When envisioning Shakespearean fare, one thinks grand costumes and an even grander venue to house his eloquent verses and prose the Fox Theatre, perhaps? Not for The Shakespeare Follies, an anything-but-traditional take on some of the Bard's classics.
Created by Timothy Gray of Odd Man Out Theater Company, Follies puts Shakespeare in a speakeasy/Vegas lounge atmosphere and encourages audience participation. Cast member Paul Wolski gives us an inside look at the troupe's merry mayhem. The Shakespeare Follies continues Fri.-Sat., Feb. 5-6 and Feb. 12-13 upstairs at Danneman's coffee.
What is The Shakespeare Follies and who created it?
The Shakespeare Follies is a bawdy romp through the Bard's masterpieces, combining twisted sketch comedy with touches of vaudeville and cabaret traditions. It's a show that takes unpredictable turns and always features new material. Audiences never know what to expect. The show was written by playwright Timothy Gray, founder of Odd Man Out Theater Company.
What are some of the Shakespeare works that are used?
Audiences will recognize more familiar works such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth and King Lear however EVERYTHING gets a new treatment in this show. We hit on upwards of 20 of Shakespeare's most notable masterpieces.
In your opinion, what other canonical authors could use the Follies treatment?
Allen Ginsberg; F. Scott Fitzgerald; Danielle Steele.
Does the cast get to take advantage of the BYOB policy? A little Yuengling before you act and sing?
Well, we don't drink beer because it makes us burp, but a little splash of wine (affectionately called "acting juice" among the cast) certainly doesn't hurt. After all, Tim is from New Orleans (and has terrible stage fright), so drinking is encouraged. The venue, Danneman's Red Den, has been designed to resemble more of a speakeasy or lounge than a theater proper. We the cast mix freely in full costume with the crowd as they enter the space and throughout the show. People at once understand to expect something unconventional for the night.
Since its interactive, whats the funniest thing an audience member has done during the performance?
One of our segments features a contortionist, whose "special abilities" have prompted catcalls from the crowd. We have had a few excitable folks "talk back" at the action on stage in the way people cheer at their favorite character in a movie. We LOVE a rowdy crowd!
Is there much improv in the show? If so, whats one of the best improvisations you seen so far?
Despite the unusual structure of the show, the entire production is scripted. The best improv moments so far occur when one of us flubs a line but usually the audience has no idea; we do.
How well-versed in Shakespeare must one be to enjoy the show?
Our official tagline for the show is: "Don't know Shakespeare? Don't worry, neither do we!" In every program we include a Follies Character Cheat Sheet that lists every character in the show's order with one or two sentences that set the mood. And that's all you need Tim's contemporary spin on the scenes takes care of the rest.
Tell us about the Odd Man Out Theater Company.
Odd Man Out Theater Company was founded in New Orleans in 2000 to showcase original works for the stage. We utilize an ensemble cast of like-minded folks (with regular day jobs) to redefine what audiences expect from theater. We leave the Fourth Wall at home. Tim moved to Atlanta after Hurricane Katrina wiped him out, at which time the company went dormant. 2009 marked the resurrection of Odd Man Out within a new city with a new cast (five men, six women) and a fresh outlook. The Shakespeare Follies is Tim's ninth production and his second in Atlanta.
Would Shakespeare approve of the costumes?
ABSOLUTELY! One of the comments we hear most from people is their surprise and delight at the quality and frequency of costume changes. All of which have been the result of good karmic thrifting and bargain hunting.
(Photo courtesy Odd Man Out Theater Company)
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