Their latest endeavor is the most ambitious to date, “The War of the Roses” covers eight of Shakespeare’s histories using on eight actors. The shows will be spaced over the course of four weekends with different batches shown on different days. Audience members will have the opportunity to see the shows all in one day, two at a time or four at a time. This unique experience, which has been in the works for more than a year, begins in June. The cast and crew are excited to see how this new challenge unfolds. There are three directors sharing the responsibility for the eight shows and each actor is taking on multiple characters, learning hours and hours of lines.
“I have absolute and total faith in the cast we’ve assembled,” said Artistic Director Thomas Cardwell. “We had to make some tough decisions when we were casting, but we’ve got a great group.”
Each play has been condensed into a single hour, allowing ETC to fit multiple shows in each night. The eight actors will start with a base costume and as they shift from character to character they add specific props and colored elements which will make them easy to identify. The goal of the festival is not to appeal only to aficionados of the Bard; it’s to make the work accessible to anyone and everyone who is curious about it. The extensive cast of characters and warring nations should appeal to fans of “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” as much as Shakespeare lovers.
“Audiences like to be challenged, they just don’t like to know they’re being challenged,” said Thomas Cardwell. “They need to be actively engaged.”
The goal of the shows, in addition to providing some incredible entertainment, is to give people a chance to experience these plays the way they were meant to be seen. Seeing Shakespeare performed instead of reading it breathes life into each play. Seeing them back-to-back, whether it’s over the course of a few weekends or all in one day, is a chance to see the history unfold in the order it happened.
“We’re still living these stories today,” said Kate Homan, one of the eight actors in War of the Roses. “There’s politics and war in the world and these shows teach you a lot about yourself and how you respond to those things.”
EclecticPond’s original mission was to breathe new life into classics. Founded by Polly Heinkel, Thomas and Catherine Cardwell, the organization came from a mutual love of Shakespeare the trio discovered while living in England. Catherine Cardwell and Heinkel were Midwesterners studying abroad and Thomas Cardwell was a Brit, acting in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Thomas and Catherine later married and moved back to her home in Indiana, where EclecticPond became a reality. The group focuses on education in addition to revamping the classics. They believe being able to perform Shakespeare for students in the midst of learning about him for the first time is crucial to igniting a lifelong love of his work.
"Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers of western civilization,” Catherine Cardwell said. “You can see his work performed in so many different ways and it still feels fresh.”
In the future the members of ETC would love to become more of a repertory theatre, with a full cast of actors on staff, but for now they are happy to be embarking upon some incredible new projects. They will continue to bring Hoosiers excellent productions of shows that have fallen by the wayside and The War of the Roses is sure to be a highlight for theatre-goers this summer.
“Live theatre is incredible because it forces people to use their imaginations,” Thomas Cardwell said. “Anytime you can spark people’s imagination you are encouraging their creativity as well!”
Don’t miss your chance to see the War of the Roses for yourself. Performances run from June 6 to June 28. Tickets are only $10 per show or $40 for a festival pass, which allows you to see all eight shows. Each performance will be held at the Irvington Lodge, 5515 E. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46219. For more information, a complete schedule of the shows or to purchase tickets, visit ETC’s site here.
Photos courtesy of ETC