When Cynde Liffick, formerly of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival in Virginia, founded a new company, Bard Unbound, she decided as her business model that she would take William Shakespeare's plays to wineries, breweries, and "other craft alcohol locations." And what better way to share Shakespeare in a drinking environment than with drinking scenes from Shakespeare's plays.
ShakesBEER: The Drinking Scenes will kick off its tour at Strangeways Brewing in Richmond, Friday, March 3, 9–10:30 p.m. Future dates are set for May 4 at Three Notched in Richmond and May 6 at O'Connor's in Norfolk, with other dates to come, Liffick said in an email to Shakespeareances.com.
One of her fondest memories with Richmond Shakespeare Festival was a tour stop in Colonial Williamsburg. "I have had ample opportunity to interact with people and explore what they think of Shakespeare—which includes a lot of baggage," Liffick said. "True or not, it influences their perceptions of a performance. Alcohol, used judiciously, takes the edge off the brain, and the audience then can completely enter the world of play and forget about the part in which they're supposed to not understand Shakespeare."
Touring to drinking establishments also allows her to reduce such hassles as handling props and ticketing. Her shows leave the lights on, her actors interact with the audience.
She has toured full productions of plays to wineries, but she decided on a compilation of scenes for playing in breweries. "Breweries have a different vibe," she said. "The scenes compilations are shorter and take less involvement than a full play." The characters will be in costume.
For The Drinking Scenes, she's chosen scenes in which the characters are actually drinking or have been drinking, such as Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, the porter in Macbeth, the Watch listening to Conrad telling Boraccio how he gulled Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, Trinculo, Stephano, and Calaban in The Tempest, and, of course, Falstaff praising sack in Henry IV, Part Two.
Notice that these are all male characters. "There are no drinking scenes for women that I've found," Liffick said. "They can be drinking, but none are written drunk." So, she includes Portia and Nerissa's talk about the Duke of Saxony's nephew in The Merchant of Venice, and she presents The Comedy of Errors' Adriana drunk in her first scene. "Her husband hasn't returned home and she thinks he's gone to another woman—a justifiable situation in which to drink, I think," Liffick said.
Not included are more Falstaff scenes, Cassio in Othello, and drunken revelries in Antony and Cleopatra. "Most of these need more context or are a little dark for what I am going for in these places," Liffick said. "There are a few plays I don't know well at all and don't know if there are drinking scenes there, but if I don't know them, my audience won't know them and I am trying to stick to pieces that are more familiar."
She also has shows featuring compilations of Love Scenes, Comic Scenes (without drinking), and Scary Scenes. "I started with The Drinking Scenes because it seemed obvious." Or, as Bard Unbound's Facebook posting about the Strangeways Brewing shows pronounces: "To beer or not to beer… what a silly question!"
Strangeways Brewing is at 2277 Dabney Road, Richmond, Virginia 23230. Doors open at 8 p.m. With limited seating, advance tickets ($10) are recommended. Tickets are $12 at the door. Tickets are available at http://strangewaysbrewing.com/happenings/.
February 25, 2017