Love’s Labour’s 1, Philadelphia Phillies 0: Shakespeare, the Fringe, and the Pope with Griffin Stanton-Ameisen

When Phindie last caught up with Griffin Stanton-Ameisen, he was embarking on his first Fringe Festival production, 2013′s The Playdaters. At the time, he was in process of launching a new theater company, Revolution Shakespeare. Since then, RevShakes has grown by leaps and bounds, with a series of readings and a full production at South Philadelphia’s Hawthorne Park. The company teamed up with Hear Again Radio Project for the 2014 Fringe show Kill Shakespeare and they are back this year with their second full run, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. This FREE Shakespeare show features original music by local songwriter Melissa Dunphy and runs during and after the 2015 Fringe Festival. [Hawthorne Park, 12th and Catharine streets] September 16-27, 2015; fringearts.com/loves-labours-lost.

Meliss Dunphy, André M. Evers, Griffin Stanton-Ameison, Matthew Mastronardi, and Doug Durlacher and a recent Scratch Night preview of LOVES LABOURS LOST.

Meliss Dunphy, André M. Evers, Griffin Stanton-Ameison, Matthew Mastronardi, and Doug Durlacher and a recent Scratch Night preview of LOVES LABOURS LOST.

Phindie: Love’s Labour’s seems to lose a lot. How would they fare against Philadelphia Phillies?

Griffin Stanton-Ameisen: With the sad state of the Phillies, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST would put up quite a fight. It would be high scoring I think!

Phindie: Your Fall performance last year was a few weeks after the Fringe. Why Fringe this year?

GSA: In our second full production at Hawthorne Park we wanted to explore something different. We had a couple of chilly nights last year in early October so we thought if we pushed it up a bit, our atmosphere might only get better. Fringe wise, it just seemed to add up. It’s site specific, FREE, and we thought the amazing built in Fringe audience would broaden our reach.

Phindie: Is there something particularly fringey about this production?

GSA: Director Sam Bellomo is investigating an almost concert version atmosphere for the show. Music involved throughout, driving our world and supporting the characters. Think Johnny Cash, Springstein, Emmylou Harris and LLL. Seems great fringe fodder. And most importantly, we’re still trying to figure out what works. What works for Hawthorne, what works for South Philly, and after the success of Kill Shakespeare last year [a 2014 festival coproduction with Hear Again Radio Project], we thought Fringe would be ideal for this year!

Phindie: What else is unique about this year’s production?

GSA:  Almost a perfect half and half split of male and female performers. I feel very strongly about investigating new ways to infuse the amazing female talent pool that Philly has to offer into Shakespeare. I think he wrote women in limited capacity because they weren’t allowed on stage. Not to shoot the women he did write down, as you’ll see in LLL, these women are pretty great. But what’s wrong with finding more opportunities for women if a role doesn’t specifically have to be a man for the plot or if changing it might investigate or reveal new meaning relevant to contemporary society. Hamlet says, “to hold, as ’twere,  the mirror up to nature”.

Composer Melissa Dunphy.

Composer Melissa Dunphy.

Phindie: How did you connect to musician Melissa Dunphy?

GSA: Sam worked with Melissa on Cherry Orchard out at People’s Light this past season, and thought she’d be a great fit for this Americana music we’re interested in exploring.

Phindie: What has impressed you about the way Sam Bellomo has worked with such a large cast? Has it been a struggle to pay attention to each role?

GSA: Sam is great working with large casts.  Having worked with her as a performance on Two Gentlemen of Verona at Delaware Shakes and most recently seeing her direction there on Taming of the Shrew, she just has a great handle of how to use a large cast for beautiful images. And for RevShakes producing LLL, it didn’t seem fair to the play to do a lot of doubling, so we went big!

Phindie: I don’t know if you heard, but the Pope is coming to Philadelphia the week after the Fringe…

GSA: The Pope…

Phindie: … And your show is still running…

GSA:  … the Pope…

Phindie: … How are you going to handle the Popeadelphia Popeocalypse?

GSA: Yes, the Pope. A headache is what it feels like right now. We planned this show before any of this was announced and we still want to do it how we planned it! Our biggest issues are going to be transportation for our performers who live in other parts of the city. Given that we are south of South Street [the boundary of the Pope restriction zone], our goal with our performances in Hawthorne Park is to get the Hawthorne community and greater South Philadelphia to come out. Plenty of people will be trying to avoid Center City, so why not come see some free Shakespeare? I think the visit is a great thing for the city and that it means a lot to a lot of people. However, I don’t think the city should shut down. Plenty of people would like to keep living their lives and doing the things they love to do. As they, the show must [should] go on!

Phindie: Oh Pope. Anyway, the Fringe. Are there any other shows you’d recommend?

GSA: The company I used to work with, Renegade, and their Damned Dirty Apes is sounding like it’s going to be pretty rad! Site-specific, outdoors. Plus, [playwrights] Chris Davis and Sam Henderson are evil geniuses.

The Doll’s House interpretation sounds fascinating, LLL castmate Hannah Van Sciver’s Fifty Days at Iliam sounds pretty rad, and I most certainly want to hear what Dr. Dog and Pig Iron turn out. Those are just a few, as there’s a ton of stuff that sounds great!

Phindie: Thanks Griffin! What’s next for Revolution Shakespeare?

GSA: Up next for RevShakes is something I’m pretty keen on. Shifting away from our annual Valentine’s Day event, we are planning a Friday the 13th evening of Shakespeare, “The Spirits of the Dead May Walk Again,” scheduled for November 13th. Company member Jess DalCanton will direct an intimate evening at a yet to be determined, hopefully spooky,

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.