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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2005

Visiting troupe presents theater of the imagination

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The phrase "atomic fission" would not seem to belong in the same sentence with "Shakespeare," yet here it is: The Shenandoah Blackfriars Stage Co. opens its Atomic Fission Tour, featuring three works of William Shakespeare, tonight at Owens Community College.

The Blackfriars troupe is the touring arm of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va. "One of the things we try to do is re-create Shakespeare's playhouse conditions," Jim Warren, artistic director for the ASC, said in a telephone interview.

Those conditions include keeping the house lights on and seating parts of the audience on both sides of the stage to create a "thrust stage" in which the performers are surrounded on three sides by viewers.

"We think Shakespeare wrote the audience into every play," Warren said. Thus, in Much Ado About Nothing, they become guests at the wedding, in Richard III, they become part of Richard's army.

The third work to be presented is a musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet, which is The Tempest with elements of Star Trek and American Bandstand tossed in. It is from Forbidden Planet that the Atomic Fission Tour got its name.

"We try to take our tour titles from a line in one of the plays," Warren said. "In looking at lots of possibilities for this current year, I knew I wanted something from the sci-fi Tempest-in-outer-space show that we are doing. I chose the title because atomic fission is what fueled the space ship in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet that our musical is partly based on."

Those familiar with Shakespeare already know that he didn't pay a whole lot of attention to historical accuracy, Warren said, so the ASC doesn't worry much about period costumes; the cast appears in everything from Elizabethan to post-modern garb.

As for sets, there aren't any.

Warren said the theaters in which Shakespeare was involved, most famously the Globe but also Blackfriars, presented his shows in repertory, one the first day, another the second day, yet another the third day, and the constantly changing schedule didn't allow for elaborate sets. So that's the way the Shenandoah Blackfriars troupe does things.

"We have a curtain and 12 wooden boxes that we pack our props in, and they become benches, a throne, a wall, whatever else we need. It's a different kind of theater. We call it theater of the imagination rather than theater of illusion."

The Atomic Fission Tour is presented in conjunction with the Ohio Shakespeare Conference, which runs today through Saturday at Owens. The theme of this year's event is "Shakespeare and the Law," and the public is invited to join humanities scholars and students in the seminars and workshops, which are free.

Among events are the Judges' Plenary Session at 2 p.m. Friday in which U.S. District Court Judge David Katz will discuss the continued relevance of legal situations in Shakespeare and Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals Judge William Skow will discuss executions. David Bevington of the University of Chicago will present his keynote speech, "Usurpation," at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Information on the conference is available from 567-661-7421 or 567-661-7149.

The Atomic Fission Tour presents "Much Ado About Nothing" tonight, "Richard III" tomorrow, and "Return to the Forbidden Planet" Saturday in the Mainstage Theatre of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Owens Community College, 30335 Oregon Rd., Perrysburg. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Richard III" are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and Owens employees, and $8 for students. Tickets for "Return to the Forbidden Planet," are $15, $12, and $10. Information: 567-661-2787 or www.stagetix.com.

Fremont Community Theatre opens Run for Your Wife tomorrow for a two-week run.

The British farce by Ray Cooney concerns John Smith, a taxi driver who has a secret. In fact he has two secrets. He is married to Barbara and to Mary, and neither knows about the other. When two police detectives become suspicious, Smith goes to great lengths to keep everyone from discovering his double dose of connubial bliss.

Fremont's cast comprises Tim Bolton as John Smith, Elizabeth Stetzel as Barbara Smith, Tracy Armentrout as Mary Smith, plus Randy Brown, Christopher Fiegl, Pete Lowry, Bryan Sharples, and Charles Hayward.

"Run for Your Wife" is scheduled at 8 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, and Nov. 18 and 19, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 20 in the Fremont Community Theater, 1551 Dickinson St., Fremont. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Information: 419-332-0775.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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