University Troupe Examines Shakespeare’s Views on Love

November 15, 2017 at 1:29 pm

From left, Juliet, played by Jordan Montemayor
and Romeo, Joey Richer, perform a scene from “Midnight Pillow.”

What’s love got to do with it? Plenty, when you’re referring to the works of the Bard of Avon.

The University of South Carolina Upstate’s Shoestring Players will examine many of William Shakespeare’s takes on love in “Midnight Pillow: Shakespeare on Love,” with performances beginning Thursday, Nov. 16, and running through Sunday, Nov. 19.

The performance will feature eight scenes from seven plays, including “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Tempest,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It is co-directed by the dramatic team of Lee Neibert, assistant professor of theatre at USC Upstate and chair of fine arts and communications studies, and his wife Deana. It’s the first time the pair have shared directing duties on a play, but, as Lee Neibert explained, the material is well-suited to the division of labor.

“We have collaborated — she’s directed me, and I’ve directed her — but we’ve never directed together, so this has been kind of a new thing,” he said. “But it’s been great. There are eight scenes … so we split them down the middle – she took four and I took four, and as we’ve gotten into production we’ve collaborated on how to use the space and how to light it and how to time the cues and everything, so it’s been good.”

“Midnight Pillow” was conceived and edited by Stephen Unwin, founder of the English Touring Company. Unwin, who has authored several books about Shakespeare and directed many of his plays, created “Midnight Pillow” to focus on the relationships between lovers, as seen through Shakespeare’s works.

“Steven’s original vision was to not make it about trying to realize all these scenes from all these different plays and trying to make it contextually real on stage,” Neibert said. “He wanted it to be about the actors engaging with the language and let the language and the actors’ work be the centerpiece. So what we’ve done is just a very simple stage setting, no real scenery, and actors not even in costume but in neutral kind of garb so that they would just worry about bringing the scenes to life and letting the language sing.”

The work will feature many Shoestring Players performers in multiple roles, including Dexter Simmons as The Muse, whose narration serves to introduce the different scenes, and as Ferdinand in the scene from “The Tempest”; Jenna Lawson, who portrays the Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet,” Celia in “As You Like It,” and the Servant in “Henry IV Part 1”; and John Gibbs, who portrays Benedick in “Much Ado About Nothing” and Angelo in “Measure for Measure.”

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 16-18, with a 3 p.m. matinee on Nov. 19 in the Main Stage Theatre of the Humanities and Performing Arts Center. General-admission tickets are $8; $4 for USC Upstate faculty, staff and students. The box office accepts cash and checks only. For reservations, please contact the box office via email at boxoffice@uscupstate.edu.