For the fourth consecutive year, Central Indiana theater companies will sync up to perform the works of William Shakespeare for an annual Bard Fest.
Laura Kuhn will direct The Carmel Theatre Company’s Much Ado About Nothing, Zachariah Stonerock will lead Catalyst Repertory’s Romeo and Juliet, and First Folio Productions will perform The Merchant of Venice under the direction of Doug Powers. Agape Performing Arts Company, a youth theater troupe, will also be involved with productions.
Recently I spoke with Glenn Dobbs, the festival’s founder, executive producer, and artistic director.
NUVO: Why do you think Shakespeare is still relevant in 2018?
GLENN DOBBS: There hasn’t ever been a greater playwright in the English language. Shakespeare teaches us more about what it means to be a human than any playwright ever did at any time. His plots, his devices, his language, are unique, they’re beautiful. The stories are amazing, original; they have a power about them that no other playwright in the last 400 years has been able to touch. When it’s done well, it can be an incredibly moving and profound experience for an audience member to see.
NUVO: Why have an entire festival dedicated to Shakespeare in Indianapolis, considering there are usually one or two other Shakespeare performances throughout the year?
DOBBS: What a festival does, it gives an audience a chance to come in and say, “I want to go to the left and see a drama,” or “I want to go to the right and see a history.” Or, “I want to see both. I want to sample the catalog that’s being offered today, and let my pallet be elevated by these amazing tales.” Ours is an intense focus on the Bard. I can tell you we have some electric actors, some amazingly intense scenes and hysterical scenes all ready to show you. And I think you’ll be very pleased with whatever venue you select when you come in that day.
NUVO: How were the plays selected?
DOBBS: We try to do it to present a diverse product. We want to do something commercial and [something] not as popular, something that is funny and something that is one of Shakespeare’s problem plays.
NUVO: Speaking of problem plays, isn’t The Merchant of Venice rarely performed because of its antisemitism?
DOBBS: In Shakespeare’s time, antisemitism was rampant. But Shakespeare took it to a different level. He has a famous speech where Shylock the Jewish protagonist said, am I not the same as you? [“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge.”] When we present the antisemitism in its naked and raw form, you get an amazing picture of what intolerance is. And from that, we make a statement about intolerance in our modern society, and how we need to work against that in order to achieve a better world.
NUVO: How involved are you with what the different local companies choose to perform?
DOBBS: Everyone has their own director and artistic feel. They all have their own artistic vision about how to tell the tale. So what we try to provide at Bard Fest is a platform to be able to express their creativity.
NUVO: What can you tell me about Agape performing at this year’s festival for the first time?
DOBBS: We talked about what could add a real punch for us, what could be an investment for the future. There’s an extremely vibrant youth theater market in town, and one of the [companies] was Agape. I met with the director, Dr. Kathy Phipps, who has a doctorate of theater, and she has a huge interest in Shakespeare. She has double cast the entire show, so she has almost 40 kids. But this is not a kids’ show. These young people, they’re all high school age, they’re very dynamic. We think they’re going to feed into the mainstage program. For example, in our Romeo and Juliet show, Romeo [played by Eli Robinson], came from the Agape program.
NUVO: What would you suggest for a first-timer attending Bard Fest?
DOBBS: See it. See something that piques your interest. Dip your toe in the water and see what you think. See a show one weekend and come back the next weekend. We had one fellow on one Saturday who saw all four shows, that was eight-and-a-half hours of Shakespeare. All shows are two hours in length. But even if you come and just see one, we’re delighted to have you.
For complete information about Bard Fest -- the individual shows, showtimes, theater locations, and ticket pricing -- visit IndyBardFest.com