There is something special about the plays of William Shakespeare performed in an outdoor setting, and that special something comes to Bryan-College Station for four performances starting Friday evening.
Shakespeare’s comedy The Tempest will inaugurate Shakes on the Lake at Lake Walk Town Center, adjacent to the Stella Hotel, 4100 Lake Atlas Drive in Bryan. It is a beautiful setting for this production — and best of all, it is free.
Shakes on the Lake is the brainchild of Andrew Roblyer, a leading luminary of the area theater community.
“I reached out to Lake Walk Town Center in mid-April on a whim, asking them if they’d ever considered doing anything like this and if they’d consider doing something this summer,” Roblyer said. “[Lake Walk Town Center director of events] Kate Chapman immediately — and I mean that literally, it was like 15 minutes later — emailed me back saying that she’d been wanting to do something theatrical out there for a while and hadn’t been sure how to go about it.
“We met and very quickly put the plan together. I recommended the name for the event and, while we haven’t discussed anything explicitly, I think that if this is successful it could very easily become a yearly event.”
The comedy tells the story of Prospero, a sorcerer who lives on a remote island with his daughter Miranda, and two servants: Caliban and Ariel. Many scholars believe Prospero represents Shakespeare himself.
Roblyer has assembled an outstanding cast, many of them familiar to area theater-goers. Evleen Nasir plays Prospero, with Megan Maedo as Miranda. Jessica Lemmons, Chandler Cartwright, Madelyn Weirich alternating as Ariel and Priscilla Villarreal as Caliban.
Others in the cast are William Shirley, Kelly Maedo, Savannah Barrera, Rachael Altman, Mike Maedo, Nathan Calhoun, Grace Beikirch, Elliott Mershon, Stacey Maines, Camden Stackhouse, Elizabeth Taraba, Emma Lawson and Hannah Prince.
In addition to Roblyer, the production team includes Mandy Mershon, assistant director; Lizzy Randolph, stage manager; Jennifer Reiley, substitute stage manager; Rayner Dexter, costumer designer; Elliot Mershon, assistant costume designer; and Mandy Mershon and Roblyer, scenic design.
The production is underwritten by Lake Walk Town Center. The programs were designed and donated by Merge Promos.
Performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and again Aug. 2 and Aug. 3.
Roblyer said, “No reservations are required. Just show up and bring something to sit on.” Blankets and chairs are suggested, with patrons with chairs asked to sit behind those on blankets so everyone can see.
Food and soft drinks are available at the Campfire restaurant inside the Stella Hotel and may be brought outside to the play site. Alcoholic beverages also will be available for consumption inside the hotel only.
Asked about the challenges of producing an outdoor production, Roblyer said, “Heat is a big issue, of course, as is sound and projection. Thankfully, because of the lake, there’s usually a nice breeze once the sun goes down around 8:15, and it’s pretty comfortable.”
Roblyer said he chose The Tempest because “I felt it was a great celebration of our beautiful hosts and underwriters, the Lake Walk Town Center. What better play to do with water as a backdrop than a play set on an island?
“It’s also one of Shakespeare’s silliest and shortest comedies, and I thought it would be a good introduction for the community.”
Regular summer Shakespeare productions have not been seen in Bryan-College Station since ’magination Station — which morphed into The Theatre Company — presented several Shakespeare plays in the early 1990s. Longtime residents remember seeing Thomas Sadoski as Hamlet; he has gone on to star on Broadway and TV, including Life in Pieces, a comedy hit on CBS. Shakes on the Lake will be the first Shakespeare production performed in an outdoor venue in Bryan-College Station.
Since the production is outdoors, Roblyer said, “We recommend that people bring whatever they need to feel comfortable: hats, sunscreen — if they’re getting there early to get seats — bug spray, water bottles, etc.”
He said, “The majority of our rehearsals have taken place at the Pavilion at the Lake Walk. We are incredibly grateful to them for their hospitality and support through this process. They are huge supporters of our community and we hope that everyone enjoys visiting them.”