ShakesBEER Review – Taking in the Bard with a Buzz - a New York City pub crawl where Shakespearean actors take over the bars
ShakesBEER turns 30!
Read this review below of an earlier ShakesBEER experience!
That was the thought, albeit one that bubbled up after two glasses of wine, watching ShakesBEER Artistic Director Ross Williams turn his back on the quiet outside patio and announcing to his assistant and some of the Henry IV cast--
“We’re doing it in here.”
“Here” was a raucous bar--already standing room only before the troupe of ShakesBEER patrons arrived clutching their ShakesBEER branded beer koozies poised for refill. We were at the third stop of this four pub crawl, and Williams was making the artistic choice to have his actors fight the cacophony of the crowd and TVs.
In short order as we watched 6’8” (+/-) actor Brendan Averett playing Falstaff quickly down two huge mugs of beer as he brought his famed character to life, we knew that Williams knew his actors, his directors and most of all, how ShakesBEER can best fulfill its mission of making the Bard fun and accessible to all.
This demonstration of bravado is perhaps one secret of ShakesBEER’s audience building prowess. About half of the crawl’s patrons are regulars who show up more often than not. It’s highly likely some of them were once just unsuspecting Sunday patrons of a sports bar who hadn’t expected a Shakespeare production was going to take over the scene.
And take over it does! Fearless too are the classically trained actors who could teach any would-be standup comic a thing or two about how to rise above the drunken din. With little more than a mustache here and a ripped t-shirt there, this almost prop-less cast of eight commanded the stage (aka bar countertop) and drew us in – even when we got to the fourth pub and some were nursing their fourth drink. These are scenes culled from what could be dubbed Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits—The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV, and Hamlet. In this writer’s view, their talents are abundantly clear and inviting a sober return next go’round, with the less expensive tea totalers’ entrance fee that would better allow one to dwell on the acting.
Billing itself as “NYC’s Original Shakespearean Pub Crawl”—because of course this inspired idea has been copied by others—the biggest surprise for this writer was to learn how few of the crowd are tourists. Williams begins the crawl with a show of hands on who are newbies and who are returnees. It split about 50-50. We then take a group selfie and practice paying attention to the gong that starts the next Shakespeare scene. We’ve barely begun and already we know this is going to be great fun.
ShakesBEER is in its 10th Season
And that’s exactly what Williams and his crew had in mind when they started the crawl, now in its 10th season. Originally conceived of as a one-off fundraising event for the NY Shakespeare Exchange, they immediately realized that the crawl had potential to be much more, and could go a long way to help their organization meet its mission of creating connections through theater.
And you DO make connections in a Cheers-Meets-Classical-Theater kind of way. One new friend is now 40 and feeling the biological clock ticking; another new friend is just now letting go of traditional pronouns as their trans explorations continue. The actors—all fun to talk to when they are not “on duty” – give you a peephole into struggling NY actors’ lives circa now.
Directors: Martavius Parrish, Shane Breaux, and Ross Williams
Cast: Alisha Espinosa, Brendan Averett, Tara Pacheco, Philip Gregory Burke, Katelin Wilcox, Alex Michell, Aurea Tomeski, and C Bain
May 18 2019 from 3-6 PM
The pub crawl begins at The Gaf (401 West 48th Street, NYC) at 2:30pm and moves to 123 Burger, Shot, Beer (738 10th Ave, NYC), The Waylon (736 10th Ave, NYC), and Perdition (692 10th Ave, NYC).
$49 or sober tickets - $25
For tickets visit the ShakesBEER Brown Paper tickets link.
ShakesBEER pub crawls are staged about three times a year with a two-weekend run each time. They also can be privately scheduled for parties and other groups like corporate team building excursions. For more information visit the New York Shakespeare Exchange website.