Sitting Next to the Coat Rack

Mar. 6, 2017
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Taking Shakespeare with Boulevard Theatre
Amy Callahan ("the PROF") and Jake Konrath ("MURPH") - Troy Freund Photography

It was suggested that I might want to sit somewhere else. They were folding chairs right next to the stage. Probably not very comfortable. These were a pair of chairs right next to a coat rack. No obstruction of the stage. No one else there. Just my own little corner and the actors. I’m happy to sit in a folding chair for that kind of perspective.

The show in question was Boulevard Theatre’s Taking Shakespeare. The contemporary teacher/student drama is being staged in a cozy room upstairs at Plymouth Church in the shadow of UWM. I’ve seen shows there before. There’s no set stage so the action gets poured-in around the  seating. In this case much of the seating was massed around one area of the stage, but there were these two little folding chairs next to the coat rack.

In the past, the Boulevard Theatre has made a habit of finding tight, little spots for chairs. Back when they had their own space they sometimes put a few isolated seats opposing the rest of the audience, which always seemed a little strange to me, but a quaint, little pair of folding chairs next to a coat rack were out of the way and removed from the action.

I was not disappointed. Nearly every act of the drama starts with someone using that coat rack. The two leads kick off their shoes there. There I was hanging out next to the characters’ shoes and coats and things. Removed from the rest of the audience ever-so-slightly it was just me and the drama. Taking Shakespeare is a simple teacher/student drama in a small space. The audience is a casual conversational distance away from the action of teacher and student. Hanging out with such a casual domestic prop amplified just how organic the whole thing felt. It’s a casual intellectual discussion that plays as conversation and character development over the course of a performance short enough for drinks and discussion afterwards. Thanks to a couple of chairs placed in just the right space, a couple of theatergoers are given the opportunity to be just a bit closer to the reality that’s being presented. Some people might feel exposed, but that’s what theatre’s there for...that direct exposure to something onstage.

Boulevard Theatre’s production of Taking Shakespeare runs through Mar. 26 at Plymouth Church on 2717 E. Hampshire St. For ticket reservations and more, visit A full review of the show runs in the next print edition of the Shepherd Express.


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