Flatwater Shakespeare's Blog News

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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kudos to Richard Nielsen!

A recent issue of the Southeast Community College Alumni News offers a “Meet Our Faculty” feature on Flatwater Shakespeare mainstay Richard Nielsen. We are delighted that Dick is receiving some well-deserved recognition in his academic community for his artistic achievements and for his skill in integrating theatrical insights and techniques into effective teaching. Click on the picture or see page 8 of the complete issue: https://www.southeast.edu/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=22674

In the article, Dick mentions the plays that include his favorite roles. Here, we'd like to highlight some of those roles.

2004: Caliban in The Tempest. Vulnerable but still dangerous, Dick's amphibious monster (costume design by Jan Stauffer) could be charming and tender.

2007: The Fool in King Lear. Genuinely funny, as well as brutally honest and touchingly loyal to Lear and to Cordelia.

2009: The title role in Julius Caesar. Charismatic and remote; commanding but petulant.

2015: Polonius in Hamlet. Clinging to authority at court and in his own family – and someone who, we are reminded, once portrayed Julius Caesar on stage.

2016: Antonio in The Merchant of Venice (another title role). A rich, maddening mix of sincere self-sacrifice and smug self-righteousness.

Many thanks, Dick, for your dedicated, insightful, and vital work for FSC and SCC!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Flatwater Shakespeare Friends, 

As many of you know, Bob Hall, our founder, is retiring at the end of 2016. The Board of Directors is seeking an Executive Director for the organization.
The position is a 1/4 time position, with a flexible schedule. The amount of hours vary each week vary depending on production and administration needs. 
More information is included in the job posting that follows. 

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to Search Committee at flatwatershakespearecompany@gmail.com by November 1.
Flatwater Shakespeare is small nonprofit theatre company in Lincoln, Nebraska that produces 2-3 productions a year, plus a youth production. For more information about Flatwater Shakespeare, visit www.flatwatershakespearecompany.org
Flatwater Shakespeare Company Job Description

Overview of Flatwater Shakespeare Company:
Flatwater Shakespeare Company is a private theatre company in Lincoln, NE that was formed in 2001 and incorporated in 2004. The focus is high quality productions of Shakespeare and other classical works. Flatwater duties are managed by a dedicated part time staff, an active board, and volunteers. Flatwater does not have a building/facility. The majority of productions have been held at The Swan Theatre at The Stables at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln. Other productions have been produced at Haymarket Theatre, Lincoln Community Playhouse, and Johnny Carson Theatre/Lied Center. For the past eleven years, Flatwater has had a summer youth production. In 2011, we began Flatwater Free Shakespeare, a summer tour which takes Shakespeare to local parks and outdoor venues in Lincoln. These performances are supported through donations and small grants. In addition to the youth production and Flatwater Free Shakespeare, we produce either a spring or a fall show (and sometimes both).

Position Title: Executive Director
Reports to: Flatwater Board of Directors
Hours: Quarter-time position, Contract Labor
Supervises/coordinates with: Board Executive Team and other staff
Salary range: $6,000-$8,000 annually, depending on experience

General Summary: This position serves as the leader, the “face” of Flatwater.

Essential Job Functions:
1. Develop and implement a financial plan to ensure stability and growth of the organization
a. Secure corporate support for the summer tour
b. Provide support to the Operations Manager in the development of proposals
c. Coordinate the development of the budget for the fiscal year
2. Play a key role in short and long-term strategic planning with a focus on continuing the existing
high-quality productions
3. Manage and support operations staff
4. Work with staff and board on community outreach activities
5. Participate in public relations activities to provide a high level of visibility for Flatwater
6. Work with the board to identify the season
7. Hire and manage guest directors and key production staff, including budget oversight
8. Work with the Executive Committee as needed

Education and Experience:
Experience and involvement with Shakespearean productions
BA in a related field preferred
Ability to work with funders to gather financial support for the organization
Experience with a nonprofit organization
Understanding of nonprofit rules and regulations

Working Conditions:
This is a quarter time position, with flexible hours. Certain times of the year will be busier than others, depending on the production schedule and fundraising needs. Flatwater Shakespeare does not have a building; tasks will need to be done at one’s home or at designated venues. There will be required meetings, including with potential funders, board and committee meetings, and events. Current contract staff include: Operations Manager, Production Manager, PR/Events Coordinator, and Website Manager. Dr. Stephen Buhler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, coordinates Facebook and the blog (volunteer), and serves as Dramaturg. 


Michelle Zinke
Chair, FSC Board of Directors

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Looking Back at *Merchant*

A friend of Flatwater Shakespeare shared her impressions of the last performance of The Merchant of Venice -- 

The play was beautifully done. The 1890s era was an interesting choice for the setting – the costumes were very fun and the period still felt in harmony with Shakespeare’s language.

Here are some of my favorite things in the production.

The relationships between all the characters, especially:

Antonio and Shylock – they were really the perfect foils for each other;

Antonio and Bassanio – they really messed with the line between platonic and romantic love, and in my mind that was how it should be, since the text certainly gives that impression;

Shylock and Jessica – even though Jessica is a relatively minor character, you can see that her part in the story is still important, and that her betrayal later actually hurt Shylock and was not just an excuse for his revenge; the moment when she hugged him before he left for dinner at Antonio's house was played very well.

I also really liked:

The scene with Launcelot Gobbo and his father – the comedic timing was impeccable, and Bassanio's patience wearing thin was really effective.

Gratiano’s jumping full-on into Bassanio's arms after Bassanio chose the right casket; no profound significance here (except a hint of how important the choice was for Gratiano, too) – it was just really funny.

Shylock's “hath not a Jew eyes' speech” – this was the first time I had ever heard it spoken both with hurt/anger and with bone-deep grief; very powerful -- I cried.

The romances – which were sweet but not overdone.

The trial scene – Antonio being at Shylock's mercy and yet still retaining his feeling of arrogant moral superiority was perfectly done; Portia was a wonderful doctor of the law, not retreating an inch, despite how close Shylock was to her in his anger; the tragic irony of Antonio being saved by Portia and then, despite seeing Shylock in the very position he himself had just occupied, deciding to ignore Portia's “quality of mercy” speech and to strip Shylock of the one thing he had not yet lost – his Jewish identity. I cried here too, especially when Shylock was forced to beg for his life on his hands and knees.

The ending scene, with Portia and Nerissa getting the better of their new husbands and forcing them to treat them as equal partners, not as things to be won, owned, or idolized. And Bassanio crawling across the stage to Portia, trying to make up the loss of the ring, was hilarious.

The actors’ reactions to other people's lines: I love that about live theatre – you get to see all the people in a scene rather than just the participants in a dialogue; it makes the story more personal, more real.

Overall, it was excellently performed. I would have probably embarrassed myself in front of the actors by gushing about it to them, especially the man who played Shylock, Patrick Lambrecht. However, I had to leave before getting a chance to see them.

Congratulations to Tom Crew and his creative team for an exceptional The Merchant of Venice! Many thanks to all who attended -- including the friend who wrote this lovely appreciation immediately after a show -- and to all supported the production.  Special thanks go to our partners in providing opportunities to discuss the play, its themes, and its implications for our own times: Ms. Nancy Coren, Professor Sarah Kelen, Professor Carole Levin, Rabbi Craig Lewis, and Professor Scott Stanfield. 

Photo: Patrick Lambrecht as Shylock in Flatwater Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, directed by Tom Crew. Photo Credit: Jourdan Guenther

Sunday, September 04, 2016

*The Merchant of Venice* Talkbacks

Starting tonight, September 4, discussions of The Merchant of Venice will follow select performances.

Rabbi Craig Lewis of South Street Temple in Lincoln will join Flatwater Shakespeare Education Director Stephen Buhler for this evening's talkback.

On Thursday, September 8, the discussion will be led by Nancy Coren of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Lincoln and Professor Carole Levin of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Department of History.
On Sunday, September 11, and Thursday, September 15, participants will include Nebraska Wesleyan University's Sarah Kelen, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of English, and P. Scott Stanfield, Professor of English.

Remaining dates for Flatwater Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, directed by Tom Crew, are September 4-5, 8-11, and 14-16. Show time is 7:00 p.m. Standard tickets are $20 general, $16 seniors, and $12 students. The Swan Theatre at Wyuka Stables is located at 3600 “O” Street in Lincoln.

For information and for ticket sales or reservations, visit flatwatershakespearecompany.org or call 402-601-8529.

Photo: Patrick Lambrecht as Shylock, Megan Higgins as Portia, and Richard Nielsen as Antonio in the Flatwater Shakespeare Company production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Tom Crew. Photo Credit: John Nollendorfs.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Updated Inclement Weather Policy


It is our desire to complete every performance, and we will make every effort to start, continue, and finish each show despite light rainfall or breezy conditions.

In the event of heavy rains or winds, however, we may delay the start of the show, or the completion of the show, in the hope that the weather will clear. Announcements will be made informing audience members of "holds." We may also pause to take precautions to ensure the safety and health of the performers and crew, as well as members of the audience.

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka Stables provides ample room for all to avoid the rain. Most of the performance and seating areas, however, are open-air.

If severe storms are likely or imminent, shows may be cancelled beforehand. To find out if a show is cancelled prior to showtime, please check our Facebook page. You can also call for information during the afternoon of a performance date at 402-601-8529 -- a prerecorded message will announce any decision for that evening.

Tickets for cancelled shows can be exchanged for another performance, depending on availability.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

*The Merchant of Venice* Opens September 2!

Flatwater Shakespeare returns to the Swan Theatre at Wyuka Stables to present The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s provocative exploration of love, hate, prejudice, and revenge, directed by Tom Crew. The show opens on Friday, September 2 and runs through Friday, September 16.

Antonio, the merchant of the title, borrows money from Shylock to help his friend Bassanio in courting Portia, an heiress. The terms of the loan include the forfeit of “a pound of flesh,” which Shylock can collect if the funds are not repaid at the agreed time. Shylock has already suffered persecution for being Jewish, and later his daughter, Jessica, elopes with Lorenzo, one of Bassanio's friends, taking much of her father's wealth with her. When Antonio cannot pay, Shylock seeks revenge through the bond. Having already won Portia's heart, Bassanio passes the test devised by her late father to determine the worthiest husband. After learning of the danger facing Antonio, Portia tries to save Bassanio's friend.

Flatwater Shakespeare veteran Richard Nielsen (Polonius in last year's Hamlet) plays Antonio, with Christian Muñoz joining the company as Bassanio. Portia is played by Megan Higgins (last seen as Rosalind in As You Like It), with Rachel Stoops Brown making her Flatwater Shakespeare debut as Nerissa, Portia's lady-in-waiting. Patrick Lambrecht (Claudius in Hamlet) is Shylock, with Kresse Alvey as Jessica and Matt Cummins (Sylvius in As You Like It) as Lorenzo.

The ensemble also features past Flatwater Shakespeare performers Beth Govaerts, Dillon Kirby, Walter McDowell, Larry Mota, Christian Novotny, and Rich Sibley. Other newcomers include Marie-Ruth Henke, Jeffrey Luksik, and Jason Query.

Tom Crew, who staged Edward Albee's Seascape at the Swan Theatre last summer for the Crooked Codpiece Company (and was a memorable Gravedigger in Flatwater Shakespeare's Hamlet), is the show's director. His production team includes costume designer Kat Cover, technical director Richard Imig, stage manager Stephanie Kahler, assistant stage manager Summer Smeester, and dramaturg Stephen Buhler. Bob Hall is Artistic Director for the Flatwater Shakespeare Company.

Performance dates for The Merchant of Venice are September 2-5, 8-11, and 14-16. Show time is 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 general, $16 seniors, and $12 students. Group rates are also available. The Swan Theatre at Wyuka Stables is located at 3600 “O” Street in Lincoln.

Discussions of the play will follow select performances. Concessions will be available each evening. For information and for ticket sales or reservations, visit flatwatershakespearecompany.org or call 402-601-8529.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Harry Golden on Shylock and Shakespeare

Harry Golden, born Herschel Goldhirsch in the Ukraine, became an extraordinary journalist and publisher in the United States during the mid-20th century. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, he was a fearless reporter and commentator on civil rights issues and eventually founded The Carolina Israelite, a weekly journal offering Jewish perspectives and reminiscences. In one of his columns, later reprinted in a best-selling collection, Only in America, Golden argues that The Merchant of Venice succeeds in being both anti-Semitic and anti-anti-Semitic. Here are some excerpts --

From Harry Golden, “Shylock and William Shakespeare”

Now let us get started on William Shakespeare and The Merchant of Venice. Mr. Shakespeare was first and foremost Mr. Theatre. He was a craftsman interested in filling his theater; earning dividends for his colleagues and partner-producers and providing a livelihood for his fellow actors. He also wrote a “Jew play” [as Christopher Marlowe had done with The Jew of Malta] . . . Shakespeare gave his audience a play in which they could confirm their prejudices – but he did much more. Shakespeare was the first writer in seven hundred years who gave the Jew a “motive.” Why did he need to give the Jew a motive? Certainly his audience did not expect it. For centuries they had been brought up on the stereotype, “this is evil because it’s evil,” and here Shakespeare comes along and goes to so much “unnecessary” trouble giving Shylock a motive. At last – a motive!

Fair sir, you spit on me Wednesday last;

You spurned me such a day; another time

You called me dog.

Fighting words. Many a Southerner of ante-bellum days did not bother about getting a “pound of flesh.” He finished his traducer on the spot. But Shakespeare gives us no rest. He is actually writing a satire on the Gentile middle class and the pseudo-Christians, and he wastes no time. What does Antonio, this paragon of Christian virtue, say to this charge of Shylock’s? Does he turn the other cheek? Does he follow the teaching of Jesus to “love thine enemies?” Not by a long shot. This “noble” man replies to Shylock’s charge:

I am as like to call thee so again,

To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.

But Shakespeare has hardly begun . . . why does this noble Antonio, the Christian merchant, want the three thousand ducats to begin with? Why did Shakespeare go out of his way to show that Antonio’s request for a loan was based on cheapness and chicanery? He did not have to do that. Certainly not for an anti-Semitic audience of 1598. He could have contrived a million more noble causes. Patriotism. Antonio needed the money for widows and orphans. Or to defend Venice against an Invader. How the audience would have eaten that up. But Shakespeare refuses to make it that simple. Let us discuss the play from the viewpoint of the audience, like when your children go to the movies. The “good guys” and the “bad guys.” Antonio and his friends are the “good guys”; Shylock, the Jew, is the “bad guy”. Now what do we have here? Antonio’s friend, Bassanio, one of the “good guys,” is in debt to Antonio. He wants to pay back and he has a scheme. Portia just inherited a wad of money. If he can get Portia and her dough all his troubles would be over. But Bassanio says the project needs some front money. You need money to woo a rich girl like Portia. So he says to Antonio, lend me just a little. He says that when he was a youth and when he lost one arrow, he shot another in the same direction and often retrieved both. So now, lend me some dough so I can make love to a rich lady who has just inherited a vast fortune, and with good luck I’ll not only pay you back what you advanced me but I’ll give you all back debts I owe you.

This is the deal the two “noble” guys in Shakespeare’s play made. Antonio says, “It’s a deal, only all my ready cash is tied up in my ships, and I’ll not be able to lay my hands on ready cash for ninety days or so.” And so they go to Shylock to borrow the money.

How could we help but sense that Shakespeare was writing an indictment of the hypocrites who vitiated every precept taught them by Christianity? Shylock is a widower. He has only one daughter, Jessica, who falls in love with Lorenzo, a Gentile. The “good” guys induce her not only to desert her widowed father but to rob him, and dressed in boy’s clothing (a third crime in Jewish law). Jessica steals away in the night to elope with Lorenzo.

I will make fast the doors, and gild myself

With some more ducats, and be with you straight.

Based on Western law Jessica has committed the crime of theft. She has also committed the moral crime of stealing out of her father’s house during the night and deserting him, and as the young thief comes away with her father’s money, what do the “good” guys say? Gratiano exclaims:

Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew!

Can you imagine how the audience howled with glee as Jessica was leaving Shylock’s house with his caskets of money? Shakespeare probably figured that during this howling the audience would miss the follow-up line. You have deserted your father, stolen out of his house during the night dressed in boy’s clothing, and robbed him of his money, and now you are a Gentile, and, by my hood, no Jew. The playwright set his 1598 audience to howling. The poet-philosopher wrote for all future generations.

. . . Shakespeare leads us up to the clincher. The audience and the players are now waiting for the big moment before the court where Shylock is bringing his suit against Antonio, the merchant, for his pound of flesh. Portia enters disguised as a lawyer and what does she say? What are her first words at this final showdown between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys? Portia asks a most natural question:

Which is the Merchant here, and which the Jew?

Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant are standing before the court. Portia has never seen either one of them before, but as an educated gentlewoman she has behind her the culture of many centuries of the stereotype Jew. If not actually with horns, you certainly can recognize the “devil” a mile away. And there he is ten feet away – she has a fifty fifty chance at making a guess between the “good” guy and the “bad” guy but she won’t risk it.

Which is the Merchant here, and which the Jew?

And when it all goes against Shylock, Shakespeare seems to go out of his way to give us a frightening picture of the “victors.” He has them standing together pouring out a stream of vengeance. We’re not through with you yet Jew, and the money we have left you after you have paid all these fines, you must leave that to Jessica and your son-in-law who robbed you. Shakespeare keeps them hissing their hate. Tarry yet a while, Jew, we’re still not through with you. You must also become a Christian. The final irony. The gift of love offered in an atmosphere which is blue with hatred. And as all of this is going on, Shakespeare leaves only Shylock with a shred of dignity!

I pray you, give me leave to go from hence.


Written for The Carolina Israelite, reprinted in Golden's Only In America, World Publishing, 1958.

Photo: Henry Irving as Shylock, one of the first sympathetic stage portrayals, c. 1879.