This Saturday marks the beginning of the 12th annual Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks show; this year, they’ll be presenting one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, The Comedy of Errors. PSIP’s history includes the more well-known Shakespeare works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and some his lesser known works, such as The Merry Wives of Windsor or Love’s Labor’s Lost. Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks was created by Artistic Director Jennifer Tober in 2005 with their inaugural production of As You Like It. The company has continued to perform and expand its audience for over 10 years.
The Comedy of Errors is the story of two sets of long lost twins with the same names who happen to unknowingly find themselves in the same place at the same time. Hijinks and hilarity ensue, the siblings are all reunited, and they all live happily ever after! No witches or kings but *spoiler alert* no one dies! PSIP’s Artistic Director Jennifer Tober says that after working with COE’s director Chuck Beikert on UnSeam’d Shakespeare Co.’s show Out of This Furnace last year that the two started talking about doing Comedy of Errors, “Last year we did King Lear, and I think we were all ready for a comedy!COE is Shakespeare’s shortest play, and most likely his first,” said Tober. “It’s a really fun and accessible piece, with a ton of funny jokes and physical gags that the cast — a bunch of hams, really — is having a blast playing.”
Director Chuck Beikert is a PSIP veteran, Comedy of Errors marking his fourth production with the company, this being his first production he’s directed for PSIP. Though Beirkert has never directed COE until now, he has been a longtime fan of the play, “I first encountered it in 1987 when PBS aired a production featuring the juggling troupe The Flying Karamazov Brothers,” said Beirkert. “I have never forgotten watching that afternoon in my grandparents’ kitchen on a 13” Black and White television.”
This production will be plenty of fun with Beikert stating his comedic influences as The Three Stooges, Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin and many other classic slapstick acts. Performing with only nine actors can be challenging but it allows for aptly punctuated scenes and room for shenanigans! “This play is really a series of gags based on the premise of mistaken identity, and begs to be played at a frenetic pace,” says Beikert. “These lines the characters speak are great and the story is neatly crafted…the key to that language is the action – a series of gags tied together by the text.”
PSIP is known for their physical storytelling and emphasis on the text and this year will prove to continue that legacy. The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh has been kind enough to donate their rehearsal space for the duration of Comedy of Errors’ rehearsal process so they’ve been able to avoid the stress of this August rain, “I think it allowed us to craft some complex comedy bits without the distractions we normally face outdoors. We’ve taken it to the parks on weekends though and gotten some grass under our feet so I think everyone is ready to embrace the great outdoors” said Beikert.
Though they’ve been rehearsing inside, PSIP is free and accessible to the public in Pittsburgh’s many parks including Frick Park in Squirrel Hill and Arsnel Park in Lawrenceville.
PSIP’s Comedy of Errors promises big laughs in beautiful locations by Pittsburgh’s Shakespeare veterans. For more information about Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks and their show locations, head to their website here.
And as they say, “Bring a blanket, a loved one, and a thermos” and enjoy some Shakespeare.