Beer with the Bard

My friends and I, we didn’t know what to expect. I thought that they would come into the bar so fully in character such that, if a murder broke out and we demanded that they call 911 on a cell phone, they would reply, “What art thouest a phone of cell?” sending us into chaos as the shooting continued. Or perhaps they would be in period costume and throw around a lot of thous and arts and nunneries. What would it be?!?!

The “it” of which I speak is Wolverine’s “Beer with the Bard”, which brought the actors from the Michigan Shakespeare Festival out to Ann Arbor. The festival takes place at Jackson Community College every summer, performing such classics as Richard III and Love’s Labour’s Lost. E.T. Crowe, Wolverine’s marketing director, ran into these nice folks at a beer and wine event at MIS. At some point they got to talking about what the group called “Shakespeare Unplugged” and E.T. (in her infinite wisdom) got the ball, er, bard rolling.

Here is where I must admit that I avoided reading Shakespeare–or anything too complicated–in high school. Since those were the pre-Internet days kiddies, I had to make due with Cliff’s Notes. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I happened to catch the movie Much Ado About Nothing on TV and promptly fell in love with it. I couldn’t understand some of it but I got the overall gist and thought it was darling. Nonetheless, I’ve still managed to avoid most thing by our bard B. and so I was hoping that Beer with the Bard would not end with a quiz about Capulets or Hamlet’s ghost or Othello and Iago.

Lucky for me, it was a lot of fun and no Cliff’s Notes were required. The host for the event was one of the directors who explained that the event is a way for the actors to do open mic performances of their other talents. Our first performer sang the Happy Birthday song–in Polish! Then we heard a funny rant about people and their Smart phones. Next, one of the actors recruited E.T. to help him stage a dramatic reading of a 1996 interview with Madonna–an interview that was done in a Hungarian newspaper, translated into Hungarian, translated into English for the American audience, translated back into Hungarian and then for some ungodly reason translated back into English. Thus, the “interviewer” ended up asking “Madonna” if she was “dating many other people in your bed at the same time” and “Madonna” told us that she was “a woman and not a test mouse”. The intrepid interviewer also asked if she could make people “forget the explosions that were Who’s That Girl and Shanghai Surprise?” Madonna wrapped up the interview by assuring us that she was working like a canine all around the clock for our entertainment.

After that, we were treated to a cast member who was juggling like a mad man. Me, I can barely throw a ball to my dog let alone do stuff like that. Next up was a tap dancer who was simply amazing. When I got home that night, my own tap shoes were waiting for me and demanded to know why I couldn’t do stuff like that. My pleas that I just restarted lessons in May fell on deaf shoes; they merely tapped away in disgust.

We also heard some more jokes, stories, poems and even saw some sword play. The lovely folks from the Shakespeare Company were talented and very much fun! The festival, sadly, is over for this year but will return next July. I so enjoyed watching the actors that I might check it out myself, even if it’s just to find out what I should have been reading back in my College Prep English course….

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