Shakespeare aficionados will get their annual chance to celebrate the Bard when the Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe presents its fifth production paying tribute to William Shakespeare on the occasion of his birthday, focusing this year on the theme "Enter the Clown."
The event, taking place on Friday and Saturday at the First Congregational Church in Rockport, will feature comedy from some of Shakespeare's most noted fools, jesters, clowns and windbags.
There will be scenes from "Twelfth Night," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "As You Like It," "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," and "Much Ado About Nothing" which highlight Shakespeare's comedic touch.
But there are comedic scenes in some of his tragic works, which also will be highlighted, including the grave diggers scene from "Hamlet" and the drunken porter scene from "Macbeth." In addition to these scenes, there also will be sonnets and songs as well as soliloquies and monologues. The celebration comes as Shakespeare, believed to have been born April 23, 1564, would have turned 448 this past Monday.
Nick Neyeloff and Joseph Stiliano are directing a cast that features Jonathan Arnold, David Cluett, Mia Formichella, Olivia Gale, Andrew Hoover, Ray Jenness, Dominic Parry, Ken Stoeffler and Cathy Sullivan-Bradley.
The Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe will also carry on another tradition at its birthday celebrations when the cast and audience mingle as they share in a birthday cake, pastries and punch.
Sue Small, who along with her husband, Stiliano, ran a Cambridge restaurant for 18 years, makes an English ginger birthday cake and dozens of echo cakes, which have been around since Elizabethan times. They also created a "Shakespeare punch," which Stiliano described as a fizzy concoction that has become so popular that they know to put out a printed recipe of the ingredients because so many ask for it.
Joseph Stiliano, a founder of the Shakespeare troupe, held the first birthday event in 2008, as a way to test the proverbial waters to see what Cape Ann's appetite for Shakespeare is.
"I convinced enough friends to do a birthday party with a selection of scenes, and it went very well. So I cajoled more people into joining and started an official company doing all the paperwork that goes with a non-profit and that was the start of it," said Stiliano. "So each year we do a Shakespeare celebration and give it a new theme each year."
He boasted of the talented cast, some who have long been popular on the community theater scene — and who range in age from their teens to their 70s.
The seed for this company sprouted after Stiliano said he had an epiphany on his birthday many years ago, reflecting on the fact that three of his brothers had died within a two-year period.
"I was thinking of my own mortality and all that I love to do and I love directing. But to do that I needed my own company," he recalled.
"Shakespeare is not done a lot," he said, "so it seemed if I could get started and get on long enough, I could get through a canon of his work, and it's been a great deal of fun so far."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy birthday, Bard
What: "A Shakespeare Celebration," the fifth annual birthday presentation by the Cape Ann Shakespeare Troupe.
When: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: First Congregational Church of Rockport, 12 School St., in Rockport.
Tickets are $15; $10 for students; $5 for those under 19 — or whatever one can afford. Tickets can be reserved at email@example.com or purchased at the door. For more information, visit capeannshakespearetroupe.blogspot.com and Facebook.