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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Photo by Provided: Valeria May

Cory O’Brien-Pniewski plays Romeo at Village Cafe during Saturday’s Shakesbeer event in Downtown Bryan.

The stage was set in Downtown Bryan for the second annual Shakesbeer Event Saturday.

Hosted by the community of Downtown Bryan, the Shakesbeer Pub Crawl event took place in six bars and featured actors from the New York Shakespeare Exchange, a New York-based organization aimed at promoting appreciation for classical theater and to expand the reach of art form within new and enthusiastic audiences. The New York Shakespeare Exchange was founded seven years ago by artistic director Ross Williams.

“Our focus is on making good art, but it’s also about using art to be an outreach vehicle, to get people to think about things in new ways and to expose the world to different ideas and challenge people’s thoughts,” Williams said. “Shakesbeer is one of the best ways we know how to do that because it’s so fun and communal. Even when you do a political scene like Henry VI, people can laugh at it, see the opposing viewpoints and leave talking about it.”

This Shakesbeer event was only the second full-fledged pub crawl that was held outside of New York by the New York Shakespeare Exchange. According to Jessie Ayers, graphic designer and events assistant of Historic Downtown Bryan, this year’s event stood out from last year as it highlighted different acts from Shakespeare.

“They came last year when A&M had Shakespeare’s First Folio, and we just loved having them here,” Ayers said. “Everyone in town loved it, and the actors said that it was a really different audience than they get in New York.”

Because of the success of last year’s event, the New York Shakespeare Exchange created the idea to undertake a week-long community immersion experience this year called Intersections.

“This was the seed of an idea,” Williams said. “Seeing what kind of power we can bring with us in the form of art, and going into the election year and seeing all the strife, those were the two things that came together and said, how do we harness the energy in Bryan and turn it into something bigger? That is also why we’re doing the show.”

As with last year’s Shakesbeer, there were 200 tickets available for the pub crawl, which allowed Shakespeare fans to visit each of the five participating bars. They could then redeem one drink from each bar as they enjoyed five live Shakespeare performances.
The event kicked off at the Downtown Uncorked Wine Bar with scenes from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It then went on with Romeo & Juliet in The Village Café and an innovative Shakespearean mash-up that combined parts from Henry VI, Part 2 and Julius Caesar, which took place at the Revolution Café and Bar.

Finally, the event wrapped up with Cymbeline at the Murphy’s Law Bar and Comedy of Errors in the Grand Stafford Theater. The actors incorporated aspects of modern-day culture into the scenes as their theatrical reenactment of the classical plays took center stage in each of the locations.

Austin Johnson, an English teacher from Fort Worth, traveled to Bryan especially for the event.

“I love Shakespeare, so my friends invited me to come down for this event,” Johnson said.

The Shakesbeer event served as a prelude for the organization’s two other main programs at Bryan-College Station. The first one would be a performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, that would be held at the Texas A&M University campus next week.

The second program was an online film project called the Sonnet Project, which comprised of short films of Shakespeare’s sonnets that were available on the New York Shakespeare Exchange website. The first Sonnet Project film was produced in front of the Carnegie Library in Bryan and released a month ago.

Williams said he hopes to turn this event into a one-week mini Shakespeare festival, with events and programs that would engage the community.

“We have to figure out how to do it, but I think the idea would work around the country and people would get really excited by it,” Williams said.

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