By Elizabeth Perry
McKees Rocks residents saw a recent free performance of Hamlet, but instead of watching the play inside the confines of the Roxian Theater on Chartiers Ave., the New Renaissance Theatre Company performed Hamlet in the greenspace beside the building.
New Renaissance members performed there last year, too, as part of their Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project and turnout more than doubled, said Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Andy Kirtland.
“McKees Rocks is one of those neighborhoods we feel like we should be in because lots of arts organizations ignore it,” Kirtland said.
The players utilized the “Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique,” which is based on the way plays were performed in Shakespeare's time.
As described on the New Renaissance Shakespeare website, the technique mimics conditions of Shakespeare’s time, in which plays were performed in open air near where “gambling, drinking, bear baiting and prostitution were available only feet away from the performance.”
Things did not get that lively during their June 25 performance in the Rocks, however, Kirtland said performing the play outside in an informal setting inspired audience participation, which would have also occurred in Shakespeare’s day. Back then, there was no fourth wall and no sense of pretense.
“Shakespeare wrote for a completely different psychology. Probably the best equivalent is professional wrestling,” Kirtland said.
Actors in Shakespeare’s time were not given the whole script because paper and ink were expensive, and there would be nothing to stop performers from running off with the play and putting it on at another theater. Instead, they were given small scrolls with just their cues and lines, which is where the term “role” comes from in modern acting parlance.
If you missed the performance, you can still catch them at these locations and times; Friday, July 7 at the Boathouse Lawn in North Park at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 8 at Cribbs Field in Verona at 7 p.m. and Hartwood Acres Mansion on Sunday, July 9 at 5 p.m.