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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE » CONNECTICUT » Shakesperience
The Company Presents "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (2011)

Clinton, Connecticut

By Lorien Crow | September 30, 2011

On a warm September Saturday, the wine and chatter are flowing freely at picturesque Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, Connecticut. A pond with cascading fountain sits amid rows and rows of grapevines, and next to it, a strange metal contraption—scaffolding?—waits empty on the lawn.

Tony Murvin (center) and Other Members of the company

Suddenly, pops of color appear amid the khaki-and-polo-shirt-clad crowd: shiny gold, velvet purple, flowing white sleeves beneath a deep burgundy vest. Tony Murvin leads a small group of actors in medieval garb, who promptly produce prop swords and begin playfully jabbing at one another as they ascend the scaffolding with ease, looking like brightly dressed children on monkey bars. “Some lady asked me if I was an actor,” he says, ducking beneath the ticketing tent to catch a bit of shade. “I told her, no, this is the newest fall style from J-Crew!”

Welcome to Shakesperience.

What on earth is a Shakesperience? Well, if you live in CT, MA, RI or NY State, you may already know. Shakesperience is a non-profit, professional theater group headquartered in Waterbury, CT. They have delighted public audiences and school children since 1996, bringing education, creative inspiration, and fun with each performance.

Shakesperience takes theater to the people, both through a public performance season, and through curriculum-based educational workshops for children in grades K-12.

School workshops give kids the chance to interact socially and express themselves creatively. Younger children might watch and discuss a performance such as The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, while older students work with Shakesperience performers to interact with, and better understand, the text.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" (2011)

While designed to be fun, workshops also assist students in navigating difficult texts, which empowers and motivates them to address future academic challenges. In addition, since many schools have cut back on the arts, a visit from Shakesperience allows students the opportunity to think artistically and use their imaginations.

Executive Director Jeffrey Lapham sums it up perfectly: “We live in a time when all programs outside of the three Rs are threatened by current economic and legislative conditions.   It is a proven fact that people learn best from different stimuli, including spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, linguistic, and musical. Are there better means of traversing these avenues to learning than literature-based theatre?”

So far, Shakesperience has performed more than 650 workshops for 70,000 plus school children throughout the region to glowing reviews from students and educators alike.

Luckily for grown-ups, Shakesperience also performs throughout the region during its Public Season, appearing at various festivals and outdoor venues. Founder and Artistic Director Emily Mattina, an accomplished Shakespeare scholar, works with twenty-five professional young actors each year, mentoring them and providing classical theater training. But the resulting performances are anything but stuffy.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" (2011)

In the performance of Romeo & Juliet, Tony Murvin played both Juliet’s nurse and father Capulet; Alissa Cordeiro played both Juliet and Benvolio. The cast consisted of five people who each played multiple roles spanning race, age, and gender.

The metal scaffolding was the entire stage set, and served as both front stage performance area and back stage costume change area—no curtains needed. Jeffrey Lapham custom-built the set piece specifically for the performance, and once dismantled, it fits right into the van with the traveling cast. Best of all, the actors’ nuanced and atypical interpretation of the well-trodden text is, under the direction of Ms. Mattina, nothing short of sheer celebration.

It is this sort of innovation and forward thinking that defines the company’s unique approach. By focusing on “the dynamic relationship between the artist and the audience,” the drama, excitement, and lavish language of Shakespeare come alive with each performance. Long after the last line has been spoken, you will remain inspired and smiling, realizing that you’ve just had a true Shakesperience.

For performance schedules, workshop information, and for information on studio-based acting classes, please visit: www.shakesperience.org.


Shakesperience Productions, Inc.

117 Bank Street, Waterbury, CT 06702

(203) 754-2531


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