Friday, April 21, 2017

HART emerges into a new phase as Indianapolis Shakespeare Company

In its ten-year history, Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre has secured for itself a firm niche in the Indianapolis theatrical
Vision-bearer for Indy Shakes: Diane Timmerman

What a concept!  With three principal pillars of financial support, the organization has been able to offer one Shakespeare production every summer — fully professional, and free of charge to audiences at White River State Park.

Now, in search of a more forthright identity and eager to avoid further confusion in the public mind with the Heartland Film Festival, the company, headed by Diane Timmerman, has recast itself as the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company and given itself a nickname, Indy Shakes.

It has a new website and this year will continue the tradition that gained many fans under its previous name on July 27, 28, and 29 with "As You Like It," directed by company member Ryan Artzberger.

I will not wax rhapsodic about that supernal comedy here, as Artzberger did so far more authoritatively and directly Thursday evening at a Cyrus Place fund-raising event inaugurating the company's next stage.

To prepare himself to make his local directorial debut, Artzberger told the gathering, he sought advice from directors this season at Indiana Repertory Theatre, where he frequently performs. He said what they offered him boiled down to advice that, to best meet the difficulties of readying a production as director, he should "keep returning to what you love about the play."

He proceeded to enumerate what he loves about "As You Like It,"  and my notes are too sketchy to do justice to what he said.
Ryan Artzberger as actor at work in a HART production at White River State Park.
But I remember how he lifted up the fact that its central character is a woman and how the play compares life to theater, and, significantly, that it rejects building walls as opposed to "building a longer table." There were about a dozen points in all.

All of these insights were enough to add to my eager anticipation of this show. I also think, without much to back me up except my own imagination, that the play's central character, Rosalind, is one of two Shakespeare women it's impossible to imagine being played by a boy, as female parts always were in Shakespeare's time. The other is Cleopatra.

There's something so essentially female — and thus, to this man, strange, attractive and extraordinarily rich and exotic — about Rosalind and Cleopatra as to make any production of "As You Like It" or "Antony and Cleopatra" worth going to great lengths to see. And here's a potential great one of one of them in the offing.

Before Artzberger spoke, Timmerman mentioned Indy Shakes' long-range plan to find another home besides White River State Park, which has many advantages but continues to run into the increasingly packed schedule of music shows at the Lawn nearby, plus the unavoidable effect of the audience having to look into the sun for the first act. Another park might serve as the company's future home, or a place in the redevelopment of the idle GM Stamping Plant nearby, she said.

Oh, and there have also been interruptions from fireworks at a not-so-idle site nearby, Victory Field. Timmerman credited Artzberger with being the most resourceful actor at taking note of the Indianapolis Indians feature during performances while remaining in character.

All kidding aside, Timmerman said that the "organizational infrastructure needs to be brought up to the artistic level." Well, given what we've seen in the latter category over the years, that's a lofty goal indeed, and should keep her and her board busy.

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