Their joint endeavor, Bijou Shakes, has been about two years in the making, and began with Ferguson’s desire to start a Shakespeare in the Park company in Colorado Springs. “Why don’t we have something like that,” he asks, “where anyone can go and see Shakespeare if you just put a little time and effort into it?”
Though TheatreWorks, UCCS’ professional theater company, puts on an annual summer Shakespeare production at Rock Ledge Ranch, Bijou Shakes will attract people to the downtown core, with an eye toward accessibility with regard to price. A percentage of seats will be given out gratis, based on a nightly lottery.
The partnership with The Modbo shifted the concept from a traditional Shakespeare in the Park production, setting the stage in the alleyway between Bijou and Kiowa where The Modbo and neighboring gallery S.P.Q.R. lie. The fronts of the two buildings will be used as entrances and exits, and the audience will be seated in the alley. With this setup, they hope to utilize natural light the way the plays would have originally been seen.
Well, to an extent. It’s still an undeniably modern setting. “The play will end just as the overhead strings of lights come on [in the evening],” Ferguson says. “Shakespeare [plays] tend to end in a way that’s either a wedding or a funeral, so either way it’ll be appropriate.”
Though the first Bijou Shakes production won’t start until summer of 2018, Ciborowski and Ferguson will host a launch party at The Modbo this Friday in an effort to reach the people they hope will become a part of the endeavor — which will provide paid work for local actors and designers. “We want to start getting the word out now,” Ciborowski says, “get investors and start making potential designers and cast members aware of the opportunity, which hopefully will be an easy sell. It’s a great opportunity, and [during a time of year] when most theaters are dark.”
Though many theaters do tend to scale back productions during summer, the TheatreWorks summer production stands as a notable exception. Rather than viewing this as competition, Ciborowski and Ferguson seem undeniably excited.
“I think that’s a cool synergy,” Ferguson says, “to have more than one Shakespeare going on at the same time, and start to build that literacy among the audience even further.”
“The more Shakespeare the better,” Ciborowski agrees.
Bijou Shakes’ first production will be the classic Twelfth Night, and a crew of actors will present scenes from that and Richard III at the launch party. The evening promises an appropriate preview of what’s to come, an opportunity to learn more, and an artsy party (dessert and drinks provided).