Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grassroots: The UK experience!

Grassroots... hmm... where to start? Well I suppose a lot of fun would be a good way to describe the whole experience for me. From start to finish, I have enjoyed this exciting and vital approach to Shakespeare. I was a tad worried from the outset about not having the usual guidance of a director and his or her 'vision'. However, the absence of a director made the experience much more rewarding. Each member of the ensemble had a creative stake in the piece and we all stumbled together towards the creation of our production. My friend put the question to me that maybe a modern day theatre goer demands more than that of the Elizabethan audience. Perhaps that might be true but this kind of theatre is unburdened by saying something or anything in particular. It is about being as engaging and entertaining as possible, a very valid concept in my opinion.

Of course this is all very good in theory and I can't deny that I was little bit petrified about performing Romeo and Juliet on the Saturday considering we hadn't even cast the play on Monday morning! Nevertheless it actually made it much more exciting because we didn't have time to agonise over decisions and we simply had to jump straight in. There was no preamble and we had to throw it on the stage, literally.

This has helped me to more properly appreciate the wonder that it is the Ensemble! We came together as a unit from Romeo and Juliet through to All's Well That Ends Well, working seamlessly together for the greater theatrical good..... or at least that's what we tried to do. I think the more we worked together, the more we established our own tone. It makes it easier to understand how an Elizabethan troupe could just turn over so many shows in such a short period of time. They knew each other so well, they could always jump straight in, take risks, experiment, and simply go for it! During one moment of All's Well, Melissa and I realised that due to the doubling up of characters, two actors would have to leave the stage, get dressed and then return; leaving a small intermission.

We took it upon ourselves to fill this small interval with some impromptu kazooing followed by a food fight involving Murray mints and Werthers originals. This sort of improvisational hoohah(for lack of a better word) would be unacceptable in a 'polished' play but it is the true vitality and improvised nature of this work which is so exciting. Anything can and probably will happen! Someone might forget to enter a scene, someone might say 'Get you to Manchester', Someone might forget which character they're supposed to be but hey that's Grassroots for you!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends!

Enrollment now open for
Henry V: Play-in-a-Day
Join us onstage as we rehearse and perform Shakespeare's beloved history!
If you can commit to memorize a scene or two, we'll send you a script and give you a part in what may prove to be the merriest and most entertaining Battle at Agincourt you'll ever see!

To sign up, send us an e-mail at:

or head over to our flashy new online sign-up form at

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Once upon a time....

Once upon a time in a large, smoky metropolis, there sat a young, enthusiastic actress at a laptop.

"Dearest Google-on-the-wall, I've been cast in a show at something called the Exeter Fringe Festival. Tell me more about these festivities."

Well Google, being the swift dutiful little oracle that it is, promptly returned with a list full of exciting information.

"Hmm", said the actress, "the Bike Shed Theatre. That's where the revelries will be taking place. I wonder what else will be happening there?"

And as she looked over the names of productions happening in this shed of theatricality, one in particular stood out. Romeo and Juliet. Actually, in her eyes it stood out rather more like ROMEO AND JULIET. She stopped right there, as she particularly loved The Bard.

"How wonderful!", she exclaimed, "This festival must be of particularly good taste if one of our greatest plays is being performed. It's being produced by a company called Grassroots Shakespeare. I must find out more!"

So back she went to Google, who led her to a wonderful site, telling her all about the marvellous values of this wonderful troupe of actors, who dedicated themselves to performing Shakespearian works as the great man himself would have seen.

"Well this sounds fantastic! Just my sort of thing! I wonder if I could get involved..."

And this is how she ended up sending an electronic letter to the players and found herself, one Saturday morning, far away from the big city, across the country in an ancient town called Exeter, with a group of people she had never met before, prompting them on their Shakespeare.

It would appear that any great, fortuitous encounter requires a mythical backdrop and that is rather how I feel about the great luck I've had in finding Grassroots Shakespeare. From a personal perspective, I feel like I'm on a lifelong learning journey about Shakespeare, but there was something about Grassroots that instantly appealed to me. There was, and is, something breathtakingly genuine about a group of people who were committing themselves to a challengingly short rehearsal time in order to give the audience as authentic an experience as possible. The RSC have great long rehearsal periods, where you're encouraged not to know the text in advance and you spend weeks working on movement and text, but here were actors, throwing modern convention to the wind in order to get back to basics. That is admirable. Learning pages and pages of lines in only a few days is in my opinion nothing short of miraculous, and yet Grassroots achieve this, seemingly with ease.

I've seen some great onstage moments, with "Get thee to Manchester" (instead of Mantua) being one of my favourites. You could almost hear the audience saying "Oh, they've updated it to modern Britain! How clever!", while we were all trying to stiffle giggles, but being true professionals, soldiered on! I loved the casting of Lord Capulet as a woman and Lady Capulet as a man, as it brought so much out of the text I hadn't considered before, particularly what an abusive household poor Juliet had been raised in. It was truly horrible watching Lord Capulet trying to restrain herself from beating her daughter. It has also been amazing to see what can be achieved with little money for props or costumes, and the fact that it really doesn't make a difference to an audience's enjoyment. After all, it is the stage, and imagination is what it is all about.

I've now completed my second show with Grassroots, All's Well That Ends Well, and I can say I've loved every action-filled minute of it. As the on-stage prompter (a common feature of the Elizabethan stage, you know), I get to see all the action and to admire the actors, their decisions, their accents, their passion, their triumphs and their difficulties. I get to see how wholeheartedly they throw themselves into every moment on stage and how they strive to produce the best performances possible, not because they long for fame or huge pay cheques like many who aspire to our profession do, but because they long to reach the audiences, to produce something beautiful, memorable and moving. This for me is the highest aim for an actor and something that Grassroots embodies.

I've made some great friends through Grassroots and I loved being involved with their work. May Grassroots live long and prosper :)

Siobhan studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and King's College London. She has performed in a number of roles from Sister Sarah in Guys and Dolls to Daphne Bridges in ITV's The Battle of Britain. She has sung at the Dominion Theatre, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Palace Theatre and worked as a backing singer, including for ITV's The X Factor. She performs regularly with the BBC’s Radio Theatre Group, recently creating the role of Fliss in the new work ‘Flying Solo’ and Eliza in 'Cupidity'. She acts, directs and produces and has recently been presenting red carpet interviews for an online entertainment website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Two Noble Comedies of Errors

Several weeks ago, my wife Stephanie and I went to Regent's Park in London to see some Open Air Theatre.  Their production of Comedy of Errors was big - like, a cast of 21 people on a huge stage in front of a gigantic billboard welcoming us to Ephesus big. That big.

A week later, we found ourselves in a park in Taunton, seeing Shakespeare's Globe on Tour, also performing Comedy of Errors, and their production was really small.  Like, a cast of 8 people on a tiny stage in front of a shabby-looking tent small.  That small.

While both productions were well-acted and full of comic moments, the Regent's Park show felt a bit lumbering at times.  Its pace was just a bit too slow, and as a result, nearly every joke fell flat.  And I honestly think it had something to do with the scale of the production, because where the Regent's Park version struggled, the Globe's pared-down version soared.

Ralph Alan Cohen, founder of the American Shakespeare Center (and my friend on Facebook!), argues that original practices can free actors from the fetters of modern theatrical conventions.  In his view, all those fancy lighting cues, concepts, set pieces, and so forth, can actually detract from the storytelling process.  Think about it - these plays were written for a particular kind of theatrical experience - one in open-air, with natural light, surrounding a small and sparsely-decorated cadre of performers on a simple scaffold.  Perhaps the plays actually work better under these original conditions?

Well, I found that such is the case, at least with these two productions.  The Globe's touring version is every bit as vibrant and memorable as Regent's Park's behemoth, but it has something more.  It has the life and energy of original practices - the fast pace, the genuine audience interaction, the lightness and freedom of play.

Take-home message: smaller can be better!

And that's the aesthetic that the Grassroots Shakespeare Company was born to embrace.  The small, simple, and unpretentious feel of an Elizabethan touring company. Simply a group of actors who come together and offer what they've got, creating something that lives most vividly in the collective imagination of the audience, the actors, and the playwright.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Grassroots Workshops Began: Throw a few cue scripts out and see what happens

Who in their right mind wouldn't want a crack at playing Hamlet?

Last summer, during our tour of Much Ado About Nothing we found ourselves with an open week in the middle of June. Several of our cast members had committed to other projects and were unavailable to perform and we had all this great momentum coming off our first two weeks of shows. We were so excited about the response Grassroots was receiving, and we wanted to keep the excitement up in any way we could.
The following is a gChat brainstorm between Mark Oram and myself where we discuss how to get the word out about Grassroots during our week without shows.

8:27 PM
mark: i want to organize some kind of advertising blitz. see if we can get fans to help spread the word... so if you think of any ideas along those lines, let's talk about them. i was thinking maybe another event, uploading some posters and flyers to the blog, and urging people to help us get our name out...a grassroots campaign, if you will. thoughts?
alex: hmmm.
an event this week is out--unless we combine it with one of the shows at one of the fests...
we could have some sort of non-performing event next week...?
mark: oh, i just meant a facebook event, but a bbq or something for the fans could potentially be fun, although probably not cost effective.
unless we made it a fundraiser too...
alex: what if we held some sort of workshop for people who were interested
mark: ooooooh, that's a cool idea!
alex: I've had a lot of people come up to me at shows saying "I want in, how can I get involved?"
mark: yeah! same. we could totally do something like that... throw a few cue scripts at them and see what happens...
alex: yeah, that could be super fun to try out another one hour cutting via cue scripts...
really time intensive to prepare, but it could be a blast
and could help us fill that dead week
mark: right. right.
alex: and cast attendance would of course be voluntary
mark: yes. (totally unrelated ps)\ - did you watch this yet?
it's hilarious.
anyway, i think we should do this. totally.
alex: what if: we get a list of people who would be committed to participating, and divvy-ed up the script and had each person only memorize one scene--switch out roles every scene.
that's a riot
mark: it would be easier to hand out cue scripts at the event, but it would be more fun if we had committed people who could come memorized... do you think we could get such people?
alex: if they only had to memorize one scene--yes
mark: okay, let's try it.
alex: but for that to work, we need to either a) get a LOT of committed people so that we'll have enough for everyone to play one scene or
(more likely) b) we'll have them memorize some of the more exciting/memorable scenes from the play and just fill in the others on book.
by the by--if you have any down time at work, there's a book you've GOT to read
it's worth ordering off amazon
Peter Brook's 'The Empty Space'
just brilliant, you'd love it.
he's a former RSC director and the book is a collection of lectures he gave on the nature of theatre--really incredible insights
mark: thanks for the recommendation, i'll look it up!
also, b) sounds like a good mix.
alex: yeah, I think that could work.
I think it could be fun to pick a tragedy
mark: i was thinking the same thing.
alex: awesome. I knew there was a reason we were friends.
mark: hamlet, othello, lear?
alex: what about a week from thursday, in the evening. 6-10
mark: let me check that date...
Yep, June 18th looks good for me.
alex: just thinking out loud--a week day could be better than a friday or saturday evening because no one wants to give up date nights
mark: yeah, i think you're right.
alex: and good luck doing anything with a large group of people on sat afternoon--it's the default scheduling landfill of the week
what about trying a lesser known
there's so many that I've never even seen before
I'd love to expand the repertoire
and workshop could be a good time to do it
mark: sure, but we don't want to spend all our time untangling a plot at the expense of fun characters...
alex: true true
so true
mark: so histories are out.
alex: for sure
what about winter's tale?
on second thought--hamlet could be a great draw
who in their right mind wouldn't want a crack at playing one scene as hamlet
in fact what if we only gave out hamlet's lines to memorize?
everyone else plays auxillary lines on book
mark: that sounds GREAT. also, gender-blind okay with you?
alex: absolutely! that's what would make it fun!
mark: fantastic.
alex: also, what if we ask Chris Clark if we could have permission to use the Young Company cutting of hamlet?
mark: good call, that would save untold hours.
alex: so we can spend our time on cue scripts versus cutting
mark: yeah. 
alex: I'll bet we can get all the c-web kids in on this
fading flower cast members too.
mark: Absolutely. Yes. Oh, this is going to be good.
alex: we should try to extend individual invitations too before we send out an e-blast
could help our attendance
mark: for sure.
alex: ring. "Hello?" "hi! we want you to play hamlet!"
who wouldn't bite on that?
mark: agreed. it's a great draw. i'll get that script from Chris and start the cue scripts cooking. tonight we could get cast members calling around, and then this weekend we could create that e-vite to get everyone else...
alex: SO
let's start calling/messaging peeps and see what kind of a response we get
then we'll distribute cue scripts on monday(?) to give everyone enough time to memorize a scene for thursday
mark: hopefully i can get them out before then, but yeah, monday is a good deadline.
alex: and on second thought, perhaps we should try to get entire scenes memorized--I mean all the parts--it would work so much better for a workshop format
that way we can actually block and tweak some scenes
AND get through the whole play
mark: it would definitely work better. are we supposed to cast it, then?
alex: let's see who we can drum up--and then draw names out of a hat
I don't know
mark: :) casting is always the best part.
alex: yeah--let's cast it
we know we want to.
mark: alright, and depending on interest, we have a different cast for each scene? or at least different principles?
alex: yes--I think that's a great idea
mark: alright. let's get our list of takers, divvy up the parts, and make it happen.
alex: done and done.
now to figure out how to sell it...
9:16 PM

And that was the beginnings of our workshop experiences. Hamlet turned out to be such a great success that we kept on doing workshops all year long, following with A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Julius Caesar.
Last week we opened enrollment for our eighth Play-in-a-Day production by revisiting A Midsummer Night's Dream in a new workshop cutting--which will rehearse and perform on Saturday July 31st.
Participation is, as always, open to all.
Come play with us!

Check out details for A Midsummer Night's Dream on Facebook, then sign-up here to participate as an actor!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grassroots grows in England!

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, 
This other Eden, demi-paradise, 
This fortress built by Nature for herself 
Against infection and the hand of war, 
This happy breed of men, this little world, 
This precious stone set in the silver sea, 
Which serves it in the office of a wall, 
Or as a moat defensive to a house, 
Against the envy of less happier lands, 
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!
-William Shakespeare (Richard II; 2.1) 

It's official.  The Grassroots Shakespeare Company, Utah's only free outdoor Shakespeare troupe offering "original practices" theatre, has started a new troupe in Exeter, England.  We couldn't be more thrilled!

See, I'm across the pond studying Shakespeare at the University of Exeter, and during my summer break I wanted to see if the Grassroots seeds we sewed last May in Orem would grow here on the Bard's home turf as well.  So, on a bit of a whim, I contacted the Bike Shed Theatre and arranged to perform as part of the first-ever Exeter Fringe Festival.  They were delighted.

As the festival grew near, we assembled a cast, picked a play, and began rehearsals.  This was on a Wednesday - our first performance was to be that Saturday.  You can see where this is going.

After four short rehearsals, Romeo & Juliet opened in Exeter.  Of course, the Grassroots troupe in Utah had been performing the same play... but ours was a bit different.  Juliet/Mercutio, for example, was played by Tom:

This, and other experiments with gender-blind casting, gave the show a very playful feel.  And with only a few hours of rehearsal, our performances stayed nice and loose as well - just the way we like it.

We had a successful run, with highlights including the words "live long and prosper," and "Isengard" being seamlessly integrated into Friar Lawrence's torrents of bad advice.

We also had some pretty legit fight choreography, courtesy of a couple local professionals who generously donated their time and talent on our behalf.

And finally, we had an onstage Prompter, played by our lovely RADA grad Siobhan, who kept the audience apprised of scene changes, entrances, and in one particularly awkward moment - exits as well.

Happily, our audiences took the journey with us.  The show was funny, unpredictable, and always fresh.  As we vacated the stage after our first performance, someone in the audience offered the first review of Grassroots in the UK: "That was the weirdest Shakespeare show I've ever seen."

Much obliged.  :)

As a result of our first show in the UK, we've been invited to perform an outdoor comedy in Kingsbridge later this month, and to produce a Grassroots version of King Lear for Exeter College in September!  Look for it!

Can Grassroots grow in England?

Forsooth, we can!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Actor's Dream: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bard

It's the classic actor's nightmare--the performance is about to start, you've never been to a rehearsal, and you don't know your lines. Most actors I know have had it. I certainly have. Last night I lived it.

I showed up at the Castle to watch Romeo and Juliet, and, roughly thirty seconds after setting foot in the amphitheater, Alex asked me if I wanted to play Lord Montague. This is what I love about Grassroots. I said yes. Of course I did.

Ten minutes to the scheduled performance--Robbie, still dizzy from blacking out and vomiting during the last show (but still sticking it stalwartly through to curtain call), walks me through his blocking. My blocking. I write all my lines down on a little piece of paper, strategically folding it up into segments arranged by scene. And I laugh at how ridiculous this all is. And awesome.

Robbie gives me a hat, a belt, and a little strip of red cloth that acts as a tie for my costume--I put this on over my street clothes. A hammer is my weapon. A hammer. OK, I'm starting to get a feel for this Montague guy. "I play him kind of like a viking," says Robbie. OK. A viking. Great.

I'm still backstage--scribbling my lines as fast as I can while Robbie dictates--when the rest of the troupe starts playing music, doing dances, juggling, singing the alphabet, anything to give us the couple minutes more we need before the play starts. Prolonging the inevitable. Bless them.

And, before I know it, I'm onstage, in front of an audience, performing Shakespeare.

When you do a bit of performing, it's easy to lose that butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling--that sense of nervous, giddy anticipation, just before walking out on stage, like the moment when you reach the top of a roller coaster and realize just what it is you've gotten yourself into, and maybe wonder what you were thinking. But it's that excitement--that hope, that prayer that you're going to make someone smile or laugh or cry or simply feel something, that you're not going to make a complete imbecile out of yourself--for me, that's what performing is all about. The hope that tonight, somehow, is going to be magical.

Well, that feeling's here right now. In droves. I hope I don't look too ridiculous. But if I do--well, at least I won't go down without a fight.

Onstage, I try to be in the moment. I watch the other actors, I listen, I respond. They're the only clues I've got, and I'm desperate. Offstage, I read the lines on my paper, over and over again, trying to split my attention between not missing a cue and drilling these words into my head--there aren't too many of them, but the clock's ticking. Little snippets of dialogue drift through. "Palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss." "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" "Holy St. Francis!" It's a little surreal.

And I've never experienced anything like it. Memorizing all my lines, trying to create a character, and performing it for an audience, all within the space of an hour and a half, the time chopped up into entrances and exits--and, of course, the moments between. It was an entire rehearsal and run--a process that normally takes months--in less than two hours. To say it was exhilarating would be an understatement. To say it was daunting would be self-explanatory. To say it was one of the most thrilling experiences I've ever had as an actor would be pointless. Well duh it was.

It's hours later, and I still can't sleep from the adrenaline. I love all the members of this cast that I got to be a part of, even if it was only for a night. I was able to work with people I both respect adore, in a show I didn't think I'd be able to be a part of, reciting some of the most immortal words ever committed to paper, taking part in one of the craziest and most imediate performative processes imaginable.

Nightmare? It was a dream.

And I guarantee that it's the sort of dream that could only happen with Grassroots.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What You Won't get at a Grassroots Show

Has the following ever happened to you?
You pay an exorbitant amount of money for a little slip of paper. On this little slip of paper is the written the location of a single seat in which you must sit for several hours. It's sort of like timeout, except you are expected to come dressed up. A man takes the little piece of paper you just paid a lot of money for, and he tears it in half. You go and sit in your timeout seat and they turn off the lights. You sit in the dark and think about what it is you've done to deserve this. Then, a group of people appear in some light at the distant end of the room. Sometimes it's hard to see them because they're so far away. They pretend to be somewhere else. They pretend like you don't exist and will ignore you if you try to speak up. They also expect you to be totally silent and not to cough or shift in your seat because it will distract their delicate pretending. They will also expect you to pretend like you're not there either. (At this point everyone is pretending they're not there. Or at least wishing they were somewhere else) Then, the lights will come up again for a bit, and you will be allowed to wait in line to use the restroom and spend four times the normal price for junk food. But you must be quick about it, or they might not let you back into the dark room. Also, if you lose your ripped up paper slip, you might not get back in. But if you do, you'll get to sit quietly in your special seat again, until the people up front are done pretending to be somewhere else and finally choose to acknowledge you. They'll bend at the waist and expect you to show your admiration and gratitude by slapping your palms together like a walrus.  They may run on and off their platform several times, or hide behind some velvet fabric that comes up and down from the ceiling until all the people in the room are done acting like walruses. Then, if you're really lucky, as you're leaving you'll have the opportunity to pay fifty bucks for a t-shirt with the special people's faces on them. The pretenders will pretend the same thing in exactly the same way every night for years on end and will ignore the watchers in exactly the same way. If you pay money to come to timeout again, you will probably see nearly the same thing every time. 
Yes. This is bad theatre. Theatre that is dead. That has lost any semblance of being responsive or sensitive to the audience. Is all modern theatre like this? Of course not! We love theatre of all kinds, shapes, and types! Sometimes we even like the above experience! But at the same time we realize that this sort of an experience is pretty weird when you think about it.
We promise that when you come see a Grassroots show, you'll probably be in for a pleasant surprise as to how something so crappy and low budget can be so entertaining at the same time.
Our idea of the word "Play" might be a little different:
We show up at the park. Or the festival. (where else but the park if you're going out to play?)  We set up a makeshift stage. It looks a little funny, and people walk by and ask us what on earth we're doing. We invite them to stick around and find out. We come out wearing things we found in our closets or bought at DI. We've spent the absolute minimum time we possibly could in rehearsing the show. It appears to be a nightmare. But people like watching a train wreck. Or at least they're fascinated by the potential of one. So they stick around and watch for a minute. Dan is wearing a dress and a wig. He comes out plays the accordion. He teaches everyone a song. We talk to the audience and are sure to let them know that they can actually throw rotten fruit at us if they don't like the show. They laugh, but they're still afraid/intrigued by our yardsale appearance. Things progress from there and the rest is magic. Our shoddily clothed actors are beneath their makeshift trappings master showmen. They are equipped with a lightning fast one-hour cutting of one of Shakespeare's greatest works and they know how to use it. They speak directly to the audience members. They walk in and out of the crowd. The audience speaks back. They listen. They respond! We all laugh. We tell a story together and then we dance a jig. No one has paid a dime because we'd do it whether we had the money or not, but we ask the audience to contribute a dollar or two after the show because with a little padding in our pockets we're able to play a little more. And they do. Our audiences are incredibly generous in support both fiscal and non. We couldn't be happier.
So what are you waiting for!? Come on out and play with us!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review from Utah Theatre Bloggers Association!

Utah's premier online theatre review journal had this to say about our show on Saturday in Kaysville:

 "Romeo and Juliet 
by the Grassroots Shakespeare Company 
isn’t just a play
or a show
it’s an
Check out the full review on their website!

Monday, June 14, 2010

On the Road!

The first four shows of our summer tour have been a blast and we're just getting started!
Here's a quick recap:

Opening Night: Eagle Mountain Summer Fest  6/4
We got lost on the way there. It was cloudy, then sunny and hot, then cloudy again.There was nowhere to park. The rides were noisy and the wind picked-up, blowing our  traveling stage over before the show began! But after a little bit of good, old-fashioned, carnival barking, we drew a small but interested crowd of around 40 or so. After Act I, the wind really started blowing and it our actors backstage had to hold onto the ladders to keep them on the ground. Eventually, we decided to tear down our curtain, which was acting like a giant sail. Pause.
Here's where you ask--how is this in any way a success?
For many reasons.
First off--the show was still great! There was a gaggle of first graders in the front row who sat entranced the whole time. Things were crazy and we had more than a few curveballs to deal with, but that's half of what made things interesting and entertaining! Actors in Shakespeare's day had to deal with just as much, if not more, and there are countless stories of how this made their shows memorable. We left Eagle Mountain confident that we could draw a crowd even in the midst of a hundred competing attractions, and still show the audience a good time even in a wind storm. We're just as much about the adventure as anything else that comes along with it.

BYU Botany Pond 6/7
We invited a few local FHE groups and had about 120 people show up! The weather was perfect and after battling the elements at Eagle Mountain, we felt like we were sprinting after a long jog with weights. Benvolio climbed a lamp post while looking for Romeo, Nurse played the accordion, and several people in the audience shouted suggestions during the scenes--just how we like it! We're all about audience interaction! But aside from the show being an absolute blast to perform, there's not much else of a story to tell you. We're saving the good stuff for the recount of our next show...

Orem Summerfest 6/11
It rained on us for nearly every show last year during our tour for Much Ado. Some of that rain came back to haunt us at Orem Summerfest this year, but we came prepared with a gigantic over-sized tarpaulin to lay down to keep our groundlings dry! Our audience also came prepared  with umbrellas and ponchos--which came quite in handy when the light sprinkle became somewhat of a pour during the 4th act.

Shakespeare's actors would have been a bit luckier, as the original Globe theatre had an awning which covered the stage--but his audience, as ours, would have to have been prepared to get a little wet if the weather kicked up during a show.
Romeo raised his deathly poison up against the winds, cursed the stars, and died soaking and miserable by Juliet's side. The Montagues and Capulets rushed in to find the ground soaked with blood and rain, and Prince, silhouetted against the darkening clouds, delivered a somber epilogue we'll never forget. Then we joined hands and danced a jig in the rain!
All in all, we had a great time, and our audience did too! (Or at least they led us to believe so with their applause)

Kaysville Tabernacle Park 6/12
Several of our cast members are from Kaysville, so when we were putting together our itinerary this year, we made sure to make Kaysville a prime stop--and what a great crowd they turned out to be!
Eariler in the day, the weather was still dour, and we kept up on the hourly forecast to see if an outdoor show would even be possible. We can handle a fair amount of rain, but we'd rather not deal with the wind again--and we've yet to figure out how to keep our set on the ground in a gale.
But everything worked out better than we could have hoped. The skies cleared and nearly 60 enthusiastic audience members turned up to see the show. They were our smartest and most responsive audience yet--picking up on a  lot of the humor some others had missed. We can't wait to come back to Kaysville next year.

So our tour is off to a great start, and we've still got 9 shows to go!
Later today we'll perform at Canyon Glen Amphitheatre up Provo Canyon--7:15pm. If you haven't seen the show yet, bring a blanket and some friends! You won't regret it!

Photos courtesy Tim Sondrup, Kaysville Show--6/12

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Open Rivals! (Secret Friends)

Shakespeare's London was full of acting companies vying for an audience. The Southbank theatre scene was often the setting for many fierce rivalries between players, writers, and entire companies!
The Grassroots Shakespeare Company is proud to announce that we too have rivals! How exciting is that!?
(We may secretly be friends as well, BUT when the plagues forced theatres in London to close, actors and companies often banded together and did whatever was necessary to survive--so there is a precedent!)
If you're looking for some fun, free, open-air theatre this weekend, we'd like to suggest that you check out two of our favorite rival's productions--both performing this week!
Check out: 

June 10, 11 & 12
Canyon Glen Amphitheatre
Provo Canyon
Pierce Barney
Maggie Boughton
Jamie Denison
Donna Hatch
Brittany Hemsath
Brian Kingery
Eric J. Laflamme
Benjamin Lewis
Taylor Jack Nelson
Bryn Dalton Randall
Lisa Russo
Kacey K. Spadafora
Check Out: Clue! for more info!

Much Ado About Nothing
Utah Shakespeare in the Park
June 11 & 12
Memorial Park
Emily Foster
Peter Layland
Christopher Davis
Bryan Bowerman
Sarah-lucy Hill
Jennifer Chandler
Jackie Johnson
Matt Christensen
Chad Whatcott and
Melanie Adams

Directed by Anne Shakespeare 

Check out: Utah Shakespeare in the Park for more info!

And of course, you really can't miss our show either!
The Grassroots Shakespeare Company
Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays
June 4th-July 5th

Daniel Joseph Anderson
Matthew R Carlin
Erin Crabtree
Becca Ingram
Greg Larsen
Amos Omer
Jack Kyle Oram
Eric Phillips
Robbie X Pierce
Trevor Robertson
Amy Smith
Jessamyn Svensson
Alex Ungerman

Check out the Grassroots Facebook Page for all the latest updates on our summer tour! 
Come see us! Come see our rivals!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


ROMEO & JULIET coming soon to a park or festival near you!

Fri June 4th
Eagle Mountain: Pony Express Days Summer Fest
Nolan Park--7780 Sparrow Hawk Way, Eagle Mountain
Mon June 7th
BYU Duck Pond
800 N 450 E Provo

Fri June 11th
Orem Summerfest
City Center Park 100 N 300 E Orem

Sat June 12th
Kaysville's Barnes Park
Barnes Park--Southeast Lawn

Mon June 14th
Canyon Glen Amphitheatre
Provo Canyon

Fri June 18th
Pleasant Grove Strawberry Days Festival
Downtown Park--200 S Main St. Pleasant Grove

Sat June 19th
Logan Summerfest
Tabernacle Square 100 N. Logan

Mon June 21st
Castle Amphitheatre--Double Header!
1300 E Center St. Provo
7pm + 9pm

Fri June 25th
Southwest Lawn--699 S. State St. Orem

Sat June 26th
Cedar City
Main Street Park

Mon June 28th
Thanksgiving Point Gardens
3900 N. Garden Drive, Lehi

Sat July 3rd
Rock Canyon Park: Pre-Fireworks show
2620 N 1200 E Provo

Mon July 5th
Nielsen's Grove Park
1931 S Sandhill Rd. Orem

Bring a blanket and a friend to this fast-paced, funny, and touching one-hour abridged version of Shakespeare's beloved classic romance tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

The Grassroots Shakespeare Co. performs in open air with free admission and is made possible by the generous patronage of everyday people like yourself. Suggested Donation: $3

Sunday, May 30, 2010

In fair Verona where we lay our scene

Imagine it's 1591 or so, you are William Shakespeare, and you've decided it's time you wrote a decent love story - a tragedy. Your last tragedy, Titus Andronicus, was set in Rome. It was well received by the bloodsport enthusiasts
among the London theatergoers and your popularity as a playwright is growing with each new play. Giving thought to the best setting for a love story, you have an artistic epiphany and decide on Verona.

Now, about 420 years later, the Grassroots Shakespeare Company is bringing you his brilliant and lamentable tragedy: Romeo and Juliet. The images displayed on this page are from that "fair Verona". A popular spot known as Juliet's balcony, (above left) a distant view of a Roman amphitheater dating from 40 A.D., (above right) and a quaint chapel rooftop (left) give us a sense of the romantic scenery in which these "star crossed lovers take their life."

Over the past few weeks we've been having a royal time creating our own little Verona. Of course our tight budget compels us to build our Verona out of the characters, rather than elaborate set pieces or costumes, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Our Verona emerges out of the characters we've been exploring, and their relationships to one another.

For example, Verona became real to me during one particularly memorable rehearsal in which we enjoyed an hour of character interviews. One by one, the members of our cast took the stage and we proceeded to ask them questions. "Juliet, how old are you?", "Romeo, How do you feel about the Capulets?", "Lord Capulet, why do you hate the Montague's?", "Tybalt, have you ever been in love?" etc. To these questions each actor playfully and enthusiastically responded, and block by block our Verona began to take shape.

Our Verona is a world with a 45-year-old friar turning the cogs, mischievous teens, a sweet (albeit masculine) Nurse, and animosity between Capulets and Montagues. WE still have lot's to explore, but no matter what we do, Verona just won't be Verona without YOU. You, our audience, are the final piece to the puzzle.

So come play with us! Bring a date, bring your friends, and get into it. Pick your family, be it Capulet or Montague, and cheer them on in the infamous Veronan street brawls. If an actor asks you a question, go ahead and answer it. Remember the "fourth wall" wasn't invented until centuries after Shakespeare, so feel free to respond, react, cheer, boo, hiss if you must. We love it all.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's a Shakespeare Miracle!

It's been a great couple of weeks for the Grassroots Shakespeare Company. Our efforts to bring you an outstanding summer tour are yielding more and more fruit every day we rehearse. However, this year has also presented it's share of challenges. Shortly after our casting meeting we lost two of our most experienced performers, leaving our touring troupe with just two players from the original Grassroots cast...

Cue Shakespeare Miracle number one: In minutes we contact two talented players who are thrilled at the opportunity. They agree to do the show, we make an adjustment to our casting and by our 3rd meeting we have our full cast. Rehearsals begin, and we start exploring our characters and blocking as we try to wrap our minds around the unique rehearsal process of the GSC.

May I emphasize how unique that rehearsal process really is. Imagine, for example, that 14 artists from different stylistic periods come together to paint a popular mythical scene. Some of the artists are from the Renaissance, some from the Baroque period, a couple impressionists, a futurist, and a Dadaist for good measure. Now suppose, that there is no one in a position to oversee the whole project. Instead the artists are to collaborate together to make a unified and gripping final product. Things could get messy unless each artist learns to trust in the ability of the others involved as well as in his own. That trust can be hard to find. It was for us. Last year the cast was already well acquainted, having performed together before. This year many of us hardly knew each other, so trust had to be developed during the rehearsal process.

Shakespeare Miracle number two: "I don't know. It's a mystery." Somehow things begin to work out. As we get to know one another our trust grows and the resulting collaboration is ingenious and intuitive. The show begins to take shape and every rehearsal seems to add a new and exciting level. We have a good, albeit chilly, rehearsal the Friday before we open. When things seem to be rolling along we get hit with some bad news. Eric, the resident athlete among us, has gone off and twisted his knee all to pieces at an intramural game!

Shakespeare Miracle number three: Eric shows up the next morning in good health. His knee is only sprained, much to our relief. With his distinct squinty-eyed smile he said, "It's a Shakespeare Miracle!"

If you believe in Shakespeare Miracles, why not help support us this summer! Invite everyone you know to come to our shows, and consider making a contribution. No amount is too small, no amount is too great. Give us a couple bucks, or be our wealthy patron. We love what we do, and it's only possible thanks to you.

-Share the Grassroots, share the love!

Friday, May 21, 2010

New Website Up and Running!

Check out our new website! Same Address:

New layout and information!
Take a look and send us some feedback.
What else would you like to see included on our Website?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Et tu Brutus?

Our thanks go out to all of our brave actors and audience members who endured the chilly spring air to commemorate with us the Ides of March and Julius Caesar's tragic downfall.
The workshop was one of our best, and even featured renowned Shakespearean scholar and director Christopher Clark!
Professor Christopher Clark joined the action to share his insights on what acting was like in Shakespeare's England

Skies were clear for our open-air workshop and performance

Julius Caesar the seventh workshop of this type produced by The Grassroots Shakespeare Company, which was founded to promote the exploration of theatrical practices and techniques utilized by actors in Shakespeare's day. These workshops allow participants to try their hand at acting a variety of roles from some of the Bard's greatest masterpieces.

 Participants received scripts on Tuesday evening, just four short days to memorize before meeting on Saturday for the performance. 
Shakespeare's actors would have received a handwritten, incomplete copy of the script to memorize. Each actor received only the lines he spoke, and the end of the preceding line from the character who spoke before to cue him.


 Actors gather in the park Saturday evening for a single rehearsal before performing. Just as in Shakespeare's day, there is no director. Actors work together to collaboratively stage and rehearse the material.
At the Globe, actors probably received line readings from a coach as they memorized, but typically only gathered for rehearsal on the day of the performance to practice any staged combat or dancing.


 The workshops are open enrollment and are supported by donations and a small cover fee. Seasoned actors and first-timers alike are all welcome to join in the adventure and exploration of Shakespeare's brilliant works.


  The Globe Theatre in London was closer to a small, open-air arena than to the indoor, climate controlled theatres of today. Our workshops are rehearsed and performed outdoors whenever possible--even when it is a bit chilly. 


 Costuming in Shakespeare's day was rarely accurate according to time and place, but often an amalgamation of contemporary garb layered with accents suggestive of character and setting.
Our actors are invited to bring any costume pieces that suit their roles, and in addition, we supply simple accents that denote character and provide some continuity for the audience. 

Women were forbidden from the base and vulgar profession of acting in Elizabethan England, and as a result, all roles were played by men.
To experience what sort of interest, spectacle, and humor this situation can provide, our workshops are cast gender-blind.

If you are interested in participating in one of our upcoming workshops, send us an e-mail at:

More pics here!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Grassroots Actors' Workshop: JULIUS CAESAR!

Have you always dreamed of performing in a toga? What about warning someone to "beware the Ides of March?" Or perhaps stabbing Julius Caesar in cold blood?


Sign up for the Grassroots Shakespeare Company's next workshop, JULIUS CAESAR, today. Just send an email to and we'll take care of the rest!

Whatever your experience level, you're invited to come and try your hand at one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. Chris Clark, professor of theatre at UVU, will be there to give us the skinny on Elizabethan acting, and Matt Carlin, our resident fight choreographer, will be sharing his expertise as well. We're working hard to make sure this is our highest quality workshop to date, so make sure to come and invite your friends and family!

Now, if you're new to this whole "grassroots" thing, let me explain:

We're crazy. Once you know that, the rest of it makes a lot more sense. See, we're trying to produce Shakespeare plays in a process similar to that used by Shakespeare's original actors. They only had a couple weeks to memorize their lines, and a few hours of group rehearsal, before performing their furiously fast and witty plays. Our workshops approximate that process. You are given a few roles from different scenes, which you memorize on your own. Then, on the day of the workshop, you simply come play. It's fast, fun, improvisational, and unique. And it's totally safe. Go big, and the audience will love you for it. Fail big - they'll love you for that, too.

If you're interested in learning more about us, email me at and I'd be happy to answer any of your questions.

Go Grassroots!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Twelfth Night: Success!

Special thanks go out to:

Our Audience--for laughing with us and at us. We are nothing without your continued support!

Our Participants--for being ready to take a risk and step on stage. For memorizing, Our participants this time around were probably more memorized and prepared than they had ever been before! And for giving us such a great show!

Daniel Whiting--You never would have known it, but this was Daniel's first time running the workshop. And he did a marvelous job!

Julie Garbutt--for finding us a place to hold the workshop! We could not have done it without her!

Jyllian Petrie--for outstanding work on costuming and props! and much help in organizing!

Jordan Vance and Becca Ingram--For tackling the arduous task of casting 24 people in 60 roles! No easy job!

Kyle Oram--for help co-ordinating, advertising, organizing, and excessive awesomeness. Not to mention excellent work on the guitar.

Jason Sullivan
--for handling our donations and finances, and for contributing in our preparations!

Matt Carlin--for superb work keeping us both safe and entertained during our stage fights!

Jordan Campbell--for taking our show to the next level with some great music!

Mark Oram and Alex Ungerman--for an excellent and timely cutting! And for writing lots of e-mails and fielding correspondence.

Bill Shakespeare
--for writing some great plays.

Kate McPherson
--for being our champion and Resident Scholar (and excellent solicitor of donations) We would not exist without her influence.

Trevor Robertson--for advertising and flyers and consistent reliability.

Adam Decker, Claudia and Emily Dorsey, Michael Nagro, Miranda McPherson--for consistently and continually signing-up and contributing great performances!

Mel Leilani Larson--for encouraging her students to come!

Again, Our Audience--for being wonderfully supportive, patient, understanding, and encouraging. We had 75 turn out to see the show! That's fantastic!

Our next workshop is already in the works--join us on our Facebook fanpage to receive updates on developments as they are hatched!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Workshop Enrollment Now Open!

TWELFTH NIGHT--workshop January 16th

to enroll.

This is how it works:
1-You sign-up via e-mail. Just send us a message and let us know you want a piece of the action.

2-We randomly assign parts. You recieve a few scenes from us about 4 or 5 days before the workshop. You memorize your lines.

3-You show up Saturday January 16th at 5pm ready to work hard and have a good time. You've read a synopsis of the play, you've done a bit of homework, and you've memorized your lines.
We rehearse for a few hours, then we play.

4-You perform a fast paced and furiously funny one-hour cutting of Twelfth Night. All your friends and family come to see you perform. Good times all around.


questions? Send them on over to