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State Hospital hosts ‘Shakespeare in Shorts’

'All the world's a stage' indeed as Svetlana Orlova and Katelyn Vieira perform a scene from 'Hamlet' on the concrete stairs of building eight.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Referring to both the occasionally casual dress of the cast - and the fact that only brief scenes from The Bard’s work were performed - on Saturday night, the Gazebo Players of Medfield brought their show, "Shakespeare in Shorts", to the grounds of the former Medfield State Hospital (MSH). Featuring six different scenes from six different Shakespearean plays, the grounds provided a unique backdrop to what the Players are hoping is a unique event.

Fearing both having their performers interacting with each other and forcing audience members to gather in a group during the COVID era, the Players opted not to hold one large production this summer. Instead, they set up six different performances and allowed audience members to walk around the grounds, visiting each individually. While it may not have been the ideal show for the company, it was better than last year, when the Gazebo Players couldn’t do anything.   

Some performers wore modern clothing, some wore period costumes and some mixed the two.

“We did not do this last year,” Juliana Small explained. “We usually mount a full-scale production every summer. But last year there was a lot of COVID, so we didn’t do it. This was sort of COVID-friendly solution for this summer, but we’re hoping to return to a full-scale show next summer for our twentieth anniversary.”

Steve Small draws some laughs during 'The Taming of the Shrew.'

But while they don’t want to run the same type of show next year, they’d like to stick with the location. After noting that the company performed at the gazebo outside the library until the grocery store moved in and it became too noisy, Small explained that they’re hoping to make the State Hospital grounds their permanent home - or at least the home of their performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” next year.

“We like to do Shakespeare in the Park. The whole idea is to do it outside for free for the public to come by and watch whatever they’d like to. We performed at the gazebo for years, but once the food store moved in it got too loud there to do it, so this is a great, open space. There’s enough grass for seating and if they build the art center it could be used as a rain space. It’s a great resource; we’re glad the town has it, and we’d love to be able to partner with them.”

The words on the boarded windows provided a unique backdrop to 'Shakespeare in Shorts.'

One of the most interesting aspects of the plays being put on ("Hamlet", "Macbeth", "The Tempest", "Twelfth Night", "The Taming of the Shrew" and "The Comedy of Errors" were all represented) was the unique MSH settings the performers chose. "Macbeth", for example, was staged behind a chapel to provide a gothic atmosphere. "The Tempest" was at the top of a hill with a nice view of Medfield. "Hamlet", meanwhile, utilized an elevated concrete stage.

Shakespeare has been performed all over the world in so many different ways, it's difficult to come up with anything new.

With a little help from a world-stopping pandemic, the Gazebo Players of Medfield managed to do just that.

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