in which I reflect upon the little Shakespeare company that could

Like most of my stories, this one begins with a children’s lit reference:

This is the story of the little theater company that could.

Four years ago, the summer before I went to Europe, I was bored. Like bored out of my mind. Hated my job, all my friends were on missions or in school or just living elsewhere for various reasons and I was chomping at the bit to get out of Utah and into the big wide world.

So I naturally did what every bored nineteen year old does: I started a Shakespeare company.

I did not know what I was doing. I cannot emphasize that enough. I had directed like a play and a half before. I am not a scholar of Shakespeare or acting. I just love them both dearly. But the previous year, I’d done some work with Logan Youth Shakespeare Co, an amazing theater company in Logan, Utah, that puts on full-length Shakespeare with actors ages 8 to 181. I was so inspired working with them and seeing what the director had made out of nothing that I wanted to do more of that.

So, armed with nothing but my usual ridiculous passion for absurd things and a desire to do something way beyond my skill level, I started to put together a show.

When I went to post the audition notice on a local theater website, one of the mandatory boxes you had to fill in was “Company Name.” I had no company. This was literally me and my backyard and a public domain script copied off the internet. Then I had this train of thought:

“We’re doing Shakespeare…my favorite Shakespeare quote is “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”…we’re doing the Tempest…and that quote is from the Tempest…” And then I typed “Such Stuff Productions” in the box and posted the audition notice.

Three months later, the strangest and most awesome group of people ever, most of them under 182, put on a production of “The Tempest” in an outdoor amphitheater, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

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The next summer, upon my return from England, I found myself again bored and again wanting to do something that required great passion and mild insanity. So again, I posted an audition notice, this time for “Coriolanus,” one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays, and signed it Such Stuff Productions. That year, our cast was all under 213 and I have honestly never worked with a better group of people in my life.

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It is a remarkable thing to look across a stage and see twenty-something young people looking back at you with total trust and total dedication and know that they would probably walk with you to the ends of the earth if you asked them to. They were also, as a group, incredibly giving. Giving of their time, their talents, their message to the audience that came to see them.

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And my, but the audience came. Our same little amphitheater was packed for four scorching nights in August. The show turned into one of the most perfect experiences of my life, the untouchable sort that you whisper when you talk about and cry for no reason when you think about.

And then the next summer…I moved to Chicago. And though Such Stuff Productions was finished.

But then two lovely young friends of mine picked up where I left off. That summer, they staged As You Like It, with the same spirit that had hoisted Tempest and Corio: young people who are passionate and enthusiastic and just want to give. I wasn’t able to see it, as I was in Chicago, but this summer I was able to see their production of Merry Wives of Windsor. And the whole time I watched it, I just felt so freaking proud.

I am so proud of every single member of that company for continuing the tradition of Such Stuff Productions, which is making something out of nothing and then giving it away again. It is about inspiring people to be artistic and creative, about learning to work together as students, artists, and friends, and share the things we love with others. I am so grateful to the people who believed in my original dream for this company and have worked so hard to not just keep it alive, but grow it and make it better.

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To the company of Merry Wives of Windsor—what a treat it was to see you all on Thursday night! Thank you for continuing to share your passion and the passion of this company with others. I respect you so much, and I am so grateful you have kept this company alive. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and never stop doing what you love!

You can like Such Stuff Productions on Facebook, and you probably should, since they are awesome. If you didn’t get that already. 

  1. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my career path feeding into children’s lit was a direct result of my work with LYS.
  2. And one over 70. And one who had never been on stage before. And several who didn’t know who Shakespeare was.
  3. With one glaring exception—our villain was played by a 30-something carpenter who had never acted, only read Shakespeare in middle school, and was totally outstanding on stage.
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