Summer Shakespeare Tickles Audiences in its 20th Season

by   |   estephen@bju.edu   |  
Summer Shakespeare As You Like It

Summer Shakespeare is a Greenville tradition. Since 1995, creators Jeff and Kim Stegall have poured their hearts into producing accessible, colorful adaptations of the Bard’s most uproarious comedies. Together with a rotating core cast of BJU grads and other collaborators, the Stegalls bring Summer Shakespeare to BJU’s Performance Hall every June through July. Summer Shakespeare has now been a part of the Greenville arts scene for 20 seasons.

Summer Shakespeare productions are technicolor takes on comedy classics like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Love’s Labor’s Lost. Kim Stegall, company dramaturge, trims them down to a tidy 90 minutes, shaving the text as close to the core story as possible. Characters wear modern, zany costumes, and it’s not unusual to see a red sponge clown nose, a rubber chicken or a Shakespeare bobblehead on stage.

The company prides itself on putting out family-friendly and family-focused performances that viewers of all ages and all levels of theater exposure can enjoy. The actors put a lot of work into making sure they’re communicating through Shakespeare’s word choices, doing justice to the story as well as the poetic language. The goal is to make audiences laugh—and that means telling the story (and the jokes) as clearly as possible.

Jeffery and Kim Stegall began putting on the plays in 1995 under the umbrella of BJU’s theater department. Twelve years ago they founded the nonprofit theater company separate from BJU. Performances take place on campus in Performance Hall, but the company rents the theatre space, the extra chairs, the platforms and other parts of the venue from BJU.

This year’s production of As You Like It takes the audience to faraway France and the Forest of Arden, where Rosalind, the daughter of a banished duke, disguises herself as the boy Ganymede and escapes to Arden. But when her crush Orlando joins her and all the other exiles in the forest, a comedy of wild misdirection begins.

Join Summer Shakespeare for their 20th season! Grab your tickets for As You Like It at Summer Shakespeare’s website.

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Emma Galloway Stephens is a writer and faculty liaison in BJU’s Marketing department as well as an adjunct writing faculty member.