Shakespeare in love

TexRep’s latest production in the season


Graphic by Holland Rainwater

Story by Cate Rounds, staff writer

Texarkana Repertory Company (TexRep) has been putting on productions for the past 28 years, and their most recent is “Shakespeare in Love.” The play tells the story of a fictional relationship between William Shakespeare and a young woman, Viola, who pretends to be a man in order to perform in one of Shakespeare’s plays. As Shakespeare suffers from writer’s block, she becomes his new muse. Viola’s daring nature puts their forbidden romance at risk. The performances were Nov. 2-4 and 9-11.

The cast has been rehearsing for the past six weeks, including tech week. “Shakespeare in Love” has been different from some of the other shows they have put on as this is the first nonprofessional company that has been granted the rights to this play. Students from high schools around the area were also invited for some matinee shows.

“I had heard and read about the show, and it sounded really interesting, so I got a copy of the script and fell in love with the material,” director Michael Cooper said. “It fit perfectly into this spot in the season where we do matinees for high school students. A way to show Elizabethan life and theater and how it worked — a way to present Romeo and Juliet in a totally new light, watch it actually be created in this fictitious story. Getting the rights to do the show was also exciting because, at the time I applied for the rights, they had not been granted to a nonprofessional company. It has been an amazing experience.”

This show did come with some challenges. The production had a smaller cast with many people playing multiple characters. They had to learn to change their body language and voices to fit the new characters they were portraying. The actors also had to perform a time period dance and stage fighting routine. Since they were performing a play inside a play, the characters had to go from being backstage to onstage while staying in the same space. This was done with the use of brighter lighting on the actors performing the play in the show and dimmer lights on the actors who were supposed to be backstage.

“Most of the cast played several characters, which is always a challenge,” Cooper said. “We also had period dance and stage fighting. Probably the trickiest part for me as a director was the final big scene when the play is being performed and we are backstage at the same time … I was very happy with how we made that work.”

An extra challenge was added due to the fact that this show hasn’t been performed many times before. Cooper and designers Chris Polson and Kaye Ellison worked together to figure out how to make everything work.

“I have never seen it performed,” Cooper said. “Happily and luckily, I had great designers to collaborate with, so all we had was the script. Everything that appears on the stage came out of our heads.”

A major focal point of the show was the changing set. It was built to have a balcony, and the lower levels had sliding doors and a curtain to change scenes easily.

“The set was pretty impressive; the main set wasn’t changed much, and to make it into different settings, other things were brought out,” senior Liz Formby said. “For example, for the bar scene, the actors brought out tables and chairs, and for Viola’s bedroom, a bed with a canopy on it was brought out. There was also a balcony where Viola was, and Shakespeare spoke up to her, giving him inspiration for Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene.”

TexRep’s shows keep bringing people back for more. Their concern is to keep the audience  happy and entertained.

“I want the audience to walk out feeling that they have seen great theater,” Cooper said. “I want them to be anxious to come and see us again. I could not be more proud of the work from everyone connected with the show.”

Their next production will be the award-winning play “The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime.” Auditions are Dec. 3, 2018. The performances will be Feb. 8-17, 2019.