Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 23 Openings, Part One: SHAKESFEAR!

Have you been asking yourself why everything in town of a theatrical nature seems to open on the same night? I have no answer to that question, except that there are 52 weekends in the year and about ten other holidays that occupy weekend space. If you want to have an open weekend to open your show and no major obstruction during the run, it stands to reason you'll be choosing from the same dates as everyone else.

And that's why there are three different -- very different -- theatrical options opening this Thursday, October 23, with another stand-alone show on Saturday the 25th. But first... The 23rd!

Alphabetically, the first one is ShakesFEAR!, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival's newest foray into year-round events. ShakesFEAR! is mostly a good, old-fashioned haunted house set at stately Ewing Manor (in the dark), with actors portraying Shakespeare's scariest characters for your entertainment and an added attraction in something they're calling Juliet's Enchanted Courtyard, which is less scary and more appropriate for children (and adults) who prefer fun and crafts to the blood that won't wash off Lady Macbeth's hands or the parade of murder victims haunting Richard III.

I don't know that either Lady M or R III will be involved in ShakesFEAR!, mind you, but I think that's a decent bet, along with frightful choices taken from among Macbeth's three witches, Hamlet's scary dad back from the dead to deliver a message, dead Caesar back from the dead to taunt Brutus, Banquo's ghost, a fortune-teller or two with bad news, Prospero scaring up a storm, and maybe a tricky fairy like Puck or Ariel tormenting people in one way or another.

Whew. Shakespeare really is a good fit for Halloween, isn't he?

Illinois Shakespeare Festival Macbeth, 2013
Photo: Pete Guither
Featured: Wendy Robie, Amanda Catania, Eva Balistrieri

Andy Park, who is directing ShakesFEAR! for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, had this to say about the fright-level: "I think ShakesFear has a few really scary moments along the tour. Part of the fear factor comes from touring Ewing Manor in darkness, but Shakespeare was brilliant at creating terrifying situations, images and characters. From gruesome abductions, horrifying death scenes, and even the appearance of ghosts, Shakespeare never shied away from fear."

If this sounds like just your cup of malmsey*, you have two "family-focused" options on October 23, 24 or 25. Option No. 1 is the Haunted Tour, a 30-minute guided your of the "Haunted Grounds" available for ages 10 and up for a mere $6. This includes entry into Juliet’s Enchanted Courtyard, the tamer choice for the young and weak of heart.

The Haunted Tour offers the Ghost of Will Shakespeare himself to introduce you to some of his scariest characters, which may or may not include the ones I listed above. Haunted Tours will start at 7 pm and keep going every 15 minutes till 9:45 pm. They will take 20 people per tour, which means you may want a reservations -- call 309-438-2535 -- if you have a group and you all want to go together or you want to be sure to get in at a specific time. Tickets will also be sold at the gate, but on a cash basis only. And remember, your $6 includes the Haunted Tour and Juliet's Enchanted Courtyard.

Speaking of Juliet’s Enchanted Courtyard... This option only costs a dollar. Yep. $1. For that, you get "Not-So-Scary" stories with Halloween shadow puppets presented by Michael Vetere of Illinois State University's Saturday Creative Drama Program and fun autumnal crafts. Treats like popcorn balls and hot chocolate will be on sale to supplement your enchanted experience. Tickets for Juliet's Enchanted Courtyard will be sold at the door. And remember -- one thin dollar is all you need.

*You'll want to stick with a cup of malmsey rather than a larger quantity like a half tun. Heed the tale of George, Duke of Clarence, who was rumored to have met his maker when drowned in a butt of malmsey. That's the way Shakespeare tells the tale, as well.

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