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Wednesday, July 29,2009

Isn’t he Grand?

Group puts Shakespeare back on the river

by Emma Kat Richardson

He’s been done in and out of period by actors and directors of all ages, races, creeds and theatrical backgrounds. His words have been given life by modern stalwarts of the classical stage, like Kenneth Branagh, Julie Christie and Dame Judi Dench. He’s been done in drag, and even on the moon. But is William Shakespeare ready to do Lansing, yet again?


Aye, says Lindsay Palinsky, a familiar face of Lansing’s community theater scene and a founder of Shakespeare on the Grand. Brought forth in April and launching its debut production this week, Palinsky’s latest venture into the realm of the world’s most renowned bard operates as a branch of Lansing Civic Players, but it carries its own distinctive mark, mission, and community-oriented goals.

“We are the only theater company in the area that produces only the works of Shakespeare, his contemporaries and the Greco-Roman playwrights,” Palinsky said. “Rita Deibler, Tod Humphrey and I were members of the now-defunct Sunsets With Shakespeare, and we wanted to make sure that Lansing and its surrounding area continued to have live Shakespeare that was free to the public.”

Shakespeare on the Grand’s goal is to make the Bard’s sonnets a permanent part of the language of Lansing. Rather than clinging to a seasonal roster of Shakespeare’s betterknown works, Palinsky and Co. are more interested in reviving and opening up a collective local consciousness that embraces all of Shakespeare’s massive body of work, including the more obscure, though no less tantalizing.


For instance, the company’s maiden production: “All’s Well That Ends Well.” “I chose it, because it is a lesser-known play,” said Palinsky, who is also directing the show. “I think it is important to remind people that Shakespeare wrote more than just ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ I also feel that its humor, language and situations will be accessible to the majority of our audiences.”


Palinksy said it isn’t just the material that gives Shakespeare on the Grand its niche. After all, if Hamlet can enjoy marginal success on a set that makes ample use of "moon dust" (as some University of Southern California Berkley students did in "Hamlet on the Moon." Check it out at www.moonhamlet.com), what territory is left for Earthdwelling thespians to cover?


“Shakespeare on the Grand focuses on using First Folio Technique to teach its actors how to analyze the text of Shakespeare’s plays,” Palinsky said. “We are planning on doing a fundraiser performance in the winter time of ‘A Winter’s Tale.’ Our main-stage performances will have open auditions. We are also in the process of developing a series of educational workshops to be presented in the fall, winter and spring. The founding members are all passionate about classical theater, and we strive to foster a similar passion in actors and audiences.

“It is my hope that Shakespeare on the Grand will be around for many years to come. Next summer we are looking forward to doing two summer productions.”

If all ends well (and goes according to plan, naturally), producing passion for Shakespeare should prove no issue for Shakespeare on the Grand.

“All’s Well That Ends Well.” 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, July 30 through Aug. 9. Riverfront Park Salt Shed, west bank of the Grand River, off of Grand Avenue. FREE.

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