Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks does “Two Gents”

2gents-bannerAs the fall descends on the region, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks prepares to open The Two Gentlemen of Verona. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a rehearsal and talking shop with a few of the creative minds behind this production.

Last week I walked upon the troupe in Lawrenceville’s Arsenal Park, having been guided by the sound of laughter being carried on the wind. This rare moment of crisp autumnal weather made me yearn for the Shakespearean word. Jennifer Tober, Artistic Director and an actor in the show, met me with a wide smile when I asked if the abundant laughter was usual. “We really crack each other up, it’s a great group of people.” At this particular rehearsal, the motley crew sat together in a circle on the grass, running lines and making faces.

DSC_4395A few yards from the action, I sat on a bench with the cast’s director, Charles Beikert, while he explained to me that “this rehearsal was a luxury,” and the actors were audience ready. “These people have made my job easy, they’re eager, they’re apt. Pretty much everyone here has been a natural comedian.” Evidently, this cast was forged from a wide net of people, as Beikert mentioned they had been inundated with folks auditioning, making casting difficult. Despite having had many great auditions to choose from, this cast was affirmed, and the actors were, “shoulder to the wheel, right off the bat.” This is a cast of old and new faces, with one of PSIP’s directives being that “we wanna see new people here, we want somebody who’s fresh.” There are quite a few new faces in the crowd, as well as quite a few PSIP veterans.

DSC_4618Beikert then went on to tell me a little about PSIP’s history with Pittsburgh as well as The Bard. The company began wholly outside, the rehearsals, as well as the productions, were park activities. Now, the majority of rehearsal time is spent indoors at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh in Friendship, a great space which kept the crew from working late nights and worrying about getting out of the park in the dark. He went on to say that the play itself was a challenge, especially at this time. Beikert didn’t want to shy away from the social and societal questions that are piqued in Two Gents. To combat some of the antiquated themes of the play, Beikert was determined to take a special look at empowering the female characters within this text, “in a field that was already maligned by some people, women were non-existent.” For those not as familiar with Two Gents, the play is a comedy which follows the intertwining love stories of two gentlemen, Proteus and Valentine. The two fall in love with the women of the play as quickly as they fall out of love with them, making for some hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking mishaps.

DSC_4409Audiences should look out for references to their hometown in this version of Two Gents, as there are Pittsburgh touches throughout. The actors have worked hard to give people a reference point of understanding the dense language of Shakespeare, and Beikert believes through a touchstone like ‘yinz’ infiltrating Verona, audiences will more easily find access points within the play. He’d also like to ask any Shakespeare purists out there, “to be kind, and we offer our apologies. I’m sorry if we’re having too much fun.”

Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks’ The Two Gentlemen of Verona runs at 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays throughout September. Tickets are free and performances located in Frick Park on Sept. 1st& 2nd, Highland Park on Sept. 8th& 9th, Arsenal Park on Sept. 15th& 16th, and closing in Frick Park on Sept. 22nd& 23rd.

For more information check out their website.

Photos courtesy of PSIP

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