UnCommon Shakespeare

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Dinner and a show were on the menu at the Duquesne Club last Thursday night as PICT Classic Theatre hosted its second annual Court of UnCommon Pleas fundraiser. The show did not feature the normal cast of actors, but in their place were executives, lawyers and even former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.

“It has proved most successful, and it is really interesting for PICT to see people, unused to reading Shakespeare aloud, tackling the works so successfully,” said PICT’s Artistic and Executive, Director Alan Stanford. “Indeed it is gratifying to hear lawyers and politicians discovering Shakespeare in a whole new light.”

Indeed, it was interesting to watch lawyers perform; in addition to the story, the inside jokes and jargon of more common courtrooms added another layer of humor to the performance and naturally settled well with those in attendance.

“It is also a revelation to see just how funny lawyers and judges can be in PICT’s courtroom” said Stanford.

In this year’s Court of UnCommon Pleas, PICT tears through Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which PICT will be producing in October of this year. Caliban vs. Prospero was the basis of this court and a team of lawyers made arguments in determining who the island actually belonged to. Caliban was the only remaining resident of the island before Prospero was banished to said island by his brother Antonio, the Duke of Milan. Yet, Caliban, son of a deceased sorceress, is a wretched creature and is taken as a servant only after his attempted rape of Prospero’s daughter Miranda.

Each side was represented by a legal team that presented arguments as to the innocence of their clients while a panel of actual judges presided over the proceedings. In a tied final vote from the judges, the verdict was left to the audience to determine. It was finally revealed that Caliban was deemed innocent.

The theme of the special performance followed that of PICT’s 2015 season “A Place of Saints and Sinners”. Though we do not have the final tally, the event grossed over $55,000 and part of the proceeds were donated to the Allegheny County Bar Foundation. As the UnCommon Pleas audience and judges chose who was innocent and who was the guilty, this year’s audience will be asked similar questions throughout the coming season. I enjoyed PICT’s Downtown Series opener For the Tree to Drop and didn’t need a law degree to figure out who were the saints and who were the sinners. Stanford hints that all decisions will not be quite as easy saying, “All the plays we present this year will ask the audience to define for themselves who are the saints and who the sinners, and theater demonstrates that sometimes it is not easy to distinguish between the two.”

We at The Pittsburgh Stage are looking forward to the final installment of PICT’s Downtown Series, Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris opening April 29th at the Trust Arts Education Center. Find more information and purchase tickets here.

Special thanks to PICT Classic Theatre for graciously providing complimentary press tickets and to the Duquesne Club for a wonderful meal and accommodations.