Empty Chair Theatre: Titus Andronicus Review

Anyone who’s ever visited this web site knows that  I love seeing Shakespeare live. From the huge lavish productions of the Shakespeare Theatre Company,  to well – The Empty Chair Theatre of Alexandria, who’s budget is far exceeded by their talent.

Well’ I had the pleasure this weekend to see Empty Chair perform Titus Andronicus to a packed house at the Folgers Theater in Washington DC. Mind you, this is the same company I saw last month perform Twelfth Night  to an audience of 10 people, and their production  was one of the funnest, and most energetic versions I had ever seen.  So it was a great thrill to see them perform a benefit production of Titus at the Folgers.

Choosing to do Titus is always chancy. Being one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, you get the feeling he was out to make a name for himself. On stage there is 1 rape, multiple hands chopped off, 1 tongue ripped out, and various other hangings, butcheries, and other bits of nasty. As most people put it, it is Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. And to Empty Chairs great credit, they did not pull any punches, and the blood did flow.

Without going into the plot of the play, I just want say Empty Chair did a fantastic job. Keeping in mind that most of these actors are between the ages of 20 and 25, they found a strong lead in Danny Cackeley as Titus, who easily portrayed the the authority needed.  A graying and stately Marcus Andronicus was played by Jay Myers whom I would never have guessed was as young as he really is (I guess that’s why they call it acting).

Then there’s Lavinia, played by Amalia Camperlengo. Now I had seen this play several times before, and knew what was going to happen to Lavina. At first I thought Amaliea was playing Lavina to understated, but this might be me being a little jaded from seeing the play so many times.  But once the tragedy took place, there was a complete,  total, and absolute transformation in Amaliea. The Lavina from the beginning of the play was gone, and was replaced by a Lavina full of heartbreak, terror, and angst. She was chilling.

If it wasn’t getting so late, I would gladly go on about the rest of the company, but I think you get the idea. My wife and I really enjoyed seeing Empty Chair do Titus Andronicus (As much as we enjoyed their Twelfth Night), and I really hope you get a chance to see them soon.

Link: http://emptychairtheatre.org

Titus Andronicus

Directed by Julia Sears
July 14th, 15th, 21th-23th, 28th-30th 
Theater on the Run Black Box
(3700 Four Mile Run, Arlington, VA 22206)

Please help to support live Shakespeare in your area

Jul 14th – 30th: Empty Chair Theatre takes on Shakespeare’s Bloodiest Play – Including a performance at the Folgers in DC!

Titus is a tough, violent, and bloody play. After seeing it for the first time I had to hit the keyboard and put down my thoughts about who were Shakespeare’s most evil characters, with Aaron from Titus being right at the top  (link: Shakespeares evil). Now that I’ve seen it few times, I’m always interested in seeing how this tragedy of Titus will play out with each new company. And thus we have the Empty Chair Theatre, a group that performs Shakespeare’s works based out of our own little Alexandria Virgina. I had the pleasure of seeing them put on Twelfth Night last month (Review: Twelfth Night), and was dazzled by their fun, and unique take on the Bard.

So if you get a chance, this troupe can use all the support it can get, and as a special bonus, add July 16 to your calendar. That’s the day they’ll be performing Titus Andronicus at the Folger Shakespeare library stage. This will be a benefit performance to help raise money for the Empty Chair Theatre Company, to help them with their community and educational outreach programs…

When: Jul 14 – 30, 2011
Where: Theater on the Run Black Box – 3700 Four Mile Run, Arlington, VA 22206 (map)
Directed:  by Julia Sears

For more information Visit: http://www.emptychairtheatre.org/

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – $15 tickets at Groupon – VERY LIMITED!!!

$15 for One Ticket to Outdoor Theater Performance (Up to $36 Value)

Groupon has limited tickets  for $15, you get one adult admission to an outdoor Shakespeare performance from the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City (up to a $36 value). Children younger than 18 are admitted for free (limited to two free children per paying adult). This Groupon is valid for any one of the following performances:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Thursday, June 30 at 8 p.m.
The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) on Friday, July 1 at 8 p.m.
The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) on Saturday, July 2 at 8 p.m.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Sunday, July 3 at 6 p.m.

Link for Tickets: http://www.groupon.com/deals/chesapeake-shakespeare-company-1?c=all&p=1

Link for Play: Chesapeake Shakespeare Company


Review: The Empty Chair Theater’s production of Twelfth Night – To Fun for Words!

Charlie Cook, Mark Tucker, Matt Minnicino, Anna Treichler


The Empty Chair Theater’s production of Twelfth Night

When I first stumbled upon the website for “Empty Chair Theater“, I was a little more than perplexed as to how they decided to use that name for their company. I, coming from the audience perspective, thought of an empty chair as a lack of audience to fill a seat, which seemed kinda depressing.  A lone chair facing a world of actors.

So during intermission I asked the young girl behind the concession, why Empty Chair Theater? And was told in essence, it is based on the fact that there are so many wonderful young actors in the DC area dying to do professional, classical theater. But there are to few Shakespearean companies to accommodate these new, and upcoming actors.  So Julia Sears and Elizabeth Nearing created a “Space”, an”Empty Chair”. They created a “Void” knowing nature abhors a vacuum, and then filled this void with young Shakespearean actors ready to take on the world. (These are not their words, but this is what I came away with).

As far as the play itself went. My wife and I walked into the “Theater on the Run Black Box”, which has a very pleasant setup, full stage lighting, theater seating etc.  Now I’m use to seeing Shakespeare done by smaller companies, and knew what to expect about audience size, but my wife did not. She’s been to the Blackfriars in Staunton several times, and seen “The Shakespeare Theatre” perform at the Sydney Harmon Hall, both with large audiences. But when we walked in and she saw only 10 people in the audience, she was completely taken by surprise. I just smiled at her and grabbed a front row, center seat. I’ve been to enough of these small shows to know that with Shakespeare, the audience size and budget, do not have to inhibit quality and enthusiasm of the play.

Their setting for Twelfth Night was a School. Staying true to the Shakespearean language of the text, and with the actors all being in their twenty’s, the setting worked amazingly well. Danny Cackley in the role of Duke Orsino appeared as a kinda class president. Sir Toby Belch (Charlie Cook) and his crew came off as the Drinking, Stoner/Burnout crowd (No drugs were mentioned, or seen in this play, but the potato chips were a dead giveaway). And it all fit wonderfully.

The actors, and the play itself were fantastic and funny. The  comedic scene where Malvolio (Jeremy Tuoby) finds the letter was hilarious and original, the physical humor being top notch. Rebecca Speas as Viola was excellent, with a fantastic singing voice. Natalie Cutcher as Olivia was beautiful, with an easy stage presence. Everyone in this play doing a superb job!

I would like to give an honorable mention to Mark Tucker who I believe was the musical director. I’ve seen 27 individual Shakespearean plays live, some of them multiple times. Yet Mark Tuckers musical intermission was inspired and one of the best. With all the cast members joining in, the music and singing was a joy, and fit the play perfect. Truly one of the best interludes I’ve seen.

So’ my wife and I were there with 10 other people yesterday, which made us a very lucky few. Today is their last performance of Twelfth Night at 7:30, which you could still catch if your lucky. But all is not lost, they will be back with Titus Andronicus next month, including a stop at the Folgers Theater in Washington DC!

The Empty Chair Theater’s production of Twelfth Night

link: http://emptychairtheatre.org

First: Wednesday Jun 15, 2011 7:30 PM
Last: Sunday Jun 19, 2011 7:30 PM
$5.00 – $15.00
Theater on the Run
3700 S. Four Mile Run
Arlington, VA 22206
United States

The Two Gentlmen of Verona – By Brave Spirits Theatre: “Thy Budget Doth Not Always Need Affect Thy Quality”

Yes' a brief musical interlude

Last night DC’s newest Shakespearean theatrical company, the Brave Spirits Theatre,  opened it’s doors for the very first time. The play was The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The venue was “The Fridge”, which is literally located in a rear alley behind the administration offices for the “Shakespeare Theatre Company”.  This theater appears to be a large converted storeroom with concrete floors, some fixed theater lights, a small stage at one end, and fold out chairs placed in a U shape. But don’t let that fool ya.

I got there about 10 minutes early (DC Traffic Stinks), was kindly greeted at the door, and made my way inside to find a seat. There were about (Guesstimate) 25 people there, mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. And before I knew it the play was starting, out comes Jonathan Lee Taylor and Jeremy Lister in the lead roles of Valentine and Proteus. I’d seen Jonathan in several different Shakespearean plays, and he has yet to disappoint, always bringing versatility and a unique personally to each role. But this was my first time seeing Jeremy, who came across with a cool subtlety, followed by sudden busts of intensity, as the role demanded.


A short time later there was Victoria Reinsel and Charlene V. Smith (Lead roles of Julia and Silvia) standing in the center of the floor, wearing modern dress and speaking Shakespeare’s words in a fluid and flowing conversation.They seemed amazingly comfortable with each other and the words they spoke, completely pulling me.

The plot moved fast and the comedy came quickly proving these smaller companies are a perfect showcase for Shakespeare’s humor. In Shakespeare’s time the Clown (Comic actor Richard Tarlton) was an acrobat and vaudevillian, he would jump, roll, dance, ad-lib, cajole and interact with the audience till they were belly laughing. I find sometimes that the larger theater companies feel the need to tone down the antics, yet’ David F. Zimmerman and Ian Blackwell Rogers had no problem following this tradition. They were showing off their comedic verbal wit, and physical acrobatics within minutes of the play starting, at times literally bouncing off the wall with energy.

Now I LOVE big Shakespeare productions, with period costuming, and huge budgets. But Brave Spirit reminded me tonight, with Shakespeare it’s not about the how much money you throw at the production. Shakespeare is about imagination, and passion, and a love for the spoken word. So do yourself a favor and check the Brave Spirits Theatre. This weekend and next week will be your only chance to see them perform The Two Gentleman of Verona. So don’t miss out.

Note: When I originally posted this review I mentioned that Victoria and Charlene were the first to come out and start the play, which they didn’t. I blame this on the fact that they are both so very stunning (Which they are, See their website), and I was completely taken aback in the same manner as so many of the Bard’s romantic leads. For thou shouldst know, in that small Shakespearean world in my mind, such beauty as theirs, will always be the first and last of all my imaginings.

Brave Spirits Theatre presents

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

June 16 – 18, 23 – 25
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm
Saturday matinée at 2pm

Tickets only $10

Link: http://www.bravespiritstheatre.com

Brave Spirits Theatre – On-line ticketing is having issues. Make’s you think their soldout

UPDATED 06\17: The online sales are now available up to an hour before curtain.

Just a noteBrave Spirits Theatre – Their on line ticketing is having issues. At least for now you cannot purchase tickets on the same day as the play. The ticketing site gives the impression the show is soldout. This is not the case. There are tickets at the box office, and they would love your support for opening night (Tonight), and up coming performances.

Link: http://www.bravespiritstheatre.com