My buddy, Joe, was borderline angry when I told him I hadn’t been to a show at Shakespeare Festival in the six years I’ve lived here. Utter disbelief veiled his face at the inability to fathom the existence of someone who somehow let this experience slip past them for so long. The Shakespeare Festival is a glorious, shining gem in a city that’s otherwise still proving its worth to the rest of the country (and even to some of its own residents, I might add). While the rest of this little big town is still categorically “up and coming,” Shakespeare Fest is standing firmly as a sign that this city is incredible, and offers its residents opportunities we can’t pass up any more.
I took myself on a date to the opening night of Into the Breeches this past Friday. Any good theatre date requires dinner, or at the very least drinks, beforehand, so I found myself enjoying both at the bar at La Jolla before I scooted over to the show.
Dressed to the nines and ready for the lovely evening ahead of me, I left my house in Cloverdale with ample time to drive down Carter Hill / Vaughn Road at the same time everyone and their mothers also decided to take that route. I staked my spot at the bar two hours before showtime and leisurely absorbed an atmosphere of delicious food and drinks that are normally way outside of my budget. But who cared! It wasn’t a night for “this isn’t my thing.” In fact, the whole point was to do things I don’t normally do. Like spend a million dollars on dinner then sit second row, center seat at opening night of a Shakespeare Festival performance.
Satisfactorily fed and cocktailed, I waltzed up to the theatre twenty minutes before showtime and collected my ticket at will call. With enough time to meander, meander I did. There’s no reason to squat in your seat forever just before you have to buckle in for a two hour ride, so I wandered the halls and took in the whole venue. I love the theatre. I was a card-carrying thespian in junior high and high school. I’ve performed in musicals and competed in drama festivals. I studied dance in college. I’m guilty of imagining myself on stage at every performance I’ve ever attended. You know what? It truly is a wonder I’ve never made it to Shakespeare Festival before.
With the clock ticking closer, I eventually decided to find my way to my and my date’s seat (which was, oddly enough, the same one) and was immediately intrigued. The stage, which was the Octagon Theatre, projected into the audience and was surrounded by seats on three sides. I love stages like that. They’re intimate and allow me to judge people, namely the cast, better. I’m quite the judgey person.
The show began and I was irritated with the audience. They were too willing to laugh. A responsive audience is the dream, of course, but c’mon! You gotta work for a chuckle from me.
But I must admit it wasn’t long before the Into the Breeches cast convinced those of us who aren’t so willing to succumb to hilarity that we needed to lighten up. The show was downright funny. It was well-executed. It was smart. I won’t tell you the thing that nearly made me pee my pants but just know you need to go for the scene in which they learn to walk like men. Trust me.
The audience erupted in a standing ovation at the end of the show and applauded for ages, begging for the performers to take another bow. They didn’t, probably because their egos don’t need to be stroked as much as mine does, and I left a better person for the whole experience.
According to its website, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival is among the ten largest on the entire planet. A quick look at the next showtime’s tickets showed seats for between twenty-six and fifty-six dollars, which is remarkably low for the quality of performance you’re getting. These are top notch shows that you’ll never be able to get for this price in another city. Shakespeare Festival should be enjoyed by everybody, not just those who can afford La Jolla. I’m going back but I’ll spare myself the expensive meal next time and find something more within my budget elsewhere (my dinner at La Jolla was positively lovely and enjoyable, but I’m a barista with a graduate degree to pay for).
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival can be found at ASF.net, where you’ll find showtimes, tickets, and this season’s schedule. You can also subscribe to their e-newsletter at this link to be updated on upcoming events.
Pick a date, bring a friend (or a cutie! Or go by yourself!) and enjoy some of the best culture Montgomery has to offer. Please go. Into the Breeches made this grump bucket clap and holler and I want everyone to enjoy themselves as much as I did for two hours. You may just forget your student loans for a moment.
Featured photo from the ASF Facebook page