Professional Theatre Opens this Month
Without a doubt, Pensacola residents support the arts. Pensacola Museum of Art’s Culture Club unites them monthly, and the crowds that spill onto Palafox Street on Gallery Night are a testament to this city’s passion for anything art related.
It’s a surprise then, that up until now, Pensacola has lacked a professional theatre. Die-hard lovers of the stage have had to travel to Birmingham or Mobile to see professional actors at work.
Kevin Kern, Pensacola Shakespeare Theatre’s artistic director, explains that while local community theatres have far exceeded the quality levels and talent generally associated with community theatre, “there is nothing quite like seeing professionals at work…watching someone onstage that has dedicated their life to mastering that art form is a remarkable experience, and we wanted that in Pensacola.” Thus, a year and a half ago, a group of individuals formed the Pensacola Shakespeare Theatre with the express purpose of bringing professional theatre to Pensacola.
What separates professional theatre organizations from community theatre is the fact that their actors, designers and directors are paid for their time, rather than utilized on a volunteer basis. It’s this acknowledgement that the craft of theatre is such a time-consuming profession worthy of payment that sets its actors apart.
These professionals will come from across the nation, many of them seasoned actors from regional Shakespeare festivals, and will accompany local actors as well.
“Pensacola has so many talented actors, and that resource won’t be deprived. We’ve created a company that brings in professional actors and supplements them with our apprenticeship actors — university students and a few locals. We will always ensure that it’s a nice mix of those two.”
While locals may have experienced Shakespeare before, Pensacola Shakespeare Theatre seeks to grant theatre patrons a professional experience. “Shakespeare was notorious for inventing words. Not only that, but the verse in many of his plays is so elaborate that it takes trained professionals to handle his work well. You can’t just pick up Shakespeare and read it and expect it to sound good. But in the hands of trained professionals, his works sound like modern English.” It’s their actors’ commitment and dedication to the art and craft of theatre that will set their shows apart.
Pensacola Shakespeare Theatre will kick off its inaugural season this summer at UWF’s Mainstage Theatre. The opening weekend, Aug. 12-15, will feature Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“Pensacola has such an immense history of military service that we thought it was really fitting to set this story, about two men returning home from war, in the World War II era.”
While the dialogue won’t be changed, the costumes and the set will reflect the era in which so many Pensacolians can relate to. “I find that setting Shakespeare’s works in modern times makes his work more accessible to viewers, and we really wanted to do something that celebrates Pensacola’s history.”
The following weekend, Aug. 19-22, will feature the lighthearted performance of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” This hilarious romp through all of Shakespeare’s seminal works, in under two hours, appeals to the masses and shouldn’t be missed.
It seems Pensacola’s cultural to-do list just got a little longer.
PENSACOLA SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12-15, also Aug. 19-22
WHERE: UWF Mainstage Theatre, 11000 University Parkway, Building 82
COST: $20 for military, seniors and students; $25 for all others, $40 for season pass