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ShakesBEER brings the Bard’s tragedies to New York City’s bars

Live performances address the midterm elections.

ShakesBEER takes the bard's work into New York

ShakesBEER takes the bard's work into New York City's pubs for a boozy but "visceral" experience. Photo Credit: Martin Harris

“Come, gentlemen, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.” — “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” William Shakespeare.

Forget Shakespeare in the Park. Grab a pint and ready yourself for ShakesBEER, a pub crawl featuring live performances of the bard’s work.

The New York Shakespeare Exchange (NYSX), a company that aims to create communal experiences through Shakespeare’s work, will use four Hell’s Kitchen bars as the backdrop for their dramatic and boozy scenes Sept. 15 through 29.

This edition addresses the 2018 midterm elections with scenes from “Coriolanus” and “Titus Andronicus” and from “Fuente Ovejuna” and “A Man for All Seasons.”

“Titus Andronicus,” a very violent piece set during Roman rule, explores themes of women’s rights, rape, power and secret plotting. “Coriolanus” follows a Roman general who seeks a seat in government but is quickly deposed because of his temper, setting him on the road to downfall.

Scenes from Spanish playwright Lope de Vega’s “Fuente Ovejuna” and Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons” will be mixed into the Shakespeare plays. Both stories are about real men abusing their power and the people’s response to their wickedness.

Although these plays were written so long ago, these issues resonate today.

“The ShakesBEER Pub Crawls treat audiences to an immersive dipso-literary experience [for the dipsomaniac — one who has a compulsion to drink alcohol] that harks back to Elizabethan times,” the company’s news release says. “But it is the ability of the Bard’s timeless poetry to shed light on contemporary issues that NYSX is most eager to share.”

If bars seem like an odd place for Shakespeare, consider that the Bard was no stranger to the power of alcohol. He referenced it and its effect in many of his plays.

A pub setting also is a way to reach all audiences, according to Ross Williams, the company’s artistic director.

“When Shakespeare was writing, live theater was a culture event for every part of his society,” he said in a statement. “Why should it be any different today? We want our audiences to feel like they have been through something visceral and experiential.”

Those who join in will begin at Jasper’s Taphouse and float to The Gaf, Perdition and The Waylon bars. Tickets are $49 at shakespeareexchange.org.

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