One day recently, Chris Greene had an idea: “Hey, gang, let’s go to a small town and do something really big and Shakespeare.”
Sure, everyone replied. Why the heck not?
So, a couple of weeks ago, he called more than a dozen “merry wanderers of the night” from California to Chicago to Temple to trek “over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier” to create some theatrical magic.
Greene hammered some contemporary twists to “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” stitched up costumes and pulled together a few rudimentary sets. He threw in a gaggle of puckish puppets, and Shakespeare in the Park is a done deal for this weekend.
Forsooth! There’s “Redneck Shakespeare” in the Park today and Saturday in the Lion Sam Farrow Amphitheater, 4320 Lions Park Road, Temple. Admission is free, but the audience should bring blankets or chairs to sit on the hillside. Otherwise, “what fools these mortals be (to miss the fun)!”
Greene also recruited musician buddies to provide pre-performance entertainment and scoring during the play. They all converged in Temple this week for final rehearsals and a little brushing up on their bard.
A 2008 Temple High graduate, Greene earned a degree in theater from DePaul University in Chicago. “I wanted to work from ground up, just wanted to do something of my own. So, I started my own production company,” said Greene, who now lives in Austin. When the Lions’ Park Amphitheater opened last year, Greene saw it as his signal to apply his creative skills in his hometown. “It was just something I honestly had a responsibly to do. I wanted to entertain back home. The amphitheater was an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of. I’m excited to do it,” he said.
Many in his company are professionals who volunteered to help Greene pull this together as a labor of love. “They are a company of actors, designers and technicians of varying skill levels and experience. They are coming to Temple to show the world what we can do. There are a lot of people who do theater art poorly and lazily. These are not those people,” he said.
Out-of-towners are boarding with family and friends as they run through their lines. He also recruited talented Temple High drama students studying with Natasha Tolleson.
“This is the first time we are all working together, although we’re all connected one way or another either through school or work. It’s a real multigenerational group,” Greene said.
Alas, “the course of true love (and finances) never did run smooth.” There was also a tricky issue about money to pull this whole thing off. In early May, Greene drummed up a campaign on Kickstarter, an online resource for artists who need seed funds for their creative endeavors. His parents, Drs. Tom and Pam Greene, helped spread the word. In less than a month, 71 donors contributed $6,727 that covered technical help and costumes.
In two weeks, he had the cast, crew and puppets committed to Temple and Shakespeare. The director is Edgar Sanchez. Greene serves as producer and an actor.
“This whole experience has been immersive and intense and one of the coolest things I ever pulled together,” Greene said.
As Shakespeare put it: “To show our simple skill, that is the true beginning of our end.”