If there’s anything that can make Shakespeare more digestible, it’s beer. Put the two together and you get William Shakesbeer, a venture by the Wit Theatre Company that features a troupe of local actors doing their best to remember their lines while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon on stage. The group's first production, Much Abrew About Nothing, had a successful run at Ratio Beerworks in August. The crowd loved the shows so much that the actors were inspired to produce a second show.
On Tuesday, the Shakesbeer actors will perform a reprise of Twelfth Flight, a remake of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, at Thump Coffee. In the play, a shipwrecked woman dresses up like a boy and falls into a love triangle with a local duke; it's your standard Shakespeare fare. Kristin Honiotes plays Viola, the cross-dressing main character; she's also the managing director of the Wit Theatre Company.
Sean Patrick Cassidy plays the role of the belligerent yet charismatic drunk Sir Toby Belch, and spends most of the play tormenting Malvolio, the melancholic loner. Cassidy enjoys acting with a buzz. “The audience is forgiving," he says, adding that he'll sometimes get off-script and improvise a bit to keep things light and topical. But he never gets too drunk, he says: “I like to keep a little bit of my wits.”
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For Shakespeare to become Shakesbeer, a crew member first cuts down the original script into something that can be performed at an untraditional venue like a coffee shop or bar, in just an hour. Then things get serious: Two weeks of sober rehearsal are followed by one week of drunken rehearsal.
“You really have to understand what you’re saying before you get hammered drunk and make other people understand,” Honiotes says of the necessity of sober rehearsal. Equally important, though, are the drunk rehearsals. “We felt like it was important to get rehearsals in being drunk because you don’t know what’s going to happen," she adds. "We usually get a case of PBR and sit around the theater and run through the show.”
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By the time the actors hit the stage they’re prepared, confident and a little tipsy. “The thing is just trusting that it’s going to be be awesome,” Honiotes says. “It’s pretty low-pressure. We’re going out and having fun. If you flub up a line, oh well.”
Twelfth Flight will have only this single encore before the group takes a hiatus until spring. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 12, at Thump,1201 East 13th Avenue; draft and bottled beer will be available. Find out more on Twelfth Flight's Facebook page.