“King John” at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

BSF company player perform music during intermissionThanks to the R.E.M. obsession during your teen and young adult years, you have an abiding fondness for mandolins. So hopefully, when you say the pre-show and intermission musical performances are among your favorite things about going to the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, the company players won’t be offended. ‘Cause there is a mandolin. And a washboard in the percussion section. A small slice of geek heaven.

And the fact is, you are a bit of a Shakespeare geek. (Blame it on that Humanities degree.) Such a Shakespeare geek that you have actually read, and possess a critical familiarity with, “King John.” This history is the current production at BSF, and not only are you relatively unique in knowing the play, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is relatively unique in performing it.

One of the Bard’s earliest and least produced plays, “King John” hasn’t graced any stage in Baltimore since the late 1700’s. It’s pretty rarely graced stages anywhere else for that matter: Even the Royal Shakespeare Company (over in London, icydk) treats it like a pile of Lima beans in iambic pentameter, with one production in 2012.

Which leads you to pointing out that the other thing you really like about the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is their chutzpah. After a season featuring The Tempest, Othello, MacBeth (yes, you can say the actual title because you are not IN a theater at the moment) — it takes some daring to introduce a lesser known, possibly the least known, of the canon.

The show — both its choice and its performance — are reflective of the ethos of the BSF. Which is what you really love most about this intrepid theater troupe.

Performing Works of Shakespeare “as they would have been done in his time” is part of their schtick. That includes:

  • Performing in the three quarter round.
  • Use of original pronunciation.
  • Actors playing multiple roles (you may want to consult your playbill as scenes and costumes change to keep up).
  • Addressing (and even involving) the audience directly. (Yes, that actor is talking to you. At least smile and nod!)
  • The aforementioned musical interludes.

It’s different. At times even goofy. But they manage to embody that feeling of raw in-process theater (also known as “hey kids! Let’s put on a show!”) that you so adored in “Shakespeare in Love.” The BSF makes the plays feel fresh — not in the “10 Things I Hate About You” kind of way or the let’s-set-this-in-outer-space sort of way — but in that “I just finished this script and now let’s put it on and maybe rewrite the whole second scene for tomorrow night” type of way.

So go. It’s fun. You might cure a teen of the belief Shakespeare has to be pretentious, break the Netflix rut you and your S.O. have fallen into, or just enjoy the mandolin and washboard.

Tickets are $12 on Goldstar up to 24 hours in advance; $24 regularly (student/senior/artist discounts available as well).

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

St. Mary’s Outreach Center

3900 Roland Ave

Baltimore, MD 21211


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