With a little imagination and a leap of faith, Portland audiences have the chance this weekend to experience something that theatergoers haven’t had the opportunity to do since the 1600s. They’ll get to hear words of William Shakespeare performed live for the first time.
Acorn Productions, which produces the Naked Shakespeare performance series in bars, will present scenes from plays that scholars believe Shakespeare had a hand in writing, based on new research and language technology. Much of the material that Acorn will present this weekend will be from plays that haven’t been performed.
Acorn is calling its evening of performance “Apocrypha,” a word that references works of unknown or doubtful origin, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the ballroom at Mechanics Hall in Portland.
“We’re very excited with the idea that we are performing words that nobody has ever heard performed,” said Mike Levine, Acorn’s resident Shakespeare expert, who will supplement the performances with a discussion about the history of the texts and the debate among scholars about their authenticity. “These words are generally available on the internet, but we’ll be sharing them with the community.”
The troupe will present the material reader’s-theater style, with scripts and without sets or costumes.
Scholars have analyzed plays from Shakespeare’s era for structure and content, and added “Two Noble Kinsman” to the Shakespeare canon, accepting it as an authentic work. Computer programs designed to study word patterns and meter have identified language in other plays that may represent Shakespeare’s writing, in part or in full.
“Apocrypha” compiles several of these studies and includes scenes that Naked Shakespeare actors believe most likely include Shakespeare’s words. The four plays in “Apocrypha” are “Edward III,” “Double Falsehood,” “The Second Maiden’s Tragedy” and “Sir Thomas More.”
The actors will talk about the plays and why scholars believe Shakespeare was involved in their creation. “This is going to be a blend of lecture and performance,” Levine said. “We don’t want the audience to sit back and watch a play. It’s more interactive than that, more discussion. We’ll share information, we’ll perform the plays, and we’ll leave it up to the audience to make up their own minds if these were written by the Bard or not.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Ballroom at Mechanics Hall, 519 Congress St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: Pay what you can, with a $10 suggested donation; acorn-productions.org