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A Carnival Comedy of Errors to Highlight Southern Shakespeare Festival

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Tallahassee’s cavalcade of springtime celebrations continues this coming weekend. The Southern Shakespeare Festival returns with a new twist on the Bard’s works.

Festival Artistic Director Lanny Thomas said last year’s inaugural event was such a blow-out success, there was no way it wouldn’t be back for a second year encore.

“Year one went so well and the feeling was so good that it was like, ‘It has to be; it HAS to be!’ So I really had good predictions about it coming back this year again,” he said.

Certainly a big factor in the ongoing success of the festival, Thomas said is the re-imagining of Shakespeare’s works; time-shifting them from the late Sixteenth-Century to the mid-Twentieth Century. That’s the treatment in store for the Bard’s “Comedy of Errors”.

“What we’re going to do this year is to put it in the 1950s midway carnival," Thomas said. "There’s going to be a bearded lady and a sword swallower and magicians. So all of the characters have this duality because they’re actually performing Shakespeare, which is set in Ephesus, Greece, and I think it will make it more accessible.”

Similar to what happened last year when “Midsummer Night’s Dream” was staged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District at the height of the Summer of Love. Not only does this attract audiences; it’s also attracting sponsors. Gabe Grass, founder and owner of the Grasslands Brewing Company on Gaines Street, noted that there were a number of taverns surrounding London’s old Globe Theatre where Shakespeare directed his plays himself.

“I think if you look back anywhere in history you can kind of pair beer with anything,” he smiled.

And Grass’s pub is a major private sector backer of this year’s festival.

“I think if anybody is familiar with what Grasslands is about here in town is that we’re heavily community-focused. We’re trying to be as supportive as possible for any kind of charity that gets our attention or even anyone that aligns with our mission and vision.”

The type of partnership that Southern Shakespeare Artistic Director Lanny Thomas said is crucial to ensuring the future and growth of the festival.

“It’s part of that whole community involvement thing and Gabe, being a local entrepreneur, is another example of that, of how we’re attracting people in this market who are saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah…this is what we need…it’s CULTURE!’”

Thomas said this year’s schedule at Tallahassee’s Cascades Park is a little different from the year previous.

“Five-thirty is when the park opens on Friday and Saturday nights and the show goes up at 8:00 p.m., so there will be things going on. And on Sunday, it will open at 2:30 and the show goes up at 5:00. The Bardlings, our junior company, are going to be performing an abbreviated version of ‘The Tempest’ and that will happen in that 2:30-5:00 range. It’s just wonderful to see these kids do what they’re doing.”

In addition, Thomas said there will be an added attraction, who was held over from the previous weekend’s Word of South festival.

“One of our most important things that’s going to happen during that time is that the Sonnet Man is coming back for both of those and he’s just an amazing man who sets Shakespeare sonnets to hip-hop.”

Check out all the details of the festival on the web site: www.southernshakespearefestival.org.