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Published: Monday, 7/16/2001

`Theater' sails toward Toledo for 4 on-deck performances

This isn't an ordinary ship, and its crew members aren't ordinary sailors.

The Amara Zee Caravan StageBarge will present theater in the park Thursday through Sunday - with a twist.

“We're unique in that we do this theater on the deck of the boat and in the rigging of the ship, and the audience sits on the shore,” said Paul Kirby, captain and director of the ship.

The 18-member crew will perform 1592: The Dogs of Shakespeare, a stage adaptation of Leon Rooke's 1983 Governor General's Award-winning book Shakespeare's Dog at Portside in downtown Toledo.

“The show looks at William Shakespeare and the era of Elizabeth I through the eyes of a street dog,” said Adriana Kelder, organizer for the Amara Zee Caravan StageBarge.

The Caravan StageBarge season runs from May through November, during which the Amara Zee becomes home to its 18 crew members while it sails from city to city.

“It's intense because you have to live close quarters with 17 other people,” Ms. Kelder said. “You have to have people who are willing to take the risk of the adventure of it all.”

Most crew members are actors by trade and learned to sail when they joined the Caravan StageBarge.

“There are two kinds of typical days on the ship: one on the water and one in port,” Mr. Kirby said.

On the water, each crew member works a four-hour shift navigating, steering, or serving as a bow lookout. When the Amara Zee arrives in port, it takes the crew six to eight hours to convert the ship into a theater.

“When we come into port, we transform the ship into a theater, and we put all the lights up, and the sound equipment, and the set,” Mr. Kirby said.

Common Space Center for Creativity, a Toledo-based nonprofit organization, is responsible for bringing the ship to Toledo, in cooperation with a host of civic, nonprofit, and corporate groups.

“Any ticket sales will go to benefit arts education,” said Danette Olsen, Common Space program director, who hopes each performance draws 1,000 people.

Ms. Olsen first saw the Amara Zee in its home port of St. Petersburg, Fla., in February, 2000, before she knew of its thespian mission. “I was looking at this beautiful ship, just gawking,” Ms. Olsen said.

The theater lighting strung up in the rigging of the ship puzzled her. “How many times have you seen $10,000 worth of lighting equipment in the mast of a ship?” she said.

Amara Zee Captain Paul Kirby and Ms. Olsen have kept in touch since then, and when arrangements for the ship to stop in Cleveland and Detroit fell through, Mr. Kirby offered to come to Toledo.

The 90-foot-long ship is a replica of a 19th-century Thames River sailing barge. It has a draft of only 3.5 feet, allowing it to access nearly any waterfront.

Live music, arts and acting workshops, and deck tours will be offered at Portside prior to each performance, Ms. Olsen said. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

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Performances will be at 9 p.m. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday and 10 p.m. Friday at Portside. Deck tours run noon to 4 p.m. and family activities begin at 5 p.m. all four days. Tickets are available at the SeaGate Gallery in the Owens-Illinois Building. The show and a deck tour cost $12.50 in advance or $15 at the door for adults, and $7.50 in advance or $10 at the door for youths 12 and under. Admission for just the show is $10 in advance or $12.50 at the door for adults and $5 in advance or $7.50 at the door for youths. Cost for the deck tour only is $2.50 in advance or $3 at the door for all ages.



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