by Christian Wills
The show must go on! For Delaware Shakespeare, this statement rang true in the hearts and souls of its participants during their virtual fundraiser – Play On!
~ Play On!
On the evening of October 2nd, Delaware Shakespeare streamed a virtual theatrical game show, where competitors performed Shakespearean segments against each other from the comfort of their homes. Audience members were able to vote on who they believed were the best through donating to Delaware Shakespeare. The competitor with the most donations was crowned champion of the night.
Hosting the event was Delaware Shakespeare’s Producing Artistic Director, David Stradley. Providing commentary throughout parts of the show, Stradley was able to show audience members at home why these “Delebrity performances” stand out among other performances outside of Delaware’s local sphere. He also shared how this event would help to support other aspects of Del Shakes and their continued effort to bring performing arts to the Delaware scene – online and offline.
As the show progressed, the competitors were soon introduced to the virtual stage by Stradley – all starring in their “Del Shakes acting debuts”. The competitors were (1) Tina and Rick Betz, (2) Sarah McBride, (3) Guillermina Gonzalez and Charles Sobrero, and (4) Michele Mitchell and Chuck Lewis. As David asked the performers how they felt leading up to the show, many expressed how equally nervous and excited they were to be performing over the live feed. The competitors also spoke on which program they were advocating for within Delaware Shakespeare. These were (1) the Community Tour, (2) youth programming, (3) the engagement programming and (4) the Summer Festival respectively.
Continuing further, the audience was then introduced to the coaches while the competitors went backstage to their “virtual dressing rooms”. Each competitor had their own coach that was able to provide insight on the process of readying their performers for the show. The coaches for each team respectively were (1) Newton Buchanan, (2) Danielle Leneé, (3) Liz Filios, and (4) J Hernandez. Leading up to the event, the coaches took the opportunity to humorously promote their actors while riffing on each other. Even in competition, these coaches had fun giving helpful feedback and “smack talk” to one another in playful comradery. As Leneé pointed out, “we all love each other”, but at the end of it all, she was still “repping team Sarah” throughout the entire competition. Buchanan, an Associate Artist at Delaware Shakespeare, jokingly commented on how “natural” competing can be when others are facing a greater opposition that they’ve never experienced before (and how he was that opposition the other coaches would need to stand against). The admirable banter between the coaches would help set the mood for the audience members at home.
After the coaches left, the show started off with the first performers – Tina and Rick Betz, coached by Newton Bucahanon. They played in the roles of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth respectively; two characters in Act 1 Scene 7 of Macbeth, a tragic story. As a couple, The Betzes would play their roles naturally, using hand gestures, facial expressions and body language to authentically portray the characters as themselves. Buchanan himself was “blown away from their conviction” and dedication to their performance.
Next to perform was Sarah McBride, the only solo performer, coached by Danielle Leneé. She acted as Rosalind in As You Like It Act 3, Scene 5; filling in the shoes of her coach who once played the same role. Exploring the theme of gender within her dialogue, McBride played the role of Rosalind vigorously and energetically throughout each line. Leneé had commented on how her “comedic timing was good” with the rest of her performance.
The third act, Guillermina Gonzalez and Charles Sobrero, were up next and were supported by their coach Liz Filios. The duo performed Act 2, Scene 4 of Twelfth Night; remixed in English and Spanish. The team played as Viola and Orsino, balancing two lovers with two languages, while caught within a love triangle of raw emotions. Filios had admired her two performers, stating that the two were simply “increíble”.
The last performance for the night was performed by Michele Mitchell and Chuck Lewis, accompanied by coach J Hernandez. The team had worked on The Taming of the Shrew Act 2, Scene 1, while playing as Kate and Petruchio. The two love birds exchanged in a heated, yet passionate discourse that swelled up as it continued more. Hernandez had described the performance as “a lot of fun” and how it had “grown leaps and bounds” since they had practiced.
~ Results and Resolution
After all the performances were finished, the votes were rallied together and the winner was announced. All the judges and talents came back to the virtual stage to await the results of who won. Everyone at home waited patiently for the answer to be revealed as the suspense swept in. The winner was then announced by Stradley to be – Tina and Rick Betz!
With the Champion revealed, a thunderous virtual applause could be heard and seen from both the performers and coaches. The YouTube chat box congratulated The Betzes for being crowned Champion of the night. The Betzes also thanked their competitors and everyone at home for watching and supporting. As Stradley ended the night, he left everyone with the message that “Del Shakes will continue to Play On!”
Within the online show, audience members and participants could still feel the presence of great sportsmanship and shared admiration for the arts. Even though we’re all at home, Play On! shows that great displays of talent can be found and nurtured anywhere. Delaware Shakespeare proves that anyone, no matter how old or young a person is, can take part in the performing arts just as any seasoned veteran.