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Friday, May 22, 2015

Shakespeare Festival comes alive, on and off stage

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Linda Mingle, left, comes all the way from Manassas, Va., for the show, and brings her relatives with her. From left are Linda, Cindy Mingle and Gina Russell of Smyrna and Marlene Vincill of La Vergne.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
It was a busy night in Bell Buckle Friday -- but a festive one. While merchants and volunteers scrambled around downtown, preparing everything for the RC Cola and Moon Pie festival, the actors and staff of the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival, just up the road at Webb School, were preparing for opening night.

At the gate, more volunteers were taking up ticket money and making a little extra by selling T-shirts, fans and even guitar-shaped flyswatters for audience members. Some folks lined up at the hot dog and hamburger vendor, who is donating all of his proceeds to the Shakespeare festival, or they were sprawled on picnic blankets, eating the dinner and drinking the wine they'd brought themselves.

Kids and parents tossed footballs and Frisbees as the sun set, then took their places under the tent and waited for this season to unfold.

"I came all the way from Manassas, Va. to see this," said Linda Mingle. "Bell Buckle has made a Shakespeare fan out of me."

Mingle has plenty of Middle Tennessee relatives and she brought them along for the show, "Two Gentlemen of Verona (Tenn.)," a 1960 rockabilly-country take on the classic Shakespeare play. The nonprofit event is a professional production with equity actors from across the country, hosted by Webb School.

The Drees family was back for more from their home in Memphis. Originally from Colorado, where they often went to outdoor Shakespeare productions, they searched the internet until they found this one.

"We've always enjoyed outdoor Shakespeare," said Drew Drees, the father, enjoying an early Father's Day present.

Alicia Vann and her son Eli wait for his dad, actor Pete Vann, to make his appearance on stage.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
Eleanor Parkes was there with her husband, Gary. Residents of Nashville, they sat on the lawn and enjoyed their picnic before moving to their premium seats under the tent. Eleanor is the vice president of the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival's board of directors and she met director Lane Davies 25 years ago, when they were getting the Georgia Shakespeare festival established. Lane didn't have to work very hard to get her interested in the Tennessee venture.

"It's great for the community and it's educational," she said. "The Georgia festival goes into the schools and I'm hoping we'll be able to do that here, too,"

Now in its third season, the festival will be eligible for more grants, said Eleanor.

"They told us we meet all the requirements; we just need that mileage under the belt," she said. Bigger grants, such as the National Endowment of the Arts, would allow the festival to expand.

Lane invited more vendors from the community to participate in the festival at no cost -- the space would be provided free and local groups, such as band boosters or ball teams, could raise some money and experience some Shakespeare at the same time. There are still three more weekends of Friday-Saturday-Sunday performances left.

The festival donated 20 percent of Friday night's gate to flood relief in Nashville. Another 20 percent from today's performance will be donated to the Argie Cooper Library building fund.

Show times are at 8 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday until closing night, July 11, but the gates open at 6 p.m. For tickets and more information, www.tennesseeshakespearefestival.com.