The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company began in 2002 with a small group of artists committed to changing how people think about Shakespeare, by producing shows that allowed audiences to connect to classic works in whole new ways – ways that are fresh, innovative and sustainable. CSC is devoted to exploring the question “What makes Shakespeare so great?”
Now celebrating its 17th season as a Maryland theatre company and its 5th season in Baltimore, CSC has become a leader in the Maryland cultural community. In CSC’s short history, it has gained a reputation for innovative, energetic and popular productions that bring audiences closer to the artists and the art-making process. The company is known for engaging and entertaining audiences in unique and intimate performance environments, and for making opportunities for conversations among audiences, artists and the wider community. In addition to performing the works of Shakespeare, CSC’s talented artists bring a fresh perspective to other great classics.
CSC’s new indoor cultural center, located near the Inner Harbor in Downtown Baltimore, opened in September 2014. The cultural center includes The Studio at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, which opened in 2017 next door at 206 E. Redwood Street, in the historic Merchants Club building. The Studio is the new home of CSC’s acting courses and workshops for adults and youth.
CSC will continue performing outdoors every summer at its longtime home in the picturesque PFI Historic Park in Ellicott City, Md. Each summer, thousands join CSC under the stars for festival-style productions of Shakespeare’s works in an enchanting, family-friendly setting where picnics and wine are welcome.
CSC is a Folger Shakespeare Library affiliate theatre and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA), the international organization for professional Shakespeare theaters
This summer their outdoor season at PFI Historic Park begins with the production of “Macbeth.” This dark drama from The Bard takes us from witches’ cauldrons to Scottish castles, to battlefields and forests. To help the audience feel like they are part of the action, the actors and audience move to different locales in the park during the production. If you come, be prepared to wear comfortable shoes and leave your chairs and blankets at home.
You can check out CSC’s season for 2019-2020 online.
Tickets for “Macbeth” are also online.
I had a chance to interview Ian Gallanar, CSC Founder and Artistic Director who is also the Director for “Macbeth.”
In addition to founding the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in 2002, Ian has worked as a professional actor, director, and writer for more than 150 professional productions. He has directed 38 productions for CSC including productions of “Henry IV, Parts I and II,” “She Stoops to Conquer,” “The Taming of the Shrew” (2017 and 2013), “Alice in Wonderland,” “Othello,” “Wild Oats,” “Titus Andronicus,” “A Christmas Carol” (original adaptation, 2014 and 2017), “Romeo and Juliet” (2015, 2003), “Uncle Vanya” (2015), “Twelfth Night” (2002), “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2005, 2010, 2014), “King Lear “(2006), ” Macbeth” (2007); “Lysistrata” (original adaptation, 2010), “Our Town” (2011), “Richard III” (2012), and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (2014).
Previously, Ian has served as Artistic Director for the National Theatre for Children, Minnesota Shakespeare in the Park, and the Repertory Theater of America. Ian is a proud member of the distinguished National Theatre Conference and the Dramatists Guild of America; a Helen Hayes Tribute Award, Telly Award, and Howie Award (Howard County Arts Council) winner. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he is a Member of the College of Fine Arts Advancement Council. He is President of the international Shakespeare Theatre Association, an organization for Shakespeare theatre companies across the globe.
- How does directing a moveable play differ from a more traditional locale? Benefits and Pitfalls? Do you have specific blocking or is it a little more improvisational in the actors’ movements, specifically, does the intimacy of the audience change the blocking?
Yes, it’s very different. Since the actors and the action of the play have to adapt to each night’s audience, you give the actors a set of “marks” that they have to meet, but give them the freedom to move in reaction to where an individual audience member may choose to stand. It challenges a director’s whole notion of stage pictures, angles, relationships between characters on stage because the stage is everywhere. I like it. It’s as if you’ve been painting your whole career and suddenly, you’re sculpting. I love the challenge.
- Why is “Macbeth” a play that is enhanced by being moveable?
Macbeth is a play where there are many secrets being told and secrets being kept. This format can make the audience feel like a fly on the wall, and therefore they’re in on all of the secrets.
- What Shakespearean play did you most enjoy directing and why (other than the current production)?
Tough question to answer, as the project I’m working on at present is usually my favorite. The Shakespeare plays I like to direct are slightly different from which ones are my favorites. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favorite plays to direct. It’s got all of my favorite things: slapstick comedy, magic, and redemption. I enjoy directing the comedies because I feel I’m able to read some of the comedy “code” that Shakespeare has left for us that some people may find difficult to decipher.
- Why do you think Shakespeare remains relevant in today’s world, unlike some of the plays written after his death until the advent of what we call “modern drama” (Ibsen, O’Neill, Chekov being the start of modern drama)?
Shakespeare knew what it is to be uniquely human. His emotional palette was enormous, insightful, and never bettered.
- What themes in “Macbeth” did you think most important to bring out to the audience and how did you decide to do that? For example, you used costumes, lighting or special effects, or something else?
I find the notion that ambition can destroy a person particularly poignant. People pay a price every time they run over someone else in order to achieve something for themselves. In Macbeth’s case, he’s actually murdering people to achieve something for himself. I think Shakespeare placed this play of ambition in a particularly primitive, brutal setting so that it didn’t seem like palace intrigue, that it was animalistic. It is a horror play after all that plays off of an audience’s fear and dread. That’s why we’ve created — with costumes, properties, and of course using a primitive setting — something fearful, primitive in the way it looks and feels.