What is a movable play?

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What is a movable play? At Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, it is outdoor theatre presented as an epic journey.

During the movable Romeo and Juliet, the audience travels with the actors–close enough to count the laces on the rich Renaissance costumes.

The action takes place inside the rooms and on the landscaped grounds of a hilltop historic site – The Patapsco Female Institute (PFI) Historic Park in Ellicott City.  The setting itself plays a starring role. Built in 1837, the Institute was a boarding school for girls. The ruins of this structure have been reinforced and maintained as a grand architectural landmark in a well-manicured county park. 

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When performing a movable play, Chesapeake Shakespeare actors employ the structure’s open-air rooms, stone hearths, arched window frames, high walls, and balconies. Sunlight fades to a starry night canopy and curtain for the players. Guides lead the audience through the park as the tale unfolds.

Movable theatre in this outdoor setting engages the senses and indulges a deliciously voyeuristic aspect of play-going: Audience members are the invited guests at the party where Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers fall in love at first sight.  They are bystanders and witnesses to the Capulet-Montague street brawls. They sit in the bedroom with Juliet as she agonizes: What if the Friar’s sleeping potion fails?

“It’s the closest we’ve come to enabling an audience member to share the same excitement and adrenaline that an actor feels,” says Ian Gallanar, the theatre company’s Founding Artistic Director.

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Gallanar created the movable format for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s plays in 2008. The first movable was Macbeth, adapted from an earlier production to take advantage of the striking architecture of the ruins and bring audiences closer to the actors.  Movable plays delighted audiences and became a Chesapeake Shakespeare signature feature, usually performed in the fall.  The movable Macbeth was followed by a movable Julius Caesar (2009), Titus Andronicus (2010), Our Town (2011), Richard III (2012), and Dracula (2013). 

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After Dracula, Chesapeake Shakespeare announced it would take a hiatus from presenting fall movable plays while it was expanding its operations into Baltimore.  The company converted a landmark Baltimore bank building into a theater for the classics, and has continued to perform at its summer home in Howard County at the PFI Historic Park.

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Loyal audiences in Howard County have clamored for Chesapeake Shakespeare to restore the movable format. To please them, and new audiences as well, the movable play format will now become an occasional feature of summer seasons.

Romeo and Juliet will be presented in the PFI park June 10 – June 19, 2016.  There are only seven performances, and advance tickets are recommended: To keep the experience intimate for travel through the park, audience size is limited for each performance. Experience Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s movable Romeo and Juliet: For tickets, click here.

For FAQs about our summer season in the park (directions, parking, picnics), click here.

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Photos from movable Romeo and Juliet:

-Love at first sight for Romeo (Seamus Miller) and Juliet (Elana Michelle).

-Boys will be boys. Left to right:  Romeo (Seamus Miller, seated), Mercutio (Vince Eisenson, masked), and Benvolio (Matthew Ancarrow)

-From her balcony, Juliet (Elana Michelle), greets Romeo (Seamus Miller).

-Friar Laurence (Scott Alan Small) in his garden.

-Paris (James Vincent Murray, left) seeks Juliet’s hand, but Lord Capulet (Dave Gamble) asks him to wait.

All photos by Jean Thompson