The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company’s performance philosophy is based primarily on the original staging practices of acting companies from Shakespeare’s own period. The use of original staging practices is a recent movement in the production of Shakespeare's plays, a movement with such proponents as the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia.Since its founding, the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company has sought to explore such original practice elements as:
1. Performance in non-traditional theatrical spaces. The touring companies of Early Modern England performed not only in purpose-built playhouses like the Globe and the Blackfriars, but in such venues as innyards and noblemen's houses. The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company performs primarily in non-theatre spaces, including outdoor settings, bookstores, restaurants, country clubs, bed and breakfasts, and the Dog Story Theatre, a mutable black-box style space. Finding creative ways to use a variety of spaces -- including theatres of different architectural types as well as non-theatre spaces -- keeps the actors on their toes and results in an exciting and spontaneous performance atmosphere.
2. Universal lighting. Shakespeare's audiences sat in the same light as the actors, either in outdoor playhouses or in candle-lit indoor playhouses. The members of the audience were visible to the actors and to each other. Because of this visible audience, many playwrights of that era wrote the audience into their plays, giving the actors lines to speak directly to the audience. The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company performs in universal lighting and employs audience contact in its performances, making audience members feel as if they are a part of the play.
Actor Scott Lange in Twelfth Night. Photo by Tim Motley.
Actors Sean Kelly and Kathleen Bode in All's Well That Ends Well. Photo by Kat Hermes.
3. Minimal sets. Acting companies of 16th and 17th century England did not employ the elaborate sets that 21st century theatre audiences have come to expect. The texts of the plays, the actors' actions, and the audience's imagination helped to transform a nearly bare stage into all of the locations necessary in a given play. The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company follows this practice in order to maintain an energetic performance pace, uninterrupted by frequent set changes. Using minimal or no sets also means that the company can travel easily and can perform in venues of many different sizes without lengthy set-up time.
4. Cross-gendered casting. During Shakespeare’s time, English law did not allow women to perform on stage, so the female roles in Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed by boys. While we do have female actors to play women’s roles in our company, you may sometimes see women playing men or men playing women in the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company’s productions. Through this kind of casting, the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company explores the ability of actors to create characters that are wholly different than the actors themselves.
5. Doubling. Records from Shakespeare’s own period suggest that the acting companies of the time were relatively small, typically employing 10-15 actors. Since many of the plays performed during the period have 30-40 characters, we know that each actor played multiple roles in any given production. During a performance by the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, you may see the same actor play as many as five roles. This practice demands great skill from the actors, who must be able to distinguish their characters very clearly for the audience.
6. Company Structure. In Shakespeare’s time, actors did more than appear on stage. They took part in the business aspects of their acting companies as well. The actors of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company do not only act in productions. They are also the primary administrators of the company and producers of performances.
Company Actors in Macbeth. Photo by Tim Motley.