Endstation Theatre Company’s Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival is on the move.
This summer, two of the festival’s three shows will tour in Lynchburg along with regular runs at Sweet Briar College, Endstation’s home base.
The first, Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” will begin a 10 performance engagement downtown at Renaissance Theatre, funded in part by a James River Arts & Culture District project grant, on Friday.
When coming up with a concept for the show, Endstation Artistic Director Geoff Kershner says they were inspired by the vaudeville circuit that once passed through downtown Lynchburg.
“The Academy and a couple of these other theaters that were there back at the turn of the century used to be a pretty big stop for a lot of vaudeville acts,” says Kershner, who is directing the production. “We decided to take ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and make it a vaudeville act. We have six actors playing all the roles. We have musical numbers. We have a tap dancing sequence. The whole convention is established right from the beginning, as a vaudeville routine.”
Taking it one step further, the Endstation actors are portraying real-life performers.
“They’re playing an actor who is performing this show,” Kershner says. “We like the theatricality of it. It’s really fun. Half of [it] is watching the actors do it. Watching them pull it off.”
After the Renaissance run, the cast will bring the show back to Sweet Briar for a series of outdoor performances.
Meanwhile, the fairy tale romance “Cymbeline,” one of Shakespeare’s last plays, will begin at Sweet Briar on June 14. It runs on select dates through July 14 and then hits the road for performances at Old City Cemetery on July 19, Poplar Forest on July 20 and Presbyterian Homes and Family Services on July 21.
“The biggest challenge with these shows that are moving around is making sure that they can adapt to every single space we’re in,” Kershner says. “We’re working very hard [to ensure] they can kind of go anywhere and happen anywhere.”
Like “Taming,” “Cymbeline” has a cast of six. And, like most Endstation productions, there’s a twist.
“The actors are basically using these found objects to create the story,” Kershner says. “A trash can top becomes a shield, and things like that. They grab these objects, and they become what they attribute them to be. We’re kind of calling it a trunk show. All these things are in a trunk, and the actors show up and they perform [with them].”
As it starts touring, Kershner says the performances will change with each locale.
“We’re building into ‘Cymbeline’ moments where they will specifically use whatever place they are in a very specific way,” he says. “It keeps the actors on their toes. The actors need to learn to be very much in the moment … which they get anyway because when you’re outside for every single performance, something different is going to be going on, whether it’s the weather or the cicadas.
“So there is a learning curve for us here, but I think our outside work has helped us to adapt pretty quickly.”