“Diseases desperate grown,
By desperate appliance are relieved,
Or not at all.”
— William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
To be socially distanced or not socially distanced … that is the question?
Actually, it was never the question for “Shakespeare in the Park” producer Dalia Vidor. Yes, the annual production goes on at Hanns Park in Vallejo as scheduled July 25-26 — with COVID-19 protocols in place.
Social distancing circles will be painted on the grass “and our actors will wear face shields to protect themselves, each other and the audience,” Vidor said, adding that each actor will perform at least six feet from the each other.
On the grass, each audience circle should accommodate up to four people “and a picnic,” Vidor said, suggesting audience members wear faces makes “to and from their circles.”
The Greater Vallejo Recreation District continues to sponsor “Shakespeare in the Park” and required social distancing “and, of course, actors to be safe as well,” Vidor said.
That’s the plan this week. Next week? Who knows.
“We are taking it week-by-week because conditions may change,” said Vidor, eagerly awaiting the production of “The Tempest.”
Shakespeare wrote the piece in 1610-1611 — the time, oddly enough, when the Bubonic Plague ravaged England. Plague then, coronavirus now.
Merely a coincidence, said Vidor, who chose “The Tempest” a year ago when “we didn’t know that it (COVID-19) was going to be happening.”
Something else different from previous years, Vidor said. The production is being presented in a “modified Ren(aissance)-Style.”
“This means our production will mimic how shows were put up during the Renaissance,” Vidor said. “During Shakespeare’s time, a new production was presented approximately every 10 days. Show had minimal rehearsal time of about 24 hours total and actors were allowed to call for lines from a prompter because of the very limited rehearsal and memorization times.”
Since there wasn’t a lot of access to printing in 1611, “the time and labor needed to create copies of a script were prohibitive,” Vidor continued. “Therefore, each actor only received their own lines and three words of their ‘cues’ from the line before theirs so they would know when it was their turn to speak. If it were a new play, none of the actors knew what the show was about and this would be discovered in the rehearsal and by the actors themselves during production.”
Shakespeare included many clever devices to help actors with tone, tempo, emotional state, stage directions and cues, said Vidor.
“That’s why characters are often stating the obvious, which tells the actor as well as the audience the person they are speaking to is their child, or ‘I hear a trumpet sound’ to tip off the trumpeter off stage to play,” Vidor said.
The actors, the producer continued, “are very excited to present the show this way. This style creates genuine honest moments of discovery, forces the actors to listen to each other intently and makes for a very exciting production.”
“The Tempest” is directed by Cate Muzaffar of Vallejo.
Though “Shakespeare in the Park” is free, there will be reservations available online via Brown Paper Tickets to keep the capacity minimal.
“But we most definitely will be accepting donations,” Vidor said.
In addition to the July 25-26 dates at Hanns Park in Vallejo, “The Tempest” is also presented Aug. 1, 4 p.m., at Rithet Park in Crockett, and Aug. 2 at Suzanna Street Park in Martinez on property owned by C&H Sugar.
If Contra Costa County officials decide the show won’t go on, Vidor said she’ll bring it back to Hanns Park in Vallejo Aug. 1-2 for two more presentations.
For more information, visit vallejoshakespeare.org or the Shakespeare in the Park’s Facebook page.