By Hannah Marks
“We’re going to audition for a drunk Shakespeare show. Do you want to come?”
That was my first introduction to Sweet Tea Shakespeare. After moving in to our new apartment in Raleigh, my roommates said that they were making the drive out to Fayetteville to audition for a company that was doing a “lit” version of Romeo and Juliet.
“Sounds like fun,” I said, and went right back to drinking my well-deserved margarita. A few days later, when they told me that they were cast as the titular characters, I don’t think any of us knew just how much this “drunk Shakespeare thing” would change us–as performers, and as people.
Romeo and JuliLit was the first thing I’d ever seen from STS. I was blown away by the way the modern music and jokes fit in with Shakespeare’s text. Everyone knew what they were saying and why they were saying. They sounded like….real people, not actors standing on stage holding a skull lamenting about poor Yorick. Now, I’m a musical theatre girl. I grew up singing and being in chorus classes, but I never started doing theatre seriously until my junior year of high school. My junior year of college, I was in a production of Twelfth Night. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I thought I was the worst person in the show. In fact, I almost didn’t audition for it because I always thought that Shakespeare was for the most elite actors, and I just didn’t fit into that part. But at STS, they showed me that Shakespeare can be fun and real. I was obsessed.
The moment that I clearly remember needing to be a part of a Sweet Tea show was in July of 2017. My roommate Tyler was the male lead in Cymbeline, and so our other roommate Mary Lynn and I drove up to see one Shakespeare’s lesser-known shows (at least to us). Mary Lynn and Tyler have been in several STS shows, and they’re fan favorites–not that I’m biased or anything. So we arrived at the Poe House and I was immediately breathless. This backyard was transformed into a wonderland. Fairy lights illuminated all different kinds and colors of fabrics, preshow was just starting, and the sweet tea was flowing. People were sitting on blankets or in lawn chairs, and the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society was there with animals you could adopt . Tyler ended up adopting a little chihuahua named Queso, who made his stage debut that night. It was the perfect scene. Even after we had to move inside due to a thunderstorm, I was still in awe. Cymbeline was one of the most beautiful shows I had ever seen, and it still remains my favorite STS show. I had been hounded to audition by several people, but the timing never worked out. When the opportunity to be in Pericles came, I grabbed it. This has been unlike any other experience I’ve had. We joke around in rehearsals, we make up things when we don’t know what to do, and we are over the top, as most theatre people are. But when you strip away the sets, and the music, and the costumes, only two things remain: you have to find the honesty in the moments. You have to find the love. Throughout Pericles, and my entire interaction with STS, I’ve been welcomed into this circle of artists and fallen in love again, with these people, with Shakespeare, with theatre. And that’s been the greatest gift I could ask for.
Fall in love with Pericles and The Tempest! Tickets available at https://sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets.
Photo Credit: Thistle & Sun Photography