The Knight of the Burning Pestle performance by the American Shakespeare Center
Sun, March 7, 2010 • 7:30 PM - 10:30 PM • Texas Union Theatre
The American Shakespeare Center’s touring troupe will give two performances in Austin, on March 6 and 7 at 7:30 pm in the Texas Union Theatre. Performing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, the ASC will give Austinites a taste of their energetic performance style, in a visit sponsored by the Department of English, Plan II, the College of Undergraduate Studies and Shakespeare at Winedale. All proceeds will go to the UT sponsoring organizations. Tickets are $10, $5 for UT ID-holders, and are available through the Shakespeare at Winedale website. Audience members are encouraged to come early, as there will be pre-show music and entertainment beginning at 7:00 pm both nights.
The American Shakespeare Center (formerly the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express) has gained a national reputation by performing according to the principles of the Renaissance stage. Careful attention to the language, a fast and fluid performance style, and a creative use of music and dance are hallmarks of ASC productions. Actors and audience share the same lighting, as they would have in Shakespeare’s playhouse, encouraging an intimate and festive atmosphere.
On Saturday night the company will perform Shakespeare’s perennial favorite Romeo and Juliet. With its ravishing language and uproarious comedy, Romeo and Juliet celebrates love’s triumph and its trivialities. Verona’s walls embrace the volatility of youth as well as the wisdom and restraint that often escape young and old alike. Dance, athleticism, and swordplay share the stage with sonnets, bawdy wit, and soul-searching speeches in this profoundly human and always surprising masterpiece.
The Sunday performance will be a unique comedy, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, by Shakespeare’s contemporary Francis Beaumont. Loaded with laughter and contemporary songs, The Knight of the Burning Pestle is a celebration of the way Elizabethan audiences expected to be a part of the action. A theatre company begins to perform The London Merchant, but an audience member stops the play and demands that the actors add a character to represent working-class citizens: “I will have a grocer, and he shall do admirable things.” He and his wife bring their apprentice Rafe onstage to take on the new role. Swept up in the thought of heroic quests, Rafe transforms his grocer character into a fantastic knight-errant. Thus, the Knight of the Burning Pestle, enthusiastically improvised by Rafe, is thrust into the plot of The London Merchant, with hilarious results.
The ASC touring troupe last appeared in Austin early in this decade, under its previous name of the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. The company now has a permanent home at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Virginia. The “Rough, Rude and Boisterous” tour will conclude in April, when the troupe will return to Staunton to present the spring season at the Blackfriars Playhouse through the middle of June.
“We scour the country for the right 10-12 actors to perform all these roles,” said ASC Artistic Director Jim Warren. “Not only are we looking for the right talent to do these shows in true rotating repertory (a great lost joy in today’s theatre world), but we’re also looking for personalities we think will gel into a dynamic, well-balanced ensemble on and off the stage. On top of all of that, we’re also looking for singers and musicians because we perform all of our music live and unplugged; join us for our pre-show a half-hour before show time for some musical treats.”