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Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society lends a laugh with Merry Wives of Windsor online

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Shakespeare performed in a pandemic, so The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society plans to  perform  during the Covid 19 crisis— one way or the other.
 As Covid safety protocols have been lessened, The 12 actors had their first read through on Thursday of John Poulsen’s reader’s theatre version of the farce the Merry Wives of Windsor, for an online presentation of the production on July 3 at 7 p.m., to be filmed at the Gate.

Chelsea Fitzsimons returns to play Slender in Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Richard Amery
“Thursday was an unmitigated disaster, wasn’t it,” asked Poulsen asking for confirmation from a few of the actors trickling into the Gate for rehearsal.
“But Friday was a lot better. So it was a mitigated disaster because we learned a lot. Though everyone left feeling kind of bummed. All 12 actors stayed. They were willing to experiment,” he continued.

The first read through was also a test of whether they would be able to use Zoom to broadcast, but ran into a few technical issues, so they tried an alternate approach during Friday’s rehearsal and moved to a two camera strategy for Saturday’s rehearsal.

 The end result is there will be broadcasts on Youtube as well as the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society Facebook page on July 3, 11 and 17 most likely from the Gate Church with a limited audience of 50. There may be future broadcasts added this summer including possibly at Galt Gardens.

 They also have a couple of performances scheduled for the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, though the official date is to be announced.

“Shakespeare performed during a pandemic (the bubonic plague in 1603-1613, during which London playhouses were shut down 60 per cent of the time) and he went on the road with his troupe and wrote plays. I think he rewrote Romeo and Juliet during it,” Poulsen said.

“This could change the way we do things in the future,” Poulsen said.

Poulsen has written several reader’s theatre adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays including Merry Wives of Windsor.

“Part of my job at the university is research and I found 50 per cent of kids really hate Shakespeare and the other 50 per cent love Shakespeare. So I wrote a 25 minute reader’s theatre designed to fit in a high school class and a 45 minute version.

“For the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society, I expanded on that one for a 75 minute version, or hour and 15 minute version,” he said.

“It’s about Falstaff who seduces both Mistress Ford and Page and is punished,” Poulsen summarized.
“It’s a comedy so we’re making it as funny as possible,” he continued.

Chris Kyle Peterson and Jenna Lowe play Mistress Ford and Falstaff in the Merry Wives of  Windsor. Photo by Richard Amery
 Adding to Covid challenges and technical issues, Merry Wives of Windsor is a farce with lots of physical comedy and slapstick comedy.
“We can’t do a lot of physical comedy with Covid, so it has been a challenge for the actors to make it as funny as possible,” Poulsen said, adding he is pleased the show can go on in challenging times.

Artistic Director Kate Connolly thanks generous sponsors including a City of Lethbridge Heart of Our City grant, Young Insurance, the Allied Arts Council and Curtis Mueller from Jaded Body Arts for helping the show go on.

“We’re getting support. A week ago we didn’t have a place to rehearse but the Gate generously opened their doors when Covid protocols were loosened,” Connolly said.
“Lethbridge needs a laugh,” said actor Cole Fetting, who is excited to be part of his fifth Lethbridge Performance Society Production as Ford. So much so that he looked up who played which character in Shakespeare’s troupe.

“I used Wikipedia and  several other sources,” said Fetting who was curious about learning how Shakespeare was performed in Elizabethan times.

“It’s very funny. It’s a great farce,” Fetting said, adding his character Ford is married to Mrs. Ford.
“He’s a very jealous man and he’s fun to play. It’s been fantastic,” Fetting said.
 The first show is July 3 at 7 p.m. There is a room for a limited audience at the Gate. As Shakespeare in the Park are going with the flow, there won't be a live performance tonight, July 3. Instead the next performance open to the public will be next Friday, July 10. The first 50  will get seats. The first online show begin tonight through Youtube and the Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society Facebook page

—by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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