Acting traditions from the 1500s to the edge of the 21st century are charted in a new world premiere, one-man show performed, conceived and written by Tony Church, a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company who now calls the Denver Center Theatre Company his artistic home.
Give 'Em a Bit of Mystery: Shakespeare and the Old Tradition, opening May 4 DCTC's Ricketson Theatre (following previews April 26), charts how the old acting traditions from the time of Richard Burbage (1567-1619) continue today in performances by the likes of John Gielgud. Peter O'Toole, Judi Dench and other contemporaries are in the mix, as well. Performances continue to June 10.
"Stories passed down from actor to actor indicate that there is a tradition of the use of props, movement, stage business and gesture that has propelled an evolution of acting style," according to production notes. "The tradition extends from the actors that first performed Shakespeare to those that play the roles today."
Bruce K. Sevy directs the production, with scenic and costume designer Andrew V. Yelusich transforming the jewelbox Ricketson into an 1830s proscenium theatre with a worn wood plank floor cluttered with props and costumes. The illusion of candlepower footlights is created by lighting designer Charles R. MacLeod. Sound designer is David R. White.
The show's title is a directive from an eminent Shakespearean actor. Insiders say the piece is at turns comic and touching, a Valentine to Shakespearean acting. The 70-year-old Church is expected to perform the piece in an elegant black tuxedo, augmenting his look with costume pieces.
When the piece was in development, Church toured the work-in progress to colleges and universities. Church has "trod the boards" since 1953. He played Hickey in London's The Iceman Cometh. In 1960, he became a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he has remained an associate artist.This is Church's ninth season with DCTC. He is a dean emeritus of the National Theatre Conservatory at the DCTC where he was dean 1989-1996. In 1998 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Denver University.
Tickets are $28-$36. Give `Em A Bit of Mystery... performs at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 14th Street at Curtis Street in Denver. For information, call (330) 893-4100 or (800) 641-1222,or try the web site at www.denvercenter.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones