Shakespeare Continues with ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

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June 27th, 2017

(Brittany Proia, Russel Daniels, and Sarah Carlson-Brown. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Shakespeare)

Omaha, NE—As King Lear’s storm dissipates, Nebraska Shakespeare is preparing for its next Shakespeare on the Green performance starting this Thursday, June 29, The Merry Wives of Windsor. Each year, the company performs one tragedy, and one comedy, one in a traditional setting, and one non-traditional.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is probably one of Shakespeare’s less often performed plays, but it’s unique in that it portrays middle class people instead of royalty or nobles. Falstaff, without money, arrives in the town of Windsor, courting two women at the same time with the hopes of improving his situation. The obvious flaws in his plan lead to his comedy of errors.

Merry Wives is Nebraska Shakespeare’s non-traditional performance, setting the play in the Louisiana bayou. Hardy explained his interpretation.

“What I’ve done with this one,” Hardy said, “is I looked at the unique things about the play including the fact that it seemed to be a town that was someday aspiring to be a city aspiring to a sophistication that it didn’t have yet and therefore it was left to the town itself to come up with its kind of cultural standards and ethical standards and it invented its own relationships between men and women and so on and so forth it created its own music seem to have its own kind of religious point of view and I thought about where in the world does that take place and considered a few options in kind of world history and the one I settled on was the Louisiana bayou country.”

Though nuanced, Hardy suggested that his setting is not entirely against the grain.

“A phrase that’s used is nontraditional, but if you really examine what Shakespeare did, it’s actually a traditional way of going about it in that what he did was he used everything in history that he could possibly get his hands on to inform the play and make it resonate with an audience that was contemporary to him which is exactly what we’re doing with this,” Hardy said. “I’m attempting to make everything we do in this production resonate with the audience that’s going to be on the green.”

The most notable feature of the location might be its local accent and dialect, but this hasn’t escaped Hardy’s consideration.

Believe it or not, they say that the Mid Southern dialect from about Memphis all the way down to New Orleans is closer to the dialect that would have been used in Shakespeare’s time closer to that than the current standard British dialect that we all think Shakespearean people spoke. In other words, we might be using a dialect that is more akin to fully realize in the language of Shakespeare than would be a modern British dialect.

And how he’s incorporated it?

We were doing our best to employ a touch of a New Orleans dialect which is known as the ‘Yat’ dialect. That comes from a sentence that is often employed in the Yat dialect and that is someone say, “where y’at,” which doesn’t mean what location are you at. It means ‘how are you,’ where you at in life so to speak.”

Hardy is a travelling actor and director, raised in Newark, New Jersey, schooled in Tennessee, and continuing to find work across the country, but over the last few years he has appreciated opportunities to work with Nebraska Shakespeare.

“I’ve been around the country, overseas, been everywhere, done everything, seen everything,” Hardy said. “This is maybe the most unique thing I get to do which is one of the reasons one of the many reasons I come back here and I’m attracted to it. It is free Shakespeare in a park and up to four thousand people come to one performance. I’ve never seen that anywhere. I’ve never heard of that being done, and of those four thousand people it’s not just Shakespeare artsy type–it’s families, it’s people of every color, it’s young people, old people, for godsake dogs. When do you get to come and bring your dog to see a Shakespeare production?”

The Merry Wives of Windsor will show at 8:00pm from Thursday, June 29 to July 2 and also July 7 and July 9 at the park just south of UNO’s campus. For more information, visit NebraskaShakespeare.com

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