Austin Shakespeare Festival: Playing in a theatrical mecca
A dream comes true for the Austin Shakespeare Festival when it gets to perform the Bard's As You Like It in Richard Garriott's replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
I have never traveled outside the continental United States, but I've often said, being the lifelong thespian I am, that if I could travel anywhere, I'd travel to London and Stratford-upon-Avon. I'd visit the birthplace of William Shakespeare and see his Globe Theatre, the wooden "O" on the River Thames that served as the original stage for many of the greatest plays ever written. Given my age and my financial condition, on more than one occasion I've thought that I would never get there, never be able to stand in that magical place, mount that stage and feel the ghosts of Richard Burbage and Will Kempe, imagine the galleries full of nobles, the pit packed and teeming with commoners, hear the cries of the vendors, and see the flag flying atop the roof, announcing the day's performance.
Little did I know that I only needed to take a short drive to a relatively small plot of land on Lake Austin, where Richard Garriott, best known as the founder of Origin and Destination Games and author of the Ultima gaming series, has constructed a replica of Shakespeare's theatrical mecca.
As a young man, Garriott belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronism, a living-history group that re-creates life in 17th century Europe. "While he was in the SCA," says Dale Flatt, one of Garriott's property managers, "he realized that there were very few places where they could actually go and do the types of activities they really liked to do. Typically they were limited to state parks and things like that. Once he started doing well in business, it was always in his mind that he would at some time create a place like the world he creates in his games, and when he found this piece of property it was slated to be a subdivision he said, 'You know, it would be a shame to put all those homes out here.'" So Garriott purchased the property and, on the bottom piece, within a hundred yards of Lake Austin, constructed his theatre, a replica of Shakespeare's Globe which Garriott calls the Curtain Theatre.
This weekend, Austin is invited to visit this mecca, as Garriott has generously loaned the theatre to the Austin Shakespeare Festival for three benefit performances of its recent production of As You Like It. It came about, says ASF Artistic Director Guy Roberts, when the company's board president, Boyce Cabaniss, was at a fundraising event with Garriott. "We had always heard about this sort of mythical, amazing Globe Theatre replica that he had, and Boyce went up to him and said, 'Hey, we'd love to do some Shakespeare sometime for you.' And Richard said, 'Great! When do you want to come?' I think we're the first people actually to do Shakespeare in this theatre. It's like a dream come true for us. We hope that everything works out and that once a year we get to do a benefit out here and get to do Shakespeare on this stage."
As You Like It runs April 6-8 (Friday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm) at the Curtain Theatre in the hills of West Austin. Directions provided with reservations. For more information, call 454-BARD or visit www.austinshakespeare.org.