Woodstock Shakespeare Players to debut this summer

‘A Bit O’ The Bard’ to grace Woodstock Square

Newly formed in 2024: Woodstock Shakespeare Players

To be – that was the question. And founders Angie Kells, Marisa Snook and Jason Ryan Lovett wanted to make sure a troupe of Shakespearean aficionados got that chance to be – by performing “A Bit O’ The Bard” in the historic Woodstock Square this summer. Negotiations ensued; the Woodstock Opera House’s Managing Director Daniel Campbell and Business Operations Manager Betsy Cosgray were instrumental in helping the three coordinate and, according to Kells, have been “terrific to work with, and as excited as we are to bring Shakespeare to Woodstock.”

They were joined by a noted production staff composed of stage manager and director Kathie Comella, play directors Roger Zawacki, Michael Lansu and Tony Walker, fight coordinator Lexi DeWitt, assistant stage manager Chelsea Boesiger and props coordinator Kestrel Domann, and the dates soon were set for Saturdays, July 6 and Aug. 3.

An original script ties together six of Shakespeare’s most celebrated comedy, tragedy and romantic scenes from “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Kells said those scenes will be accompanied with a festival atmosphere of puppetry, dancing, fine acting and singing by the Woodstock High School Madrigals.

But how did Kells, Snook and Lovett get together? Kells first met Snook in 2020 in Theatre 121′s production of “Murder on the Orient Express,” the play Kells just happened to be directing at the Woodstock Opera House. In conversation, they discussed a desire to bring new and exciting theater experiences to McHenry County, which then became a two-year project of visiting other theater companies to see how the art of what they wanted to bring to the area could actually happen.

Snook admits she is a “massive Shakespeare fan who even at 10 years old was sneaking ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare’ under the covers at night to read by flashlight.” She also performed in several Shakespeare productions in college, both in London and at Western Michigan University, so it seemed like a natural fit that she and Kells start a company to bring Shakespeare to Woodstock.

Lovett is a professional Los Angeles actor and member of The Actors’ Gang and Reduced Shakespeare Company who has performed internationally in leading roles such as Oberon, Tybalt and Orlando. Lovett and Kells traveled in the same circles doing theater around the northwest suburbs and the Woodstock Opera House before he made his way to Los Angeles. “To say that Marisa and I wanted him along for the ride is an understatement!” Kells said.

Kells also developed and ran the Riverview Theatre Company in McHenry; fans still remember its Shakespeare in the Park productions, and Kells often was asked when it was coming back.

The pursuit and reestablishment of such a coordinated tribute to Shakespeare’s work felt only logical for the three friends. Kells, Snook and Lovett want to show how entertaining the storytelling can be by “bringing it into a modern perspective – a wild ride told with heart and humor.”

Snook likes to say Woodstock Shakespeare Players is “our homegrown theater company”; they’ve also been invited to perform in Sharon, Wisconsin, in July.

As for the troupe, there are 14 actors who mastered auditions and profess a passion for Shakespeare. “These actors came in knowing their stuff, which made the task of choosing our cast not only challenging, but also so rewarding,” Kells said. “Our goal is to draw the audience in and show them the beauty of Shakespeare’s words and [the] relatability of these stories with these performers.”

The talented 14 will play a variety of characters in the collection of six scenes. The troupe consists of Paul Lockwood, Marisa Snook, Hunter Johnson and Stella Cosgray, all of Woodstock; Greg Waldyn, Kylee Jones and Megan McCarthy-Cook, all of Crystal Lake; Skye Schoen, Rachel Cahill-Nedza and Maggie Liston, all of McHenry; Stephen Pickering from Fox River Grove; Krist Neumann from Vernon Hills; Jarrett Passaglia from Schaumburg; and Jake Seelye from Harvard.

Four hundred years on, Shakespeare’s influence on our culture, language and imagination is still profound. Visit the Woodstock Square for “A Bit O’ The Bard” this summer, and see why for yourself. To be or not to be is no longer the question.

[The free performances are suitable for families; bringing lawn chairs is recommended.]

• Celebrating her 10th year of writing reviews for Shaw Local News Network, Regina Belt-Daniels is a devoted Shakespeare fan. For years, she attended Canada’s Stratford Festival and productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. She has directed more than 40 shows for RCLPC, TownSquare Players, WMTC, Independent Players, The Black Box Theatre, Elgin Theatre Company and Raue Center For The Arts.


• WHAT: “A Bit O’ The Bard” by Woodstock Shakespeare Players

• WHERE: Woodstock Square, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock

• WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturdays, July 6 and Aug. 3

• COST: Free

• INFORMATION: www.facebook.com/woodstockshakespeareplayers

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