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Arts, Sports & Culture

Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks Takes the Stage for 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago, Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks staged its first production honoring the famous bard.

The premiere show, “As You Like It,” spanned two weekends in November at Frick Park, and Jennifer Tober served as director, choreographer and even costume designer.

“It was a kind of simple production, I pulled costumes from my own closet, or people wore really kind of utilitarian things that they had, and it was kind of a low-fi, low budget production,” Tober said. “And now the company has grown so much, now we have not-for-profit status and our cast has grown.”

Now the production spans four weekends, with a total of nine shows, at four parks with union actors and a different director and costume designer, allowing Tober to take the stage as an actor for the first time with this company.

But to commemorate the anniversary, the company will reprise its inaugural production of “As You Like It.”

This comedy features a variety of characters who are banished from a kingdom and disguise themselves, but these facades result in mass confusion with many falling in love with the wrong people.

“It’s basically the themes of disguise, of being banished, of trying to establish a new life for yourself,” Tober said. “And in the forest, many mishaps happen.”

She said the first part of it is written in prose – or “regular” language – and the other half of the play is written in iambic pentameter, or verse with a specific pattern.  But Tober did say this is not apparent to the audience.

“We do try to make it as accessible as possible to people in the way that we speak, in the clarity of our pronunciation and also in our body language and gestures,” Tober said. “Not that we mime the whole thing out, but we are fairly physical.”

She said over the last ten years of Shakespeare in the Parks, they have learned the best parks to have as venues; to wear comfortable shoes; and, that there is a great desire for the productions with more than a thousand people attending the eight shows each year.

“I had a teacher one time that said doing Shakespeare is like running a race and doing outdoor Shakespeare is like running a marathon, and I think that’s true” Tober said. “And I think we’re all getting a lot stronger from this process.”

The first show begins at 2 p.m. Saturday in Frick Park.

The schedule can be found on Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks’ website.