Style

Love, Shakespearean fashion | Arts and Leisure

Sarasota is experiencing its own winter of discontent. The Players Center for Performing Arts takes a page from Shakespeare in an outdoor production at The Bazaar on Apricot and Lime. “In Love with Shakespeare” features a selection of the bard’s greatest love scenes. Elliott Raines compiled the anthology and will also direct the play. We recently spoke to him about his love for Shakespeare.

Why do you love shakespeare

Why not? (laughs)

When did you first meet Shakespeare?

I did an honors project on Richard III in college. I thought I had a deep understanding. I was 17 years old. At 17 you’re basically an idiot.

Ideal Shakespeare Project?

Shakespeare wrote 10 stories, eight of which include two tetralogies. I would love to do all of these eight story pieces. I would start in an organized crime environment in the 1920s. Any game would jump forward a decade. When we get to “Richard III” we are in the John Gotti era.

Most disappointing Shakespeare production?

“Richard III” – the Al Pacino version. That was the absolute worst. I saw it on Broadway about 40 years ago. All other actors made the typical British accents. But Al Pacino stuck to his Brooklyn accent. He sounded like Michael Corleone. (imitated) “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Pooh. It was fun at first. After about 10 minutes, I got angry. I’m sitting in a Broadway theater and paying good money for it? Learn the dialect, you idiot!

Let’s talk about “In Love with Shakespeare”.

I’m ready when you are

How did this project come about?

In short, I was supposed to be directing Death of a Salesman last summer. I had canceled almost half of the play – and then production was stopped because of the pandemic. At first I was moderately depressed. To pass my time, I picked up the guitar and began reading Shakespeare’s plays in chronological order. The story games are pretty uneven, but “Richard III” is one of my favorites. It has a really fascinating advertising scene …

“Has a woman ever been courted like this?”

Yes exactly. I thought about doing this scene and I was thinking about doing an anthology of promotional scenes. I thought the concept could work with a small cast and outdoor production. [Artistic Director] Jeff Kin loved the idea and we hit the races.

What pieces did you use to draw your scenes?

“Richard III” – what we talked about. Then “The Taming of the Shrew” – that has a perfect advertising scene. And of course I had to do “Romeo and Juliet”. If your piece is on on Valentine’s Day, that’s kind of mandatory.

How has COVID affected your creative choices?

It made me drive back. I originally wanted to do a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but that would involve too many actors and that was just too risky. I’ve limited the cast to five actors. Every performer has two necessary qualifications: acting talent and a healthy immune system. The actors I have chosen are all young and healthy. It’s one thing if I take risks. If it was just me I would be fine with it. But my wife didn’t sign up for it and I really didn’t want to expose her. We rehearse from home as this is the only place I can trust. I had to make sure she was safe.

Did you also practice Zoom?

No. The rehearsal process was pretty personal in my house. Since we are doing individual scenes, there were usually only two actors. No actor was part of every rehearsal.

Who did you cast?

Jim Floyd, Carrie McQueen, Charlie Tyler, Michele Strauss and Diane Cepeda who is also my stage manager. They are all extremely talented – and having fun.

What will the Sarasota audience experience?

I think they will have a great time too. The commercials are entertaining, fun and get to the heart of people’s lives. Shakespeare had an amazing understanding of the human heart. And people haven’t really changed over the centuries – and I think that’s a source of hope. He had his share of plagues in his day. He did it. We will too.