Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater


A Summer Under the Lights


Shakespeare With Heart 2015: The Tempest (circus themed)

As a professionally trained actor and graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I have performed onstage dozens of times both in New York and in Central Florida. But the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had onstage was a decade ago when I participated in Orlando Shakes Shakespeare With Heart camp as a high school student.

It was my first experience with Orlando Shakes and ended up being the very reason I am back working for them as a volunteer today. There is something truly special about working in a judgment-free environment—especially when you are teenager and still shaping yourself as a person. Read the rest of this page »

All Things Shakespearian

Can’t get enough of the Bard? We can’t either! William Shakespeare’s been dead 400 years, but the legendary playwright is still making headlines. The following news articles will catch you up on what’s happening in the World of Shakespeare:

All the World Is Shakespeare’s Stageshakes 1
400 years after his death, the Bard’s influence can’t be overstated. Click to read more.

Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island
shakes 2
A copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of the most sought-after books in the world, has been discovered in a stately home on a Scottish island. Click to read more.

What Twitter, Shakespeare, and monkeys have in commonScreen Shot 2016-05-11 at 12.58.34 PM
Twitter and Shakespeare’s Globe Theater have partnered to prove the infinite monkey theorem, which states that monkeys infinitely typing at random could eventually re-create the complete works of William Shakespeare. Click to read more.

Read the rest of this page »

Find Vanya’s Roaming Gnome Contest!


Identify the location of Vanya’s Gnome and be entered to win two tickets to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and a 2016-2017 Season Subscription!


The Garden Gnome from the Vanya set will be traveling around town with week. Identify his location by commenting on the picture on Orlando Shakes Facebook Page to be entered into a contest to win two tickets to Vanya and a 2016-2017 Season Subscription. Read the rest of this page »

Absurdity and Angst: A Glimpse at the Inspiration Behind “Vanya”


Photo features Benjamin Boucvalt (Spike), Philip Nolen (Vanya), Carol Halstead (Masha), and Anne Hering (Sonia).

Orlando Shakes will be opening Christopher Durang’s newest play, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (Vanya) this April. The Tony Award-winning comedy is a humorous adaptation of themes found in Anton Chekhov’s work. While you don’t need to have read Chekhov to enjoy the production, a little familiarity with the legendary Russian playwright will add to the fun.


Anton Chekhov was born in Russia in 1860. His young life was anything but pleasant. His physically abusive father was declared bankrupt in 1876, but despite the family living in poverty, Chekhov managed to pay his way through school and gain admittance to the First Moscow State Medical University. Working as a medical doctor paid some of the family’s bills, but not enough, so Chekhov looked to writing as a supplement to his income. Sometimes writing under pseudonyms such as “Man without a Spleen,” Chekhov’s satirical writing style gained both popularity and criticism—the latter of which motivated the writer to pursue more artistically ambitious projects. Read the rest of this page »

Striking a Chord in “The Tempest”



Greg Thornton, Dameka Hayes, Brad Frost, Gracie Winchester, and cast. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Invoking a particular emotion onstage can be challenging to do with spoken words alone. Sometimes you need to strike a chord or two, which is where New York composer Daniel Levy comes in.

An award-winning composer and musician, as well as a graduate of Miami University and NYU Tisch, Daniel Levy has produced over 40 scores for film and stage. For Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s current production of The Tempest, Daniel worked alongside director Anne Hering to create a beautifully provocative original score for the play.

Orlando Shakes marketing department recently sat down with Daniel to learn more about his enchanting musical work on The Tempest:


dan 1

Daniel Levy

OST: Can you provide a brief explanation of how you went about creating original music for Orlando Shakes production of The Tempest?

DL: Director Anne Hering explained her vision for the play—what Prospero’s journey was and what the themes or energies were that she wanted to emphasize or explore. Then we invent ways that music can affect or enhance the energy flow in the play, or the flow of information. Text is one form of information. Music is another. Music also has a certain effect on how we perceive time, space, and movement, so there are often these aspects to address too. Read the rest of this page »

The Writing of Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles – PART III


John P. Keller as Pericles and Kimmi Johnson as the Goddess Diana. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

The following blog post is the fourth installment from actor John P. Keller, taking on the lead role of Pericles in Orlando Shakes upcoming modern verse production, of his documentation of the controversial project to translate Shakespeare into contemporary modern English.   


The Translation, Adaptation, or Re-Writing of Shakespeare’s and Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles. Part III

The Writer’s Equation and The Actors’ Math. 

Part of the joy of acting heightened language is that it is not colloquial, modern, or simplistic. My grad school voice teacher passed on the idea that Shakespeare is: “crazy shit, happening to incredibly articulate people.” Modern Shakespeare actors do not apologize for the complex language—the antique-ness of it, is its value. You are given permission to live as large as life itself in the ways that ancient language allows. As fellow Pericles actor Richard Watson puts it “What we do is not brain surgery or rocket science, but it is oddly complex.”

There is joy for an actor to speak true Shakespeare lines like:

Prithee, speak.
Falseness cannot come from thee, for thou look’st
Modest as Justice and thou seem’st a palace
For the crowned Truth to dwell in. I will believe thee
And make my senses credit thy relation
To points that seem impossible.

Shakespeare’s language may not flow on the page to modern eyes. However, actors get to prove themselves worthy of these plays by using their bodies, breath, and active minds to live out the text for modern ears. When a modern ear hears an ancient piece of literature and understands the action of the play, they delight in their own intelligence, emotion, and creativity. The challenge then to the modern playwright is to find a way to replace or adjust indiscernible words and structures while still keeping the magical voyage of an elevated sentence. This is because at the end of the day the “PlayOn!” project is not creating contemporary plays, but adjusting classical text for contemporary ears. The success and failure of that concept is yet to be determined. Read the rest of this page »

The Art of Gender-Bending Shakespeare

slider_alchemyWilliam Shakespeare’s works were originally performed by an all-male cast, because an acting profession simply was not considered a good one for a woman. Since Shakespeare’s time, the theater community has taken great strides towards diversity and inclusion, and one visionary artist has made it her mission.

Lisa Wolpe is the Founding Producing Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company and has been working on cross-gender performance since the 1980’s. Since the Company’s creation in 1993, Lisa Wolpe has played more of the Bard’s male roles than any woman in history, and always to superlative reviews. An activist as well as a celebrated actress and director, Wolpe’s work speaks toward liberation from the “gender box” of expectations.

Lisa Wolpe will be bringing her groundbreaking solo show, Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender to Orlando Shakes on Sunday, February 28th, 2016 at 7:30 PM. In preparation for this upcoming production, Lisa Wolpe sat down with Orlando Shakes volunteer Lyndsey Elizabeth for a candid interview about her unique theater style.

OST: Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender is performed in a new and groundbreaking style of theater. What kind of preparation went into creating the show?

LW: I spent about five years building what looks like a very simple, one-hour show. I wrote a 133 page thesis for an MFA I earned in Interdisciplinary Art, unpacking my process, which I completed in 2007. I was looking at why I felt such satisfaction in crossing gender onstage, and where that came from in my life experience. After that, it was a slow approach to performing the story I wanted to tell without all of the trappings of a traditional play. At one point this solo show was 2.5 hours long, including 150 slides, some basic costume changes, lots of tips on how to cross gender, and forays into topics including mystical wisdom, sacred geometry, the authorship debate, and the work of my all-female Shakespeare Company. In the last year or two, I have pared the show down to under an hour, in order to tour it internationally, and I decided to make it much simpler and shorter and rely mostly on personal stories from my own life to contextualize why I love to play Shakespeare. Along the way I have of course directed dozens of Shakespeare productions and taught many actors Shakespearean performance techniques, so my insights have continued to grow, but at this point I am not changing the text, and the performance is very simple—no costumes, no set, no special lights—just me and this story I want to tell, which is basically about how I came to understand and love my father so much more—by playing the male roles in Shakespeare.


Lisa Wolpe as Hamlet. Photo by Kevin Sprauge (Shakespeare in LA)

OST: Do you feel that all actors inherently possess both masculine and feminine energy?

LW: I do feel that gender is no longer viewed as a male/female binary, and that most young people (to their own great relief!) accept a much wider gender spectrum of identity onstage and in the world than I’ve seen in my lifetime—one that is mutable, stageable, and performative to some extent—as is the answer to their own chosen personal gender labels. Obviously, some people are drawn to challenge the expectations of gender behavior more strongly than others, and some people have more shape-shifting skills than others, but it is encouraging that more people feel free to explore outside of “the box”, and liberate their internal terrain. Read the rest of this page »

The Writing of Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles – PART II


John P. Keller as Pericles. Photo by Luke Evans.

The following blog post is the third installment from actor John P. Keller, taking on the lead role of Pericles in Orlando Shakes upcoming modern verse production, of his documentation of the controversial project to translate Shakespeare into contemporary modern English.  


The Translation, Adaptation, or Re-Writing of Shakespeare’s and Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles. Part II

John Keller

John P. Keller

It’s ok we are not re-writing Shakespeare we are re-writing… “Wilkins?”

Pericles is my favorite Shakespeare play. Perhaps my actor ego plays into that—always believing I would make a good Pericles (the jury is still out, we don’t open for another few weeks). Perhaps it’s because I love a great action adventure in all forms and this play—and maybe Cymbeline—are the closest Shakespeare comes to an Odyssean epic. This play also has one of the most superbly crafted scenes in all of Shakespeare, the dangerous and redemptive Act V boat scene—a superbly crafted moment of unknown identities which surprises with the continual ebb and flow of possible resolution and furthered conflict.

It is a common scholarly belief, based on empirical data, that Shakespeare is not the primary author of Pericles. It is probable that George Wilkins, sometime around 1607 or 1608, wrote the first two to three acts. His novel with the published titled “The Painful Adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre” contains whole passages of mirrored text. Most theater companies that produce Shakespeare’s Pericles Prince of Tyre usually contend with the performative hurdle of a play that is written in two pretty distinct voices. The differences in text and poetic flow found throughout the production as well as the challenges of vast changes in geographies and a bountiful cast of colorful characters makes Pericles a very challenging play to produce.

In my first article, I discussed how many artists responded to the initial announcement of the translation project with a mix of disbelief and disgust. However, if the conversation lasts more than that momentary outburst, it works its way around to discussing which plays might actually benefit with some dramaturgical aid. Shakespeare’s full body of work accounts for 39 plays, but, most of us have only heard of around a dozen or so—and probably only 3-5 are widely known in pop-culture. We can assume the success of these well known plays derive from the beauty of the poetry, the fantastical quality of the story telling, and reverberating psychological truisms. So what about the play’s outside of this revered circle? Well, Pericles is one of these outsider plays. Read the rest of this page »

The Writing of Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles – PART I


First day of rehearsal for Orlando Shakes production of “The Adventures of Pericles”

The following blog post is the second installment from actor John P. Keller, taking on the lead role of Pericles in Orlando Shakes upcoming modern verse production, of his documentation of the controversial project to translate Shakespeare into contemporary modern English.  

The Translation, Adaptation, or Re-Writing of Shakespeare’s  and Ellen McLaughlin’s Pericles

John Keller

John P. Keller

First Impressions
The first day of rehearsal is a lot like taking your dog for a visit to the local dog park. The metaphor works if you include things like the anticipation of a new place, the excitement of an active play date with some old friends, and the sniffing out of some new faces (or, well… y’know). Then there is that moment—when someone pulls out the tennis ball. Everyone sits on baited breath, attentive—waiting for the game to begin. It’s not altogether dissimilar with the distribution of the show script and the first group read. It’s an act of ceremony.

Once everyone has gone around and said their names and the roles they will attempt to play (I say that with reverence not cynicism), it is the job of the actor who utters the first printed lines to take the play from theoretical to actual, to set a six week rehearsal marathon into motion.

This was how we all began the first day of rehearsal for Orlando Shakes production of The Adventures of Pericles.

Then began a slow series of revelations.

We are working on a revered ancient text…kind of…

We are working on a new play…kind of…

We are working alongside a beloved 400 year old master playwright…kind of…

We are working on something altogether familiar and altogether different…yes.

We are here in a room with a living breathing playwright with her own hopes, fears, opinions, goals, hesitations, and confidences… most definitely.

When working on Shakespeare, I typically find ceremony in the work. William Shakespeare—to actors of Shakespeare’s plays—believe him to be alive in the text. He gives us direction through poetry, enjambed lines, and punctuation. He is both enlightening and utterly frustrating—not to mention annoyingly cajoling and eerily silent.

This last of Shakespeare’s greatest attributes (his death 400 years ago) means that as an actor you can whine about him as much as you like without hurting his feelings. “What was he thinking—drinking—when he wrote this?!”

But when you have a living playwright in the room…not so much. Read the rest of this page »

What Happens Here…Becomes Public

slider_periclesOrlando Shakes upcoming production of The Adventures of Pericles is presented in partnership with Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare.” “Play on!” is a project that consists of 36 playwrights commissioned to translate 39 plays attributed to Shakespeare into contemporary modern English. This project has caused many raised eyebrows in theater and literary communities across the country, with the common thought being, “Why the #$&% would you need to modernize Shakespeare?”

In light of this controversial undertaking, John P. Keller, New York based actor taking on the lead role of Pericles in Orlando Shakes upcoming modern production, offered to document his involvement in the project in a series of blog posts.


John Keller

John P. Keller

I landed in this room a bit by accident. The kind of accidental series of events that lead a pre-med student to drift out of the science library and into the theater department green room at a small liberal arts college. Truthfully, I think if it were not for the green room I never would have found the theater in the first place. Perhaps I should not admit this, but my love of the theater did not begin as a particular desire to be on stage, but rather the magnetic pull towards the people of the theater.

Artists tend to talk a lot. Conversations—perhaps contrary to popular belief—are not restricted to any particular discipline, philosophical mandate, or body politic. The theater (or perhaps more literally, in my initial experience, the green room) was where the sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists, the historians, the literary geniuses, the scientists, the serious scholars, and the drifting goofballs met to discuss Rumi, Descartes, Shakespeare, Locke, Einstein, Mr. Rodgers, Big Bird, and Parker and Stone—all while exchanging recipes and fart jokes. It was this great sense of gathering that always gave me—the communal conversation—the seriousness of purpose without the over seriousness of self.

Recently, a hot topic lit up green rooms and theater gatherings across the country. The announcement by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that they would commission 36 living playwrights and dramaturges to translate 39 of the bard’s plays into contemporary English. Read the rest of this page »

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