The Summer’s Tale

In its first five seasons, The Rustic Mechanicals performed 13 of Shakespeare’s 30-some plays. In this sixth season, the troupe dives deeper into the canon. “We’re asking our audiences, after five years now, to take a chance on us,” says Vintage Theatre Company artistic director Jason Young. He’s looking forward to it. “Really, it’s more freeing to do the lesser-known works.” Here’s the 2019 line-up.

Measure for Measure
As The Rustic Mechanicals were choosing their 2019 plays, Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination and the #MeToo movement dominated the news. In response, Young put this play in the line-up.

Measure for Measure is about a man in power who forces himself upon a female—a man who uses his power to try and manipulate a woman,” Young says. “The character Angelo puts a man in prison and sentences him to death because he impregnated a woman out of wedlock, which is illegal. That man’s sister, a nun in training, goes to Angelo and says, ‘Why are you going to kill my brother? Everyone is doing this!’ Angelo says, ‘If you will sleep with me, I will not kill your brother.’ Shakespeare wrote this play 400 years ago, and nothing has changed in the way that men in power treat women. I think right now is a really good time for this play.”

The Mechanicals will tell the story and let audiences take it as they will. But they’ll hold discussions following their performances at Fairmont State University and West Virginia Wesleyan College, and possibly after others as well.

“I think it’s one of the most beautiful plays Shakespeare ever wrote,” Young says. “We have a strong director, with KB Saine Helming that production, and I think she’ll bring an interesting take to it.”

As You Like It
“Our summer show is always a lighter comedy—you sit outside, we’re going to make you laugh,” Young says. “We had the chance to bring in Jim Warren, and he’s excited to direct As You Like It.” That’s a big deal. Warren is co-founder and former artistic director of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. The ASC built and operates the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater and a thoroughly unique theatergoing experience. Warren left the ASC recently after 30 years and is sharing his deep expertise with Shakespeare troupes across the country. His West Virginia tie? He taught at Davis & Elkins College for a semester last year.

“We were also really lucky to secure Bridget Rue Esterhuizen as Rosalind, the largest female role Shakespeare ever wrote,” Young says. Esterhuizen teaches theater at Davis & Elkins and was formerly with the ASC.

As a rom-com, As You Like It is perfect summertime outdoor theatre. “Some of what’s cool about it is the way it explores what the play calls ‘court versus the country,’” Young says. “There are rich people, the court, and they end up in the Forest of Arden with these farmers and people like that. So there’s this interesting dichotomy in the play between city folk and country folk—I think that’s something that people can plug into in a fun way.”

Julius Caesar
“Fall will be one year before the next presidential election, so politics will be pretty hot by then,” says Young, who is directing the fall production. “I think that’s going to make Julius Caesar pretty relatable to a lot of people.”

The play is really the story of Brutus. “He’s this senator, statesman, who loves the empire so much that he would murder his friend because he thought his friend was going to negatively affect his country,” Young says. “That’s how Cassius convinces Brutus to do it. That’s amazing to me.”

Young took some chances with casting in this male-dominated show. “I had a lot of really talented female actors on my list. I thought about regendering, but if I turn Brutus or Caesar into a woman, everyone’s going to go, ‘HiIlary Clinton!’” Of course, Shakespeare cast men in his female roles, and Young once saw a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream where a woman played Oberon, a male, as a man. After a few minutes, he says, it was just Oberon. “So I cast a female Brutus, a female Cassius, and a female Cinna, and they’re going to play them in pants. I was comfortable doing this because of the strength of the actors. Caesar is so much about patriotism, and that’s pretty genderless, I think. It’s a little risky. But in my mind, it’s really exciting.”, @vintagetheatreco.