All's Well That Ends Well
The Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association has joined with with the Montford Park Players in order to present to our guests “The Shakespeare Sensation”, providing an opportunity to enjoy an evening under the stars, and with the stars, including the chance to actually take part in the production!
In order to be able to accurately relate to our guests exactly what this package entails, innkeepers from two of our inns recently attended a performance of “All’s Well That Ends Well,” being presented Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings this July.
As a part of the package, you will be given a coupon for 15% off at Tod’s Tasties, a small local eatery known for its wonderful salads and sandwiches. We stopped there first to pick up something for a picnic prior to the performance. This is the easiest way to get a picnic together but if you would like to do something more elaborate, your innkeeper should be happy to help you.
Upon our arrival we were shown to our reserved seats: comfortable armchairs right in the center of the Amphitheatre. There were bottles of ice cold water waiting for us, which was nice as we all know how hot this summer has been! Also waiting for us on our seats was a copy of the script signed by the cast.
John Russell, managing director of the Players, met us when we arrived and took James Murray and Jim Muth backstage to get them fitted for their costumes and to meet the director.
Victoria, the costumer, and her assistant, Renee, suggested tights and a doublet would be needed, and took us back to the trailers which were full to the brim of carefully stored costumes of every sort. In short order James and Jim were kitted out as “Ordinary Soldiers.”
Now that they had costumes (and roles), we met with Scot Keel, the director, to discuss what (and how) they would be doing. Scott gave James and Jim the choice of a number of scenes to take part in and even offered the chance of a line if they wished. Because they wanted to see as much of the show as possible, they decided to be in one scene shortly after the intermission. This meant that they could get into most of their costumes during the break, watch the play until the scene before theirs, then slip out, perform, change and return. With everything set, we returned to our seats to enjoy our picnic before the show began.
The Montford Park Players is North Carolina’s oldest running Shakespearean Festival. For more than 38 years they have been presenting free performances in Asheville and have received multiple awards for their productions. While most of the actors are local, don’t be fooled into thinking that the acting is less than professional or the staging amateur. The company’s facilities director, Kenn Kirby, came to Asheville from Los Angeles, where he did design and fabrication work for Walt Disney as well as Universal Studios. The actors take their roles seriously and often have performed on other stages in and around Asheville. In fact, the only real “amateurs” were our two walk-ons!
It is noteworthy that last year almost nine thousand people attended performances at the outdoor amphitheater. The company has expanded their season to five different Shakespearean productions at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater between May and September, as well as three at their winter home in the Masonic Temple downtown. The year culminates with a traditional performance of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. It’s an ambitious schedule made possible by the dedication of the performers and the supporting crews.
The tradition of Shakespeare being performed outside goes all the way back to the original Globe Theater in London which was open to the skies above. It has evolved over time to performances in countries around the world. There is something special about watching the magic onstage as the sunset sets and the birds sing a final evening song.
The actors make use of the full stage, the ground below and the wide aisles of the audience. The ability to make entrances and exits easily through the crowd has always been one of the exciting aspects of an outdoor performance.
Before we knew it, intermission had arrived and James and Jim went off to get in costume. When the appointed time came, they slipped away and appeared onstage carrying in the captured Parolles. I think they were a little nervous but it was clear that the cast and crew were not going to let them make any serious mistakes. One would never have known that they had not rehearsed with the cast and the smiles on their faces when they returned was proof of the fun they had .
After the evening was over, we stopped by the concessions stand to pick up our “Free Shakespeare” tee shirts before walking home.
I would like to share with you a quote from Dr. Deanne Collins, a member of the Institute of Outdoor Drama who was a guest at the final performance of the 2009 outdoor season. Her words express perfectly our feelings as we left the park.
“Like me, you will walk away in the dark, in the grass, with a feeling that you have experienced something rare and wonderful.”
If you are interested in seeing a performance (and perhaps, taking part in one as well) you can find out more about the program our website specials page.
All’s Well That Ends Well continues until July 31, The Asheville Shakesperience is performed during the interval before Julius Caesar takes to the stage August 12-September 4. (Imagine being part of the crowd cheering Mark Anthony, or stabbing Caesar). The season concludes with Romeo and Juliet, performed October 13-23 onstage at the Masonic Temple.