Whether you have it written down on paper or simply keep it filed away in the back of your mind, everyone has a bucket list; those things you'd like to do before you…well…kick the bucket. This summer, Shakespeare Orange County's Artistic Director, Tom Bradac gets to cross one item off his list that's been on it for a very long time – namely, to go to The Fringe. Little did he know that it would be in a very unique city (Prague, CZ) with a very unusual project (Shakespeare's rarely produced erotic poem VENUS AND ADONIS).
Bradac explains, "I had an opportunity after college (in the '70′s) to go to the Fringe in Scotland with a production but couldn't afford to go. A Fringe experience had always been on my 'bucket list' and now at 64, I decided it was time."
Surprisingly, once the decision was made, plans for participation in a Fringe Festival fell into place rather easily. "I discussed the project with Guy Roberts, Artistic Director of the Prague Shakespeare Festival and he said yes and indicated the Prague Fringe as a possible host for the event. I applied, was accepted, and it became a co-produced event with SOC/PSF at the Prague Fringe this past June."
A longtime producer of Shakespeare in Orange County, this was Bradac's first experience doing theatre in Europe and also his first time in Prague. "It is a beautiful city and the Prague Shakespeare folk were terrific hosts. They accepted us into their family and welcomed us as friends and collaborators. It was a joy and was a thrill to bring a unique piece of Shakespeare to central Europe. My grandmother came from Bohemia in the late 19th century, and though I never met her, it was a special connection for me."
Bradac originally adapted and staged VENUS AND ADONIS as a class project at Chapman University in 2002. He had been fascinated by a one-man version of the poem he'd seen that Ben Stewart, a member of the Grove Shakespeare Festival company of actors, had performed. Using that as his inspiration, Bradac decided to have his students approach the work as an ensemble piece. Then in 2003, Shakespeare Orange County further refined the adaptation with several of the original cast members, staging a fully mounted production.
"Our 2012 production of VENUS AND ADONIS examines the feminine sexual drive to love, couple and reproduce, contrasting the masculine desire for solitude and the hunt. Hovering in the background of the story are the 'baying hounds'– our 21st century media, frothing at the mouth to cover the 'story' while provoking, inciting and raising the hackles of conflict. In a culture with 24-hour news broadcasting to and from every corner of the earth, and where economic forces drive our passions, the making of love is a singular event to stem the tide of animas/enmity. In short, Venus desires to shut out the 'dogs of war' and 'make love not war!'"
In adapting the piece, Bradac and his actors decided to embrace its erotic nature and approach it head on. He explains, "My theatrical background was experimental theatre in the 60′s so the approach was not an issue; making the text work come alive as a living piece of theatre while retaining the integrity of the poem was the challenge. Although we do emphasize the 'war' themes (of the sexes and the issue of battling the boar), we use them to ground the text in a more contemporary manner than we did in 2003."
The two August performances have been adjusted slightly for the benefit of local audiences, Bradac says. "We've softened some of the overt sexuality for our Orange County audience, using the text as emphasis. I think of it as seeing a 'new' Shakespearean play for the first time using classic characters in an ancient battle of the sexes – it has everything, love, sex, war and is only 45 minutes in length!"
VENUS AND ADONIS
Adapted, directed and produced by Thomas F. Bradac
Cast: Evelyn Carol Case as Venus and Michael Drace Fountain as Adonis, with Amanda Zarr, Misha Bouvion, Alyssa Bradac and Michael Nehring as part of The Ensemble Company.