Thanks to The Vortex Theatre, Garcia Honda and the City of Albuquerque, Shakespeare on the Plaza is back presenting two plays—As You Like It (directed by Brendan McCall) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (directed by Dennis Elkins). As the totally free productions, which will be presented from June 8 to July 1, gear up for the first show, Artistic Director Peter Kierst unpacked the enduring importance of the penultimate playwright.
Alibi: Why is Shakespeare still relevant and important today?
Kierst: Shakespeare observed and chronicled the human experience in a way that people of all cultures, times and backgrounds can relate to. And he did so in a way that is theatrical, funny and moving, by turns. He hasn’t been in continual production for 400 years for nothing. He does better than anyone what the theater is designed to do: He shows us to each other and helps us see that we are all one and the same, human.
Why is bringing free performances of his works important for our community?
He always was the people’s playwright—writing popular plays for people of all sorts. Today, making our performances free ensures that everyone in the community can enjoy his work. It is a fantastic opportunity to experience this community, all of it, to be out on the plaza on a summer’s night, with hundreds of other people from all over town, sharing these great plays. We may begin the night as strangers but in the end we are reminded that we are neighbors and friends.
Tell me about some of the changes made with these productions.
We chose the '60s for both these plays. Changing the time period is not a whim. It often helps people to relate to the plays, see them fresh, to put them in a time period with which we’re familiar. And the '60s were dynamic times of change, exploration, new ideas—like the times these plays originally were set—so it seemed a good fit. And we wanted something visually colorful and exciting to stand out in the huge plaza space.
What are you most excited about this year for Shakespeare on the Plaza?
I think this is going to be the best SOP ever: Two wonderful professional directors, two great casts with some of the city’s best actors, two funny, entertaining plays, beautiful sets, costumes and props. And great rock 'n roll. There will be food and beer, and the Bard—what could be better? In the words of the masters, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”
What is your all-time favorite Shakespeare line and why?
Hamlet is, in my view, the greatest of all the plays, and not coincidentally my favorite line is there: “If it be now, tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.”
More information about Shakespeare on the Plaza can be found at shakespeareontheplaza.org.