Joe Pelonzi as Dromio of Syracuse, and Mike Wood as Dromio of Ephesus. Courtesy photo.
As Robert Runck prepared for his directorial debut with the Nashua Theatre Guild’s Shakespeare in the Park, Elizabethan English was the least of the obstacles he faced.
Shakespeare in the Park, which is in its 18th season, is held at Greeley Park in Nashua. To prepare for the difficulties that arise from performing in a park, Runck and the actors, who range from 17 to 50 years old, needed to rehearse outdoors, in the heat.
“The heat has really been something,” Runck said. “But Shakespeare in the Park has experienced some wild weather before. One of the actors told me there was a hail storm once and they had to all huddle behind the set.”
On the bandstand, actors cannot plug into microphones, so acoustics are a problem. Runck said many actors are used to performing in auditoriums where they often face their scene partner. But out on the bandstand, the actors need to face the crowd so the audience can hear what they’re saying.
“I had to coach them on that a bit,” Runck said. “I also had to convince them to go over the top. Comedy of Errors is a farce and is supposed to be funny. When I interviewed to direct the play, I told them I would be inspired more or less by the Three Stooges. The actors have caught on nicely.”
Even if the audience can hear them, the actors still need to remember to speak slowly and clearly so the audience can follow all of the images Shakespeare packs into his plays, Runck said.
“He [Shakespeare] is the one playwright performed more than any other even 400 years later,” Runck said.
“That’s because it is the greatest stuff ever written. It is so rich and never goes stale. But I work with the actors to speak clearly and slowly enough to carry the audience with them.”
While practice makes perfect, it can be difficult for the cast, as they can’t schedule rehearsals at the bandstand.
“Sometimes we show up and there is a birthday party going on,” Runck said. “So we have to move to the YMCA.”
Runck said they try to rehearse as much as possible because actors need to tie their actions with the place they are performing.
“I had an actor tell me, ‘In my room, I know my lines,’” Runck said. “Unfortunately, we don’t perform in people’s bedrooms.”
The actors were a blessing for Runck, who has studied Shakespearean acting with Shakespeare & Co., the Actors Shakespeare Project, the New Repertory Theatre and the Publick Theatre. He needed to cast 15 roles, and 14 actors showed up for auditions. And they were talented actors too.
“It is a very strong cast,” Runck said.
The Nashua Theatre Guild is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has a strong history of presenting Shakespeare. But Runck, who didn’t know about the Greeley Park performances before answering an ad to direct this year’s play, said he wanted to make the play his own.
Runck chose The Comedy of Errors because it was one of Shakespeare’s earlier works and is less complex than A Midsummer’s Night Dream or Twelfth Night. With so many other aspects going into the performance it is no surprise Runck chose to keep it simple. Yet the plot is all about confusion.
The play focuses on two pairs of identical twins — twin sons of Egeon and Emelia, both named Antipholus, and their twin servants, both named Dromio, who were separated years ago in a shipwreck. As the farce begins, everyone — including the twins themselves — confuses their identities. Naturally, chaos ensues.
“Shakespeare in the Park is a way to give back to our community and give theater to those who normally wouldn’t see it,” said Meredith Borgioli, president of the Nashua Theatre Guild. “A lot of times it attracts a completely different audience than those who attend out Court Street shows.”