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. (more…)

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.


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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)