Shaking up theater with the Bard
Residents in Washington County are being transported back to the 16th century with this summer's Westside Shakespeare Festival.
Brought to life by Experience Theatre Project in Beaverton, the three-day celebration brings a feast fit for a queen (or king) and activities for the whole family.
Not only can attendees wander the grounds, but visitors can see a free Shakespeare play. This year's performance is "Comedy of Errors," beginning on Friday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m. on the Beaverton Library's south lawn, 12375 S.W. Fifth St., Beaverton, and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 at 2 p.m.
"Comedy of Errors" is one of Shakespeare's earliest works, and celebrates the art of slapstick humor and tropes like mistaken identity.
Alisa Stewart is the artistic director for the Experience Theatre Project, and preparing for its summer is keeping her busy.
"You'll be immersed in 1594, where one of our mission is to have an experience," Stewart said. "You are not of your world right now and we are removing you from your reality and placing it into ours."
Vendors with Shakespearean goods will be there, actors showing iconic scenes from theater and musicians even Queen Elizabeth would like. Visitors can purchase tokens, that when handed over to an actor roaming the festival, will perform and show off a talent.
"There are so many tie-ins to the tradition of performance," Stewart said. "This is what makes this event a lot more special."
There will be time to see a sword fighting workshop by Academia Duellatoria, be inspired by Tudor-inspired art, Elizabethan meat-and-vegetable pies from Mrs. Lovett's Pie stand, then grab a pint of ale at the over-21 pop-up pub ("The Elephant"), which will feature Oregon wines, a variety of Oregon microbrews and mead.
"This is a way to bring people into the world of Shakespeare," she said. "Our real crowning jewel of this is 'Comedy of Errors.'"
On Saturday, June 29, The Queen's Feast is ready to entertain, and is the only part of the event that requires a ticket. Guests are encouraged to dress in the time period's clothing, but it is not required to have fun. Featuring an authentic meal with a roasted pig, festival visitors will be treated as royalty, with the presentation promised to be elaborate and include multiple courses — and even an actor dressed as Queen Elizabeth will "approve" of the feast, just before the Saturday night performance illuminate the library lawn.
The immersive experience is unique to this theater company, who began with workshops in 2015 during the summer. Experience Theater Project held its first Shakespeare performance with "Midsummer Night's Dream" in 2016 on the lawn outside the Beaverton Public Library.
"There is great art to be had on the westside and this is trying to add to the vibrancy and vitality of the arts here," Stewart said. "There is great beauty in Shakespeare because of the timelessness and future generations will be exposed to his poetry and it is the only way young people will become introduced to theater. It is meant to inspire families to attend an outdoor Shakespeare production and hopefully the atmosphere will inspire young people to get into the arts or future theater supporters. Live theater is a great experience and if there is something alive and electric, it is so easy in a time like this to isolate one's self in their house because you can really get what you want, this is a way to get out."
Tickets are on sale for The Queen's Feast at experiencetheatreproject.org.
By Janae Easlon
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune971-762-1166
Follow Janae at @Janae_Easlon
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