What About the Bard? Springing into Shakespeare

BY Pam Creech

For centuries scholars have debated his place of birth educational background and even his true name. Despite being a world-renowned playwright Shakespeare’s identity is a bit mysterious. Those who subscribe to the Marlovian Theory believe Shakespeare was not even a person at all; instead a pseudonym adopted by Christopher Marlowe an accomplished Elizabethan playwright and poet.

Christopher Marino artistic director of Wilmington’s Dram Tree Shakespeare Inc. is enthralled by the uncertainty of Shakespeare’s personal history.

“I think there was a man named Shakespeare. Whether he was born in Straftord or not he existed ” Marino says.

Marino believes Shakespeare’s plays have caused controversy because they were found to be more collaborative than initially thought.

“‘Macbeth’ was a collaboration with John Middleton ” he explains. “There’s a lost play called ‘Cardenio’ that was taken from ‘Don Quixote’ that was a collaboration with John Fletcher.”

Marino’s fascination with the Bard led him to obtain two graduate degrees in dramatic arts and to start a Shakespearean theatre company.

“I was a founding member of a theatre company in DC called Taffety Punk. . . . We were a hybrid of classical musicians actors and dancers and we brought a young audience to the work ” he says.

After accepting a theatre teaching position at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2013 Marino created a theatre company in Wilmington — Dram Tree Shakespeare Inc. The company’s first few performances were a series of readings in the Cameron Art Museum. In September 2014 as a part of Wilmington’s 275th anniversary celebration the troupe performed scenes from “Much Ado About Nothing ” “The Taming of the Shrew ” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Riverfront Park in downtown Wilmington.

Nick Basta a North Carolina School of the Arts alumnus played Petruchio in Dram Tree’s “Taming of the Shrew.”

“Chris has an understanding and a passion for Shakespeare like no one I’ve ever met ” Basta says. “As a classically trained actor I desire to perform Shakespeare. . . . The play is really in the language — Shakespeare gives you everything you need.”

Now that Dram Tree has gained a local following Marino says its next production will be a formal performance.

“I want to start with comedies because they’re an easier sell for people who don’t normally go to Shakespeare plays ” he says.

Auditions for the comedy will most likely take place in April Marino says and the show will hit the boards during the summer.

“We’ll have auditions but we’ll say to people ‘To work with us we want you to train with us.’ I’ll be holding workshops throughout the summer. If actors want to work with us they need to embrace process.”

While Marino has high expectations for both himself and his actors he wants Dram Tree productions to be accessible to everyone.

“The price of theatre shouldn’t be a barrier ” he says.