BWW Interview: Lauren French, director of SHAKESPEAREAN LOVERS LAWN GAME
It's not often that you see a press release announcing a game of corn hole played by Beatrice and Benedick. But that's exactly what I received:
The Shakespearean Lovers Lawn Game Tournament; or much about doing nothing, is an hour-long immersive theatre performance, which invites the audience to play bocce ball, corn hole, and badminton with their favorite Shakespearean couples. Join the couples on the Hampton Station lawn, right in front of White Duck Taco and Birds Fly South. If audience members do not wish to play, they are able to watch and root for their favorite couples. The lovers include: Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, and Viola and Olivia from Twelfth Night. The Host of the event will introduce the competitive couples and explain the rules. Audience members should show up early to sign up to play. The event is kid and pet friendly, and free to the public. Donations will be accepted. In the event of rain, the performance will be moved inside at Hampton Station.
I was obviously intrigued and immediately reached out to the event's director, Lauren French, to tell us a little more.
How did this idea come about?
I was driving past McPherson Park one afternoon in the Spring and saw the putt putt course at the bottom of the park. I thought that could be a cool spot for a public performance. But what kind of performance would work there? The actors would be playing putt putt and Shakespeare is in the public domain... Plus what better time to do Shakespeare than outside during the summer. I was dreaming about this project, procrastinating working on another project I had coming up in late Spring. I was reading Shakespeare, thinking of which play to do, or which series of scenes to do when I thought, let's pull the lovers out of some of the plays and explore them. When I was living in New York City I worked on a few immersive projects and saw a lot of immersive performances. I loved the idea of getting the audience involved as much as possible. I landed on the idea that it would be an immersive theatrical event, where Shakespearean Lovers are competing against the audience while performing scenes. A loose idea of a Shakespearean Lovers Tournament began to form. Then, I went to Hampton Station with my producing partner, Sara Tolson, where we discussed the idea. We couldn't host the event at McPherson Park because it is under construction. I looked over and saw the lawn at Hampton Station and told Sara it would be the perfect place to do a lawn game tournament. I contacted the events coordinator at Hampton Station and we set up a time for performances.
Who are the people involved and what roles will they play?
Sara Tolson is co-producing the event and playing Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. Josh Barnes, her scene partner, is playing Benedick. Sims Hall is Viola, and Cameron Trieper is Olivia from Twelfth Night. Drew Whitley is Romeo and Jaimie Malphrus is Juliet from Romeo and Juliet. I am acting as the host and referee for the event.
Is it scripted, improv or a combination? How do you rehearse?
It is a combination of the two. They are playing unpredictable lawn games while performing scenes so the actors will have to be ready for anything. Each couple is playing one lawn game. Benedick and Beatrice are playing corn hole, Viola and Olivia are playing badminton, and Romeo and Juliet are playing bocce ball. I have asked the actors to become very familiar with the scripts before we begin rehearsing this week, that way we can jump right in. It will prove difficult to hold a script while playing one of the games. We are rehearsing within the structure, or the rules, of each lawn game while also building in set moments. The actors will perform the 20 minute scenes that loop three times, and each time a different audience couple will rotate in to play. We will build in moments that happen each loop, for instance, maybe things get a little too heated between Benedick and Beatrice and the referee has to call a timeout, or maybe Juliet runs away weeping and some audience members chase her...
What's been the best part about putting this together?
The anticipation from the actors involved and from potential audience members telling us it sounds like a fun and different theatrical event. I am most excited to see audience members who did not intend to see the show but were at Hampton Station for a different reason and were intrigued by what they saw. It is in a public space, audience members may intend to come to Hampton Station purely for this performance, or they may be people enjoying a drink at Birds Fly South or a taco at White Duck Taco who are curious about the work we are creating.
What is the audience's role?
They will compete against the Shakespearean Lovers. If they don't want to compete, they cheer for their favorite couples. They are welcome to walk around to each game during one loop or they can watch a full 20 minute loop and rotate each time the game starts over. They can walk away and grab a beer and return. They are there to witness, or affect the outcome of a lawn game. They can watch from afar or get as close as they wish, as long as they stay out of the players way, for safety. If they do want to play, the only thing I ask is they come early to reserve a spot in the tournament. We created this event so it would be free and accessible art for everyone to enjoy. Everyone is welcome to play, we will explain the rules at the start of the event.
Are there prizes?
Shakespearean Lovers Lawn Game Tournament
Or much about doing nothing
Directed by Lauren French
Co-produced by Lauren French and Sara Tolson
Saturday August 25th at 6 pm and Sunday August 26th at 3 pm
320 Hampton Station Avenue Extension
Greenville SC, 29601
This production features local actors, Drew Whitley, Jaimie Malphrus, Sara Tolson, Josh Barnes, Sims Hall, and Cameron Trieper.