Enduring Cultural Institutions

In the ancient days when I was in college, there were a couple of occasions when my friends and I would make the 2 hour drive to downtown Atlanta to attend performances at the Shakespeare Tavern. I have distinctly fond memories of seeing my first performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor there twenty years ago or so. It was also one of the first places where theater really clicked for me.

The venue is a stage extending out into an open floor with tables and chairs set up across it. They open 75 minutes before the curtain so that people can get seated and get dinner. (I had an excellent gyudon.) Then the first act, intermission and dessert, then the second act.

The food certainly contributes to an enjoyable atmosphere, but the thing I most remember enjoying from back in the day was the way the company took advantage of the space to playfully engage with the audience, It’s one of those things that you can so obviously only do during a live performance that it makes me, at least, pay attention to the craft.

I was seated at one of the tables adjacent to the stage, which came with a warning
The table also had its own marks to hit, which amused me

This past weekend, I was there to see Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a play I don’t even believe I’d heard of before. But I enjoyed it. It definitely had the rhythm and tone I’m familiar with from other works of Shakespeare. A sort of irreverent whimsy pervaded the whole thing, and the cast fully embraced that feeling.

I think I also know why the play may not be particularly well known. An extensive sequence in which a 14 year old princess is kidnapped, sold to a brothel, and repeatedly and unsubtly threatened with rape is probably a hard sell in a mostly lighthearted story. Especially when you have a lot of other Shakespeare to perform.

Still, I very much enjoyed the performance. I appreciated the humor of the staging quite a bit. Interestingly, though, I was especially impressed with some of the more dramatic acting. I may not spend a lot of time in the theater, but it can’t be easy to generate some of the tragic empathy a couple of the actors did with me using only a few lines and gestures. I do love seeing people who are truly good at their craft.

I likely would have made this recommendation based on my college experiences alone, but after reacquainting myself with the venue, I’d definitely recommend that anyone visiting downtown Atlanta try to make time for a performance at the Shakespeare Tavern.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *