“Shake On The Lake”

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“Shake On The Lake”
Shakespeare at the Gazebo; August 11th
By Nicholas Pircio


   They call themselves “Shake on the Lake” and are dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to outdoor locations across Western New York. They are currently on a summertime tour performing Romeo and Juliet, and plan to visit the Ellicottville Gazebo on Friday, August 11th at 8pm. This is their first visit not only to Ellicottville, but to anywhere in Cattaraugus County.

   “Shake on the Lake” is based in Wyoming County on Silver Lake, founded in 2011 by Josh Rice and Pilar McKay. Since then, it has grown into a touring company that hosts professional actors from throughout the country at Silver Lake. The group currently tours in five counties of Upstate New York, bringing Shakespeare into local schools and communities.

   According to Pilar McKay, they were attracted to the Ellicottville community because of its engagement with the arts and its recreational opportunities. “We walked around the town and found some great performance venues for Shake on the Lake. The next year, we approached the Chamber of Commerce, and eventually settled on the square where the gazebo is.”

Ellicottville will be the second to last stop on the summer tour. “Our version of Romeo and Juliet envisions the story in a kind of transition period of the 1950s going into the 1960s. It looks at fear, how we build walls around ourselves, and how you move from one time to the next time in terms of history. It’s a pretty interesting interpretation.”

The company is made up entirely of professional actors, with many new and emerging artists. “Our company maintains a good amount of energy. We are known for physical comedy, as well as improvisation.” Romeo and Juliet is their first tragic show.

   McKay explains that because they are a touring show and the sets must fit in their cars, they focus on engaging the audience without the need of a large set. “We do have fun with the audience; Shakespeare also had fun with his audiences. We do try to maintain that kind of tradition. We try to get the spirit of what Shakespeare did. He improvised and did interact with the audience.”

   “You will see that we are a pretty small company and people play multiple roles. So you are going to see a lot of costume changes and you are also going to see character changes. Sometimes within one scene someone will go off stage, come back in a new costume and be a new person.”

   There are nine actors in the cast, fourteen touring in all including the crew. This summer’s tour travels to twelve separate communities for fifteen shows, in eight counties. These include Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe.

   Performing Shakespeare involves more than knowing the story, since the actors must also learn the diction. “The more that the actors in a Shakespearian play can understand the diction, (means) they can make it live a little bit more, which makes it more comprehensible for the audience.”

   If you plan to attend, bring your lawn chairs or a blanket and get ready to enjoy the show. Get there early and you can Stroll the Streets of Ellicottville from 5-8pm with lots of free and fun things to do.