By Emma Weidmann | Arts and Life Editor
Baylor Theatre is gearing up for one its last productions of the semester in “Comedy of Errors.” Shakespeare’s iconic tale of twins separated at birth gets a new twist; a new circus setting and opportunities for the audience to talk to actors during the play.
“The story behind ‘The Comedy of Errors’ is ancient,” Director Steven Pounders said in an email. “The premise is that identical twins are separated at birth, one twin is named for the other, and many years later, they both show up in the same town setting off a series of hilarious errors based on mistaken identity. Shakespeare borrowed his story from the Roman playwright Plautus, who wrote in the second century B.C. The Plautus story has one set of twins, but Shakespeare doubles the fun by adding a second set of twins.”
Port Neches senior Mitchell Hall, who plays Aegeon, said the play is one of the earliest sit-coms including mistaken identity.
Pounders said the set designers have incorporated circus elements in the scenery, lighting, sound, and properties. On the stage is a “22-foot spinning turntable, climbable silks that hang beside the proscenium and a central pole for choreography.”
Aside from all these whimsical elements, much of the time spent in rehearsals has focused on the dance, silk, and floor gymnastics involved in the production. Pounders said that time is of the element when it comes to preparing a show with as many moving parts as this.
“Time is often the greatest challenge of large scale productions — just finding the time for all of the elements that we want to incorporate,” Pounders said. “But this cast and crew have invested lots of energy in the complexities of the Shakespearean text, the singing, the dancing and learning new tricks.”
The time crunch isn’t the only important thing about the show. Hall said the timing of everything when the production comes together must be on point, from choreography to acting and everything in between.
“It’s very timing driven, and there’s a lot of intricate stuff that has to happen, so it’s been exciting to see everything come together in this one huge, awesome spectacle,” Hall said. “It really is just such a visually stunning show and past that, the acting is just awesome.”
One of the most rewarding things about directing a play is the reliance on each other as a cast and crew and being able to share the experience with others, Pounders said.
“Though directors try to bring as many creative ideas to the table as possible, we always depend on all the creative contributions of the individual artists we work with: actors, designers, stage managers, and crew — along with the expertise of our dance, music, and movement instructors,” Pounders said. “Theatre is truly a community creative effort, and watching that community grow and work together is, for me, one of the most rewarding aspects.”
That community element is not lost in “Comedy of Errors.” According to Pounders, Shakespeare’s original play included some moments in which the actors and the audience would converse with each other. What makes Baylor’s production unique is that they’ve added even more opportunities for this interactivity, making it an experience unlike anything else.
“Talking to the audience as performers creates an ongoing sense that the audience is part of the action, laughing alongside us as we share our creative spin on this story,” Pounders said.
Hall said even though his character can’t be on stage during the circus choreography, it’s been a blast to see the rest of the cast do it so well.
“It’s been really nice, actually, to sit there and celebrate other people’s successes and getting to watch all these really truly awesome things,” Hall said. “There’s one of our cast members, Maddie Cendrick, and Joseph Tully, just flying up the silks and doing some awesome tricks on that, and just getting to celebrate and clap for them has been, honestly, a privilege.”
Opening night is 7:30 p.m. on April 25 in the Jones Theater. Tickets for “Comedy of Errors” are on sale now through the box office website, or students may call the box office for a discounted Creative Arts Experience ticket.