash Counties, Indiana by presenting inspiring, accessible, literate, experiential theatrical performance.”
We do this by embracing a number of early modern staging practices in our performances, including:
Shakespeare’s theatres, and many others, enjoyed light that illuminated actor, stage, and audience alike, allowing for engagement between the actor and the audience member.
A Surrounded Space
Throughout theatre history, and especially in Shakespeare’s theatres, audiences surrounded a central performance space now known as thrust and arena staging. When the audience surrounds the playing space, they are part of the world of the play, visible to actor and other audience members, participating in the performance.
Early modern theatres didn’t have elaborate sets. In Shakespeare’s theatres, acting companies performed different plays each day, so there wasn’t time for a complete set to be built. Simple sets upend the economics of making theatre, putting the emphasis on actor and text.
Many Shakespeare plays, from Hamlet to Macbeth to the histories, have dozens of characters, but early modern playing companies often had casts between 12 and 15. With a small group of actors and many characters, it was common practice for actors to play more than one role.
With simple sets and doubled actors, costumes are of critical importance to Shakespeare’s theatres. They served as the primary visual draw for a production and helped distinguish between characters. Importantly, Shakespeare’s theatres wore what was for them modern dress. Think the equivalent of a t-shirt and jeans, an evening gown, a tuxedo, or military fatigues for teenagers, ladies-in-waiting, lords, or soldiers, respectively.
Here’s what one patron had to say about our style,
“What I love most about Hoosier Shakes is the incorporation of the modern music before & during the show. It really makes the themes of the show relevant and it’s super fun. I also loved the physicality and the…. It was high energy and really worked. I also liked the doubling of characters and how much sense it made for those characters….”
And we do all this while presenting two plays in repertory. Join us this summer when you can see Othello: The Moor of Venice one night and As You Like It the next, or vice versa.
Hoosier Shakes’ mission is to reveal the delight of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and ideas by producing accessible, quality performances for the audiences of eastern Indiana and beyond and by providing not only exceptional, but also developmental experiences for students, and guest professionals.
That’s our mission. Here’s how that plays out…
Hoosier Shakes intentionally engages in:
Educational Development &
With respect to Artistic Development, Hoosier Shakes aims to provide accessible performances by employing original staging practices and audience engagement. One patron shared,
“I loved the way the play broke the boundaries of the stage in a way that engaged the audience and brought them into the show, experiencing firsthand the play unfold. I greatly appreciated and was drawn in with how well the actors were able to create the atmosphere and bring a modern flair to an old script. I’m sure this play could be done a thousand ways and I loved how uniquely you presented it. Well done!”
We participate in Community Development by offering our performances on a pay-what-you-will basis. If we were to charge full price for a ticket, just to recoup our expenses we’d have to sell them for $35.00. Thanks to our wonderful partners, we are able to eliminate any financial barriers allowing individuals and families from all walks of life to experience quality performances. A Hoosier Shakes audience typically spans racial, gender, age, and social-economic divisions.
One of Hoosier Shakes’ key features is in the area of Educational Development. We intentionally hire at least four student actors and four professional actors and two professional directors allowing students to hone their craft “on the job.”
Hoosier Shakes’ Economic Development is seen in a variety of ways. Most recently, Hoosier Shakes’ was singled out as one of two local organizations to receive partnership grants from the Grant County Visitors Bureau. We were challenged to develop partnerships with other county businesses to bolster economic development for other local businesses.
Check out the next four blog posts where we’ll unpack each of these developmental endeavors.
When Greg first approached me about directing for Hoosier Shakes, I told him that I was itchy to do Much Ado. Itchy is an understatement. I’ve been neck deep in tragedies and histories since directing Twelfth Night in 2014. While years are just numbers, since the last time I directed a comedy, I’ve gotten married, bought a house, earned two masters degrees, and founded a theatre company of my own. In that time, I’ve directed the Second Part of Henry VI, twice. And in 2013, I was seriously considering starting a theatre company dedicated to comedy exclusively. So while I was itchy to do Much Ado (more on that below), I was also just starving for comedy. Luckily, I get to do a couple this summer, first here, and then Knight of the Burning Pestle with the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp.
So why Much Ado? What is it about this silly little play that has me boldly telling a producer I’d never met which show I’d like to direct? It’s all in the title. Much Ado about Nothing. At first, it sounds like one of those “Shakespeare titles” that has nothing to do with the show, like As You Like It, What You Will, All’s Well that Ends Well, etc. I imagine all of those titles you can dig deeper as well, but that’s a tangent we don’t want to go down right now. Much Ado about Nothing is a densely rhetorical joke that works, by my count, on about 4 different levels.
To begin, he title is antithetical. Much Ado is chaos. Nothing is… nothing. So we worry a lot about nothing at all. That’s pretty much the play at its core. The play begins with a messenger delivering news that war is concluded and the boys are coming home. The play ends with a messenger coming in telling us that the villain has been apprehended, and the admonition to “think not on him till tomorrow.” Scholars tend to date this play around the same time as the Henry IV and Henry V plays, and Julius Caesar. By comparison, this play is about nothing.
Moreover, we’ve got the various and sundry meanings of the word “nothing.” It can refer to a non-entity or a non-speaker – such a one is Hero, the ingenue at the center of the play. While this play is celebrated for the grand battles of wit between Beatrice and Benedick, and the madcap antics of Dogberry and the Watch, the story centers on Hero and Claudio. Therefore, there is much ado about (around) nothing (Hero). The flashy distracts from the substance.
Secondarily, “nothing” is also a sexual pun, being Elizabethan slang for female genitalia. The play is obsessed with virginity, cuckoldry, and faithfulness. Since, short of a pregnancy, there is no physical evidence of an unfaithful spouse. It’s all reputation, which, as Iago would have it, “is an idle and most false imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without deserving” (Othello 2.3). The women are bound by their faithfulness to men, while the men (particularly Benedick) are celebrated and gently (if at all) chided about their promiscuity. Indeed, Benedick’s opposition to marriage is based in a fear of cuckoldry, while one of the first statements about him is that paternity of Hero is not in doubt because “Then you [Benedick] were a child” (Much Ado 1.1). Watch for the four women in the play – Beatrice, Hero, Margaret, and Ursula – and their relationships to sexuality, marriage, and men.
Thirdly, the word “nothing” was, to the Elizabethans, pronounced “noting.” At this point, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that “noting” also had three relevant meanings, all of which exist today. The first is “noting” as in overhearing. The play is full of observation, known and unknown, accurate and misunderstanding. Claudio asks Benedick if he “noted the daughter of Leonato”, to which Benedick remarks that he “noted her not, but I looked on her” (1.1). Antonio’s servant overhears (inaccurately) that the Prince intends to marry Hero, while Borachio (accurately) notes that the Prince will woo Hero for Claudio. Beatrice and Benedick overhear (deliberately) that the one loves the other, and are convinced to fall in love. And many more that you’ll see after intermission, and so I’ll save for those who do not know the play. Everything that happens in the play is the result of “noting” what others say or do.
“Noting” can also have a physical meaning, as in composing a note. I mentioned already the notes of the messengers that frame the play, which are again relevant here. At the risk of spoiling a 400 year old play, I’ll not go into how written notes finally bring the play to an end, but I encourage you to watch for it at the end of the play.
And, to conclude, “noting” is musical, as in the Prince’s “note notes, forsooth, and nothing” (2.3). The play’s dominant metaphor is in music. The songs of Balthasar, Claudio, and Benedick, and of the dances, are obvious. Within, we have references to measure, key, tune, verses, dances, ballads and so forth. Beatrice compares courtship and marriage to various dances, and was born under a dancing star (2.3). And, again, as the title would suggest, absence is as important as presence in terms of music. As you watch the play, listen for when we talk about music and dance, and when we don’t. What’s going on in the play when music is absent?
I have certainly rambled on long enough, and longer than I intended to. And so, I’ll leave you with nothing more.
I’m thrilled to be joining Hoosier Shakes 2017 season! Ever since I first heard about the company being founded, I knew it was something I’d want to be a part of at some point. Having gone to school at Indiana Wesleyan University, I know what it was like to study theatre at a small university in a town that’s basically a professional theatre desert. Thankfully, our professors (Hoosier Shakes Executive Director Greg Fiebig included) did an amazing job, despite our small department, at preparing us to be able to be competitive in this industry, holding us to a high standard of professionalism, and connecting us to internships in professional settings around the country. But I also know if I’d had an opportunity like this in Marion as a student, it would have been immensely beneficial. I’m excited to do my part to help kind of mentor the younger members of the cast and crew and especially learn from and be challenged by them and everyone else this summer. I know what Hoosier Shakes offers to students, professionals, and the community of Marion is something very needed and special, and I’m honored to have been invited to participate this summer. I can’t wait to see what the season has in store!
My name is Katie Little, and I will be joining Hoosier Shakes for the first time this summer as a professional guest artist. I hail originally from Dallas, Texas, where I was blessed with a family and an education that valued the performing arts. As soon as I was potty trained, I was attending theatre camps and classes, and I performed Shakespeare for the first time with my fifth grade class at Fine Arts Day. Though 11-year-old me was planning to give an unforgettably profound delivery of her Beatrice lines, I’m fairly certain that the peers and parents in attendance remember my entrance more distinctly. (I fell flat on my face…literally.)** Thankfully the mortification of my Shakespeare debut didn’t diminish my love for the Bard. Last month I earned my Master of Letters in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin University, and I will earn my Master of Fine Arts from the same program next May.
Having only two summer months off from my MFA work at MBU, I wasn’t optimistic about finding a substantial acting job this summer. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Hoosier Shakes liked my video audition enough to offer me a spot in their summer repertory of Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing, two of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. This job was a perfect fit for my summer, as it optimizes time and experience, of which grad students never have enough. Though I’ll only be on-site in Marion for 6 weeks, in that short time we will rehearse and perform two full productions. Since our company size is small (as was the company Shakespeare wrote these plays for), we will be “doubling” the cast. Thus, in this season, I will be playing four characters total, ranging from the winsome ingénue (Hero) to the audacious fighter (Tybalt), giving me an interesting range to explore. In addition to my personal character work, I will be choreographing Much Ado’s dances, and learning fight choreography for Romeo and Juliet, so I don’t anticipate any dull moments in Indiana this summer. I’m greatly looking forward to jumping into this exciting work with the intrepid company of theatre makers at Hoosier Shakes in a few short weeks. Hope to see you in the audience in July or August!
**I’m pleased to report that the 5th grade incident was my last on-stage wipeout to-date, and I intend to restrict all of my falls at Hoosier Shakes this summer to the choreographed ones.