· What made you decide to partner with Hoosier Shakes?
We are a supporter of the arts and believe they play such an important role in our community. Hoosier Shakes offers such a unique way of bringing theatre and Shakespeare to life in a way that is meaningful and enjoyable for people of all ages!
· What does partnering with Hoosier Shakes mean to you?
It’s been exciting to see Hoosier Shakes continue to grow and relate to new and return audiences. It’s a special gem in our community.
· What do you hope to see from us this season?
We know that it will be nothing less than the fun, high energy, high quality performances audiences have come to know and expect!
· In what ways can our audience interact with your company/business/organization?
I’m Evan Gilmore, director of marketing and development for Sextons Creek. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
What made you decide to partner with Hoosier Shakes?
At Sextons Creek, one of our core values is Flourishing Creativity. We know the value and transformative impact that public art can have on a local community. Having seen the effect that Hoosier Shakes has already had on the Grant County community, and how enthusiastically their productions have been received, it was not a difficult decision to invest in their efforts.
What does partnering with Hoosier Shakes mean to you?
It’s exciting to be associated with a group that approaches their work with excellence and passion. We strive to approach all that we do in a similar manner, so we certainly feel a kinship there.
In what ways can our audience interact with your company/business/organization?
We partner with businesses and organizations to provide comprehensive marketing services for web, video, audio, print, and just about any area our clients have a need. More information can be found at sextonscreekproductions.com, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (317) 516-4511.
What is your favorite Shakespeare show and why?
Personally, probably a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Every time I see it performed, there’s always a new line a joke that I pick up on that eluded me previously!
What made you decide to partner with Hoosier Shakes?
In 2013, the Community Foundation of Wabash County refocused our grantmaking on urgent human need and support for enrichment activities that serve under-resourced citizens of the county. We didn’t want to stop funding the arts in order to fund human need. Art is a human need! But often the cost of participating in the arts is too costly for some families. We wanted to make the arts an essential part of everyone’s life and to find ways to help everyone access the arts. The model of Hoosier Shakes was a good fit for us. The company provides access to performances without charge and makes the sometimes difficult content of Shakespeare accessible to the modern ear.
What does partnering with Hoosier Shakes mean to you?
Hoosier Shakes is evidence that our small rural community is full of quality activities and learning. Community Foundations exist to support local and regional efforts and meet the needs of our citizens. We could never do this work ourselves, nor would we want to. We use the generous resources of our donors to partner with organizations and initiatives in the community that are bringing us a high quality of life. Hoosier Shakes is one of our essential arts partners.
What do you hope to see from us this season?
We are eager to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Othello this summer at the Wabash ArtsFest in Charley Creek Gardens. [dates?] We also hope to see nice-sized audiences this summer. People who think Shakespeare is for snobs will find that he wrote for everyone. He speaks to all our human emotions and even our social and political questions of the day. The genius of Shakespeare is his appeal to our need to laugh and cry and rage. Those messages come through clearly, even in Elizabethan English.
In what ways can our audience interact with your company/business/organization?
We appreciate any way that Hoosier Shakes can link the Community Foundation with Hoosier Shake’s own mission to enrich the region’s quality of place. How many small communities like ours have a Shakespeare company? It’s a wonderful asset for us. I remember that the company did a little street theater at a First Friday event a few years ago to advertise Hoosier Shakes’ performances at the Charley Creek Arts Festival. Don’t hesitate to insert the name of the Community Foundation in any future promotional spectacles! And we always appreciate signage at the performances themselves, as well as mention in a program, if you have one.
What is your favorite Shakespeare show? Why?
I love As You Like It. I love the way a Shakespeare comedy takes chaotic situations and relationships and resolves the story in the end. I once used some lines from this play in a wedding that I officiated (You and you and heart in heart; You and you no cross can part.) because marriage and relationships are like that, aren’t they? They can be chaotic at times, but eventually become strong and clear. More often than not, comedy is our experience of life. Few of us are tragic figures. Most of us are naturally born comedians! We live in in need of reconciliation and we find it when we love and respect each other.
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.