All the world’s a stage for Water Works Theatre Company, which is halfway through its 15th annual outdoor summer theatre festival Shakespeare Royal Oak.
Performing two shows that transcend time — All’s Well That Ends Well and As You Like It — in the natural setting of Starr Jaycee Park has been a Royal Oak staple, but Water Works is a non-profit that rents the space from the city in order to perform, a testament to how dedicated the cast and crew are to bringing the words of Shakespeare to modern ears.
The main stage production of All’s Well is directed by Terry W. Carpenter, a veteran at Water Works. As You Like It, the afternoon show, is directed by Travis Reiff. Meanwhile, both shows have strong and rising young women playing the lead roles — Meredith Deighton for All’s Well, and Anna Marck in As You Like It.
“As You Like It is the family-friendly show, so we’re doing our best to play to that and just invite the humor and invite the audience into the silliness and the unabashed haphazardness with our use of props and our use of movement on stage,” Marck says.
The stage is built next to the picnic pavilion at Starr Jaycee and all of the lights and sound are run from a scaffolding in the back of the house. Patrons bring lawn chairs and blankets and are arranged in a way that resembles how a theater’s seats ascend toward the back of the audience. As the sun sets and the golden light fades from the stage, the theater lights take over and it’s only at intermission that you look around and realize time has passed. The way the show gradually goes on and the audience forgets that they are outside creates an aura of connection between the audience and the people onstage.
“One thing that I really like about it that is different from film work is that when you’re up there, you get an immediate response. When you do a joke, the audience is with you," says All’s Well actor Stephen Blackwell. "You know when they’re with you. They’re laughing right along."
Along with the two adult shows, Water Works Academy — the high school program that allows students to act on the Water Works stage — performed an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet on Aug. 1 and 2. The one-week program was directed by Water Works Education Director Frannie Shepherd-Bates and was manned by a crew of young volunteers. The show was put together through an intensive five-day rehearsal process that had a great finished product.
“At 15, Shakespeare Royal Oak is looking back and forward at the same time," says Water Works founder and executive producer Ed Nahhat.
" Gathering local veterans with the rising young talent in our area, in a professional show, is what Water Works has always been about."
There is still time to see All’s Well and As You Like It at Starr Jaycee. Tickets are available at the “door” or online at shakespeareroyaloak.com. Come out and support a classic organization and maybe get your high school self to despise Shakespeare a little less.