Flatwater Shakespeare's Blog News

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Our Cast for *The Merry Wives of Windsor*, Summer 2017!

Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Becky Boesen
June-July 2017

Mistress Alice Ford  Meganne Horrocks Storm
Mistress Margaret (Meg) Page  Allison Baird
Master Francis Ford  Tyler Hale
Master George Page  Matthew Bejjani
Sir John Falstaff  Brad Boesen
Mistress Quickly  Juanita Pat Rice*
Mistress Anne Page Meg Arenz
Master Fenton  Scott Shomaker
Robert Shallow  Richard Sibley  
Abraham Slender  Amanda Fogerty
Sir Hugh Evans  Sasha Dobson
Doctor Caius  Mikey Barth
Host of the Garter Inn  Breanna Carodine
Bardolph/Pistol/Nym  Reed Westerhoff
Robin  Tyler Rambali
Peter Simple  Ian McKercher
John Rugby  Katie Hoppe
Boy(s) Josephine Dobson, Sara Broad

*denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Summer Tour Dates and Locations!

Save the dates for FSC's The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Becky Boesen!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

2017 Mayor's Arts Awards Winners Announced!

Winners of the 2017 City of Lincoln / Lincoln Arts Council Mayor's Arts Awards have been announced. Artists associated with Flatwater Shakespeare appear in several categories. Bob Hall, Founding Artistic Director of the company, will receive the Legacy of the Arts Award. Richard Nielsen, who most recently appeared as Antonio in FSC's The Merchant of Venice, will receive the Artistic Achievement Award -- Performing Arts. Puddin' and the Grumble / The Grumble Project, which addresses the issue of child hunger and which our new Executive Artistic Director Becky Boesen wrote with David von Kampen (their musical was commissioned by the Lied Center), will receive the Mayor's Choice Award. 

It's also good to see awards going to the Angels Theatre Company, co-founded by Judy Hart (who appeared in our Richard III), and to Robert Hillestad, who contributed to the scenic design of Othello

Congratulations to all the recipients!  We'll post further details soon about the awards ceremony, June 7 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, and about some of the winners. Here's the full list:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena

Outstanding Arts Organization: Angels Theatre Company
Recognizes an arts group that has made significant contributions to Lincoln’s arts community over a period of years.

Artistic Achievement Award - Visual Arts: Amy Smith
Recognizes excellence and accomplishment in any of the visual arts, including theatre & film.

Artistic Achievement Award - Youth: Jonah Kelly
Recognizes excellence and accomplishment in any arts discipline by a young person age 18 or younger.

Artistic Achievement Award - Performing Arts: Richard Nielsen
Recognizes excellence and accomplishment in any of the performing arts, including film.

Artistic Achievement Award - Literary Arts: Rex Walton
Recognizes excellence and accomplishment in literary form.

Gladys Lux Education Award: Robert Hillestad
Recognizes special initiatives or dedication to arts education.

The Legacy of the Arts Award: Robert Hall
Recognizes a senior (age 55 and up) actively involved in creating, teaching, sharing or inspiring artistic expression in any discipline.

Heart of the Arts Award: Dean Settle
Recognizes an individual or organization for outstanding volunteer dedication to the arts or for making a major overall impact on the arts in Lincoln.

The ArtScene Backstage Award: Brad Buffum
Recognizes extraordinary service to the arts through behind-the-scenes efforts.

Outstanding Event Award: Hildegard Center for the Arts for Standing Bear – A Ponca Indian Cantata by Jerod Tate
Recognizes a performance, exhibition or project in the previous year (2016) that will be notable in the community memory for years to come because of its content or cultural significance.

Benefactor of the Arts Award: Phil Perry
Honors an individual, family, organization or business making significant financial contributions to the arts.

Lincoln Community Foundation Arts for Kids Award: Kevin Clark, Clark Architects Collaborative 3
Honors an individual or organization from outside of the arts professions whose leadership has enhanced arts activities and experiences for children.

Mayor’s Choice Award: “Puddin’ and the Grumble” / The Grumble Project

Enersen Urban Design Award: P Street District Improvements

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017-18 Season Announcement

Flatwater Shakespeare Company's Season of “Mischief, Mayhem, and Mystery” an Official Program of the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Celebration

Flatwater Shakespeare Company (FSC) proudly announces a season of “Mischief, Mayhem, and Mystery” for 2017-18. The season offers classic and modern and new plays, along with educational outreach initiatives for communities in Lincoln, Nebraska. Because of its exciting ties to local history and lore, FSC's new season has been selected as an Official Program of the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Celebration.

This summer, we invite audiences to get “merry on the prairie” with
The Merry Wives of Windsor, which has been selected as Flatwater Shakespeare’s summer touring show. For six years, the FSC tour has staged free, high-quality Shakespeare productions at local parks and other outdoor locations throughout the City of Lincoln and surrounding areas. This year, in honor of the Nebraska 150 celebration, Executive Artistic Director Becky Boesen will set the Bard’s beloved comedy on the Great Plains in 1867, the year Nebraska achieved statehood. Audiences can expect rollicking fun and belly laughs (often at the expense of Plump Jack Falstaff), along with live music, in a show geared towards audiences of all ages. “The women in this play, the Merry Wives themselves, are the primary movers of the comedy,” says Boesen. “There is something about their independent drive that parallels the spirit of the intrepid American settler – especially the female variety.” Flatwater Shakespeare is delighted to partner with Pioneers Park Nature Center to provide a special performance event at the one-room schoolhouse at Pioneers Park on June 24. The tour of The Merry Wives of Windsor kicks off at the Swan Theatre at Wyuka Stables with a first weekend of paid performances (all tickets $10), June 8-11. The show then tours throughout and beyond Lincoln, with two weekends of free performances, June 14-19 and 21-25. All performances start at 7 p.m., with the exception of the June 24 performance at Pioneers Park Nature Center, which will begin at 2 p.m. Sites will be listed here and at www.flatwatershakespearecompany.org.

This fall, FSC digs deep into mystery at the Swan Theatre at Wyuka Stables with a two week run of The Weir by Conor McPherson. From its first performance in 1997, the play has captivated audiences: “In a remote country pub in Ireland, newcomer Valerie arrives and becomes spellbound by an evening of ghostly stories told by the locals who drink there. With a whiff of sexual tension in the air and the wind whistling outside, what starts out as blarney soon turns dark as the tales drift into the realm of the supernatural. No one expects Valerie to have a tale of her own, or imagines how it may change everything.” The Weir continues FSC’s tradition of exploring contemporary, language-driven drama, along with classic theater. The play examines the importance and power of sharing one’s personal stories. As Ken Jaworowski of The New York Times says, “The Weir invites us to re-examine the theater, and to ask ourselves what we seek from stories and those who tell them.” The Weir runs September 28 to October 1, and October 4-8, with all performances beginning at 7 p.m.

FSC will be collecting local ghost stories and legends in the weeks leading up to The Weir, as well as before and after performances, plus stories from up to 150 years ago in honor of the Nebraska Sesquicentennial. Those stories will then be developed into an original multi-media performance piece, The Lincoln Shadow History Project, developed by Timothy Scholl with local playwright Brian Bornstein and filmmaker/storyteller Colleen Kenney Fleischer. Scholl will also direct the piece, which will premiere in the spring of 2018. “Thinking back on our 150-year anniversary, we wanted to explore the way ‘shadow histories’ have shaped our experience as Nebraskans,” says Scholl. “There is a great deal of mystery in the unexplained. We want to use that as a catalyst for performance.” Further details about this project, including performance dates and times, will be released in the fall of 2017.

FSC is especially pleased to offer expanded opportunities to children in Lincoln with a new initiative designed to bring free theatre classes to local neighborhoods. Little But Fierce will be offered in three neighborhoods this summer. The pilot program of Little But Fierce is made possible in part through the generous support of the Lincoln Community Foundation and will explore Shakespeare’s poetry, while also encouraging students to develop their expressive voices by writing their own sonnets. Conducted by Boesen, with the participation of FSC Education Director Stephen Buhler, classes will culminate in a performance which combines Shakespeare’s words with the students’ writing, presented free of cost to the community. “We are passionate about introducing young people to Shakespeare’s words, but equally passionate about introducing our community to the important words that our young people have to say. This program is a starting point for that,” says Boesen.

This season is made possible by grants, private donations, ticket sales, and the generous support of Ameritas, a Flatwater Shakespeare Company 2017-2018 Silver Season Sponsor.

For more information about Flatwater Shakespeare Company, please visit

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bob Hall Appreciation Party!

[We] can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks, and ever thanks . . . Sebastian, Twelfth Night

Bob Hall recently ended a 16-year term as Artistic Director of Flatwater Shakespeare Company -- starting, in fact, with a production of Twelfth Night in the Swan Theatre at Wyuka. 

Please join FSC's Board of Directors in showing our appreciation for Bob and his work with the company and for the community. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017. 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Rock Island Social Club, 2110 Winthrop Road in Lincoln.

Light hors d'oeuvres will be provided.

Come celebrate the "infinite variety" of Bob!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Resisting Inhumanity

The headline for this "The Two-Way" report last spring from National Public Radio's Bob Mondello  sums it up well: "Only Script in Shakespeare's Hand Urges Compassion for Migrants." 


Recent events have made the manuscript even more timely.

William Shakespeare, possibly when he was already in semi-retirement, was apparently called in as a script doctor for a play. Started in the 1590s, primarily written by Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, the script was never staged during the Tudor and Stuart reigns, because it was about Thomas More: the statesman, Catholic apologist, and creative philosopher (as in his Utopia) who refused to give his approval to the divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon and the marriage of the king to Anne Boleyn – the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Sensitive subject matter to be sure, calling for care in development and wisdom in choosing to stage or not. As the NPR article notes, one set of speeches is recognized as Shakespeare's handiwork – in fact, the few manuscript pages containing those speeches constitute the one partial script we have by Shakespeare that seems to have been written in his own hand.

The play Sir Thomas More includes a scene depicting the May Day riots of 1517, when a number of London citizens were incited to protest violently the presence of foreigners doing business, especially on Lombard Street. The historical More attempted to quell the unrest, in his capacity as under-sheriff of London, but any success was limited and short-lived. In the play, however, More decisively calms the crowd – and his skill in dealing with the situation attracts the attention of political patrons who would assist More's eventual advancement to the office of Lord Chancellor. Shakespeare's longtime theatrical company, the King's Men, understandably sought out the playwright who time and again had scripted convincing scenes showing the power of rhetoric to shape response. This situation presents a dire theatrical and psychological challenge, since suspicion and hatred toward the foreigner – the stranger, in Early Modern terminology – are among the strongest of our worst instincts as a species. What might persuade rioters to resist those instincts?

Addressing the crowd, Shakespeare's More invites the citizens to imagine that London has been purged of the immigrants, as they claim to wish:

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an ag
éd man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another . . .

What a wonderfully Shakespearean move – to transform the word shark from a noun to a verb. More's listeners begin to be persuaded, even as he suggests that their defiance of the king's leniency toward the refugees constitutes not only treason but sin against the Divine Will that put the king in command over them. But perhaps the king would grant them exile, rather than the death sentence that traitors deserve by law:

                                            Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you . . . what would you think
To be thus used? this is the stranger's case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.

And another richly Shakespearean word, mountainish: meaning barbarous, uncivil, and uncivilized, but also suggesting huge, massive, and monstrous.

As noted in the NPR report, Sir Ian McKellen – who performed as Sir Thomas in this play for its first ever production back in the 1960s – has recently seen its applicability to the condition of refugees everywhere. People fleeing war, terror, oppression, and deprivation have often been met with resentment, suspicion, indifference at best and violence at worst. McKellen has turned to this speech and in a series of public appearances takes the time to deploy the eloquence of Shakespeare's More in the service of compassionate reaction and action. His hope is that Shakespeare's language can work its effects beyond the realm of the stage, beyond the imagined or reimagined worlds of the play – as he utters again these words in order to promote more humane responses to the plight of other human beings. This hope is all the more important when unjust leaders seek to stoke and even profit from hatred, rather than quell it.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Glenda Jackson's Lear

Many readers might not know of Glenda Jackson's extraordinary work as a stage and screen actor before spending 23 years as a Member of the British Parliament. Along with her prior work in the great films mentioned below (and Sunday Bloody Sunday should be included), she needs to be recognized for her skill in comedy. This is perhaps best seen in House Calls, a charming bit of Southern Californian fluff from 1978 that successfully invokes Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's romantic comedies, with Walter Matthau in the Tracy role. (Of course, Hepburn and Tracy themselves follow in the footsteps of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.)

So how does a great actor, with this kind of range, return to the stage after two decades and more? As King Lear. Here are excerpts from an insightful and appreciative review. (By the way, the photo also shows Rhys Ifans – best known in this country as Mycroft Holmes on Elementary – as the Fool.)

Glenda Jackson’s Great Lear – Fintan O'Toole
New York Review of Books; December 22, 2016
King Lear by William Shakespeare, directed by Deborah Warner
The Old Vic, London, October 25 – December 3, 2016

Jackson is a thrilling surfer of Shakespeare’s blank verse, able to stay on her feet while cresting its high waves and plunging down its slopes.

[ . . . ]

The obvious questions about Jackson’s choice of this particular role for her return to the stage are: Why a male character at all and why Lear in particular? There are sufficiently good answers in her previous career to make the choice logical and purposeful. In the first place, Jackson is at her best when she is acting at one remove. Because of her two Oscars (for Women in Love in 1969 and A Touch of Class in 1973) and her period as a Hollywood star, it is easy to forget that Jackson is a creature of the early 1960s theatrical avant-garde. She was a member of Charles Marowitz and Peter Brook’s famous Theatre of Cruelty experimental company in 1964, which itself belonged to a wider revolt against dominant notions of realism in the theater. While American actors were steeped in the Method, with its emphasis on the need for the performer to become fully immersed in the character, Brook in particular was interested in ideas of alienation, which is really just another word for distance: “Alienation [Brook writes] is the art of placing an action at a distance so that it can be judged objectively and so that it can be seen in relation to the world.”

Glenda Jackson is the great actor of distance, the one who brought alienation to the masses. The reason she often seems so exotic in Hollywood movies is that while her fellow actors are burying themselves deep in their characters, she is at a slight, almost imperceptible angle to hers. There is a gap in which Jackson’s own presence – sardonic, knowing, mysterious, and impossibly sexy – hovers like a kind of force field around the character.

That distance is more obvious when there is some clear barrier between the actor and the role, as there is when a woman plays the king. Two particular examples seem to have a special meaning for Jackson’s Lear. One is her breakthrough performance in 1964 in the production that crowned the Theatre of Cruelty season, Brook’s staging of Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade. Jackson played the assassin Charlotte Corday in a mesmerizing performance happily preserved in Brook’s subsequent film of the show. The distance is built into the role – Jackson plays a patient at the Charenton asylum who is in turn playing Corday in a production directed by another inmate, the Marquis de Sade. She is a narcoleptic, falling in and out of consciousness, moving like a sleepwalker, at once barely present and utterly unstoppable. One of the joys of Jackson’s Lear is that it circles back to this first great performance, returning to another character who moves in and out of rational consciousness, who is reduced to nothing, and who yet commands our utmost attention. It reconnects two ends of a life in the theater.

The other role that chimes with Jackson’s Lear is her Elizabeth I in the six-part BBC television costume drama Elizabeth R in 1971. Jackson is suitably commanding throughout, but she is at her most astonishing toward the very end of the series, when she is playing, at the age of thirty-five, an ancient, decrepit, half-demented monarch whose kingdom is slipping from her grasp. As if her own young age did not create enough of a distance, her Elizabeth is at this stage a grotesque, highly theatrical figure, her face a mask of white makeup, daubed with rouge and crookedly painted eyebrows, her high forehead and sharp nose making her sexless to the point of androgyny. There is a scene in which she stands silently for what we understand to be a very long time with her finger in her mouth, oblivious to the business around her, as much a somnambulist in her way as Charlotte Corday or, in his madness, Lear.

Jackson’s Lear can be seen in some respects as a revisiting – even a fusion – of these performances. It would be misleading to describe Deborah Warner’s vibrant and fluent production as an homage to the Theatre of Cruelty, but it revels openly in the tradition of Peter Brook. Brook’s longtime collaborator Jean Kalman is codesigner with Warner, and the open white stage, white light, movable white panels, and self-evident effects (the scenes numbered for us in projections onto the stage, actors carrying chairs on and off, visual effects that display their own mechanics, the trappings of a rough rehearsal with which we begin, a playing up of Grand Guignol grotesqueries, as when Gloucester’s plucked-out eye is thrown into the audience) are all in the same alienating terrain as the Marat/Sade, as if Jackson were being consciously welcomed back to where she began.

The parallels with the declining Elizabeth, meanwhile, are obvious enough to be taken for granted. In a sense, Lear carries less distance for Jackson simply because both of them are “fourscore and upward.” Jackson is now acting her age, a rare enough feat with such a prodigious part. But a woman playing a man (without ever stooping to male impersonation) is itself enough to hold us slightly at bay and force us to be aware all the time of the performance as a performance.

Yet there is also a more specific logic behind the choice of Lear. If you think of words that attach themselves to Jackson’s acting, the one that comes first to mind is authority. And King Lear is all about authority. It moves from the ultimate display of royal power, Lear’s capricious parceling out of his kingdom as if were a personal possession, to the most scathing burlesque of authority in all literature, the mad Lear’s evocation of a beggar running from a farmer’s dog: “there thou mightst behold the great image of authority. A dog’s obeyed in office.” Hence the paradox of playing Lear: the greater the sense of authority the actor can convey, the more absurd it becomes when it empties out before our eyes and the more poignant seems its hollow wreckage. Jackson, elevated, commanding, distant, is as lofty a creature as we could imagine on stage, a mistress of the universe – and therefore wonderfully absurd and heartbreakingly poignant.

Jackson establishes her authority almost immediately in her opening scene with two gestures, one physical and one verbal. For much of her opening dialogue, she sits with her back to the audience. Alienation doesn’t come much more direct than that – we are rudely dismissed as people of no account. She is so wrapped up in the egotistical game of dividing up her kingdom and listening to the fulsome tributes of Regan and Goneril that she does not deign to speak in our direction. And in her first speech, Jackson takes a phrase of Lear’s that seems a matter of mere resignation – “while we/Unburdened crawl toward death” – and twists and elongates it into a jovial, sarcastic playfulness. Its meaning is reversed: this old man has no intention of crawling to, or before, anyone, even death itself. Already we are off on a roller-coaster ride. Over the following minutes, Jackson’s Lear is monstrously savage in banishing Cordelia, then blithely cheery in issuing decrees about the honors he will retain, then terrifying in his rage at the protesting Kent, then calmly indifferent again.

What is unfolding here is Jackson’s deeply intelligent reading of the dynamics of the play. The obvious way to think of Lear’s journey is along a line from control (at the beginning) to folly (giving up the kingship) to madness (on the heath). But Jackson gives us the sense of a Lear who is, in truth, already mad. She does not so much transform herself over the course of the play as transform herself moment to moment within it. She is magnificently unstable, switching and spinning in emotional pirouettes. And what she seems unhinged by is not the giving up of power but the experience of power itself.

In this play, power makes everybody crazy (Regan and Goneril, for example, suddenly go sex-mad), and Lear has had it for a long lifetime. The Lear she gives us from the start is someone whose mental, emotional, and ethical compass has been driven haywire by fawning and obedience. In this, the thought inevitably occurs that Jackson’s twenty-three years in politics, some of it on the fringes of the court of Tony Blair, have not been, from an artistic point of view, a total waste.

It is one thing to read the play like this but quite another to embody that reading without making the whole thing incoherent and hollow. For if Lear changes from moment to moment, it can only be because there is nothing there to begin with, no fixed core of character to be revealed. This, precisely, is where the courage of Jackson’s performance lies. She is willing to risk a Lear who does not have a character but who must, rather, discover one. Instead of Cortázar’s “absolute presence” of the divine Glenda, she begins almost with an absolute absence. Her performance is a kind of double exposure: she exposes Lear’s emptiness and then exposes him to the suffering that will fill it. She gives us, against the grain of Lear’s claim that “nothing will come of nothing,” a nobody who becomes a somebody, albeit through the weight of his pain.

Jackson can do this because, uniquely, she is the mistress of each of the two traditions that were so much at odds when she began her career: the avant-garde and the classical. The avant-garde is against the imposition of too much coherence and in favor of a notion of theater as a sequence of separate moments, often in tension with each other. It was Brook, in his introduction to Marat/Sade, who described a play as “a series of impressions; little dabs, one after another, fragments of information or feeling . . . often several at a time, often crowding, jostling, overlapping one another.”

In this, Jackson’s Lear, emotionally fragmentary and crowded with constantly shifting moods, is perfectly Brookian. It is held together by oppositions that she keeps in the air simultaneously. One is between authority and insignificance, her extraordinary ability to retain the habit of commanding the space she occupies even as her place within it is shrinking to nothing. The other, closely related, is the opposition between her voice and her body. What we see and what we hear are very different, and it is this difference that opens up the gap through which, for all her rebarbative distance, sympathy enters in.

[ . . . ]

But just as this voice creates the strangeness of the avant-garde, it is also supremely classical. Jackson is a thrilling surfer of Shakespeare’s blank verse, able to stay on her feet while cresting its high waves and plunging down its slopes. And in the Old Vic, which was the theater of John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, and Laurence Olivier, one cannot avoid the thought that she is also their truest successor as a master of Shakespeare’s music.

There is an irony here: Jackson’s early place was with those like Brook who broke the old star system of Shakespeare productions dominated by a great man. Now she has managed simultaneously to reconnect us to the energies that broke that system and to give it one last glorious revival. Perhaps it is only a great woman who could dare to restore the lost theater of the great men.