Shakespeare in the Clarksville Riverfront Park
With the majestic Lock and Dam No. 24 as its backdrop, the Bard’s words skipped across the Mississippi River to land on the Illinois shore with barely a ripple.
On the Missouri side of the river, however, the audience laughed and cheered the merry players of William Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errers.” The production was adapted by the director, Mary Lang Fournier, and presented by The Changelings Theater Co. Saturday evening. Another show was held Sunday afternoon. Two more performances will take place this coming weekend—at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.
The audience was greeted by Angela Maier playing guitar and singing, “We Are Family,” as a lead-in to the play.
Mary, who also played one of the characters in the comedy, thanked the audience for coming and supporting the theater company and Shakespeare in Missouri. She noted that this was a special performance.
“Usually, when we do shows, we’ve been known to hire some professional (actors) to come in to fill in the big, heavy-duty roles,” she explained. “But not tonight. We’re using all homegrown talent. Everyone here, lives or works in the area,” she added.
She noted how hard the group had worked to bring Shakespeare’s words to life. Mary also said that when the Bard’s plays were first performed at the famed Globe Theatre in London, all of it was done under the open sky.
“That’s why there is such a tradition of performing Shakespeare in the park,” she explained. And putting on a play at the riverfront, she added, can present a lot of different challenges.
She noted that last year during the group’s presentation of “Romeo and Juliet,” they had stray dogs, cats, the train and an inebriated man stagger through the production.
“You just never know what’s going to happen,” she said. And if the train does come by, she cautioned the audience stay where they were and stick their fingers in their ears to blunt the blare of the train horn.
“We will have an important message, when the train makes it exit,” she added. This night, however, the southbound train had passed through the area about 20 minutes before the performance started.
As part of her introduction, Mary thanked the Raintree Arts Council for their help and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“This is their property,” she said, “and they generously are allowing us to take over.”
“Look at this backdrop,” she added. “No matter what your budget is, you will never have such a magnificent backdrop as this.”
The show’s main story line is about mistaken identity on a grand scale. Two sets of twins, born aboard a ship, which was then smashed apart at sea. One child from each set ends up living in different towns—a master and a servant. One set in Syracusa and the other two in Ephesus. Now grown, and each not knowing they have twin siblings living in the other town, the two arrive from Syracusa and are mistaken for their twins in Ephesus. Family and friends are unable to tell them apart, and so the fun begins.
The actors did well, raising a ruckus and keeping the audience engaged in the story.
If you plan to attend this coming week’s performances, bring your own chair. If you don’t have one, you can rent one for $1. They also have cold drinks and T-shirts available before the performance and during a 10-minute intermission.
There is only a thin white line separating the audience from the players, so keep your chairs behind that line, lest you end up in the play. There is some brandishing of ye olde weapons and some evil curses flying around, so it’s best to stay on the audience side of the line. And above all, have fun and silence your phones.