‘All the world’s a stage,’ or at least Market Square is this summer
By Timothy Hankins (email@example.com)
As summer keeps grinding along, you can find a welcome respite from the heat in a world of imagination, courtesy of Tennessee Stage Company’s summer “Shakespeare on the Square” series.
Each year, the local theater troupe puts on a pair of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, usually choosing a comedy and a play from either the histories or tragedies. The plays are performed in rotation over the course of several weekends throughout the summer. This year the productions take place every Thursday through Sunday, up to and including Aug. 12 (that’s a Sunday night, if you’re already making plans).
As always, the performances are free. Just bring a blanket or lawn chair with you and enjoy as the sights and sounds of downtown Knoxville fade into the background and the players transform the square into a pastoral forest scene or the ancient Roman senate before your very eyes.
I’ve often used this column as a platform for touting my Shakespearean love affair, but this week I have to go to that well one more time. There is nothing more enchanting to me than seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays. And I particularly love productions that use minimal sets and costumes — settings like Market Square are ideal to my sensibility. When there are minimal accouterments Shakespeare’s language becomes the star. The words wash over you, they engage you in the storytelling and you find your own imagination taking over. The players facilitate your experience, but the story you create together becomes uniquely your own.
The beauty of Shakespeare is that he is selfless enough to act as a guide for your own imagination; he never presumes to co-opt it for his own use.
The plays this year are well known and loved selections from Shakespeare’s canon. “As You Like It” is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known works, featuring the famous and oft-quoted speech “All the world’s a stage …” The company is also presenting “Julius Caesar.” This hybrid of history and tragedy is a brilliant drama that examines the personal loyalties and political maneuvering of an ancient and mysterious empire. Eat your heart out, “Game of Thrones.”
This year’s Shakespeare on the Square adds a couple of new premium features to the free performances. If you prefer to enjoy the play while relaxing in the shade, you can purchase a VIP admission to the Market Square performances. For a fee of $15, you can view the performance under a tent, and sip on a complimentary bottle of water. Space is limited so it’s recommended to reserve your space early. You can purchase VIP passes at http://www.tennesseestagecompany.com -on-the-square.
For the first time ever, Shakespeare on the Square will also have limited indoor performances. If you want to see the play in a cool and comfortable theater setting, you have a chance to do so at the new indoor matinee performances. There are two matinees, both held at The Square Room (4 Market Square, Knoxville). You can catch “Julius Caesar” on Saturday, July 21, and “As You Like It” on Saturday, July 28. Tickets are $10 at the door.
Free public performances are held Thursday through Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. through August 12. The plays are performed in rotation, so check http://tennesseestagecompany.com -on-the-square for a specific schedule.
NOTE: The Tennessee Stage Company will bring part of its production to Blount County at the end of the month: At 6:30 p.m. July 30, the troupe will perform “Julius Caesar” on the front lawn of the Blount County Public Library, 508 N. Cusick St. in Maryville. Bring lawn chairs or blankets; admission is free, and the rain date is Monday. Aug. 6.
Timothy Hankins is a writer and musician based in Knoxville. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow him on Twitter: @hnkns.