All nerds know the fable of how Harrison Ford was a carpenter on the set of Star Wars when Lucas asked him to step in and help read lines, thus propelling him into one of the most iconic roles in film history. (If you don’t know this, shame on you, turn in your nerd card at the door.) This openness to synchronicity is one of the factors that make The Baron’s Men so entertaining. With sponsored auditions held six months before a new show, they are literally a troupe of the people, for the people.  Take the late addition to the cast, Randy Egan, for example.  Randy happened to be waiting on Director Casey Weed at lunch, impressing him with his “excess of charm and personality.”  The director asked Randy if he had ever acted and was surprised to find out that no, Randy had never been on stage since his school days.  Lo and behold, a month later Randy is one of the shining surprises that form the cast of The Alchemist.  Another first time player for The Baron’s Men is Joshua Morretto.  Acting for the first time since his college days Joshua plays the part of Abel Drugger (picture Booger from Revenge of the Nerds as a shop keep who’s only desire is to be bowed and scraped to by all other shop keeps.)  The long lay-off has had no ill effects on his comedic timing, which threatens to steal each scene he isin.  Indeed, Director Casey Weed has skimmed the cream of the crop off the top of the at-large Austin acting populace and the show will reap the rewards.

That is not to say, however, that there are no veterans of the theatre in the play.  The show features several B. Iden Payne winners and nominees- Bridget Farias and Heath Thompson.  Eva McQuade’s portrayal of Kastril shows us the folly of not allowing women on stage in Shakespeare’s day.  Eva brings to her performance of the angry boy, an archetypal Napoleonic complex 200 years before the Little Tyrant was born, the experience of dozens of plays and performances, a wealth of knowledge that is sure to capture the audience.  Topping the bill for The Alchemist cast is Todd Kassens as Subtle, the homeless pimp and master con-man.  Although this is his first time with The Baron’s Men, Todd is veteran on the Austin acting scene, with performances at The Hidden Room Theatre and a portrayal of King Hamlet’s Ghost that was haunting (yeah, I went there.) From his pointy beard to his presence on stage Director Casey Weed couldn’t be more pleased with his casting of Todd. The fact is, whether it be first time player or veteran of the scene, the cast of The Alchemist is sure to tickle your funny bone, raise your ire, and all around make you glad you’re not a whore.  Go see The Baron’s Men.  Who knows, maybe you will be on stage in the Fall.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Alchemist by Ben Jonson

Thu-Sat evenings at 8:00 from April 12th to April 28th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/278532692221245/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

Full disclosure here…I love wearing super hero costumes. I have a Superman tank top that I love sporting around town and when a friend recently had a superhero costume party, I’ll be honest; I wore the rental under my clothes for the next couple of days. Not in a“Vigilante-Kick-Ass-Something-To-Prove” way, but more of an “I refer to myself as Bonecrusher, of course I have delusions of grandeur” kind of way. Let’s be honest, the clothes make the man (or woman, Bonecrusher is an equal opportunity cliché artists.) Austin was recently voted one of the worst dressed cities in America. That might sound like a slight, but I believe it is part of what makes this town so cool. If what we wear effects who we are, then we are a population of laid back, march to our own drummer, Come-and-Take-It Texans that could really care less about what the fashion world thinks. Just as we feel saucy and proper when we don our black tie garb we feel down to earth and relaxed in out cargo shorts and Keens (or heroic and adventurous in our cape.)

This power clothing has over us is part of what makes The Baron’s Men performances so captivating. The attention to detail the troupe puts into costume design serves not only to pull the shroud of illusion over the audience’s eyes but also imbues the actors with the soul of Thespis. And what detail! 300 yards of new fabric and trim for The Merchant alone.  Fostered in the womb of the SCA, a society that strives for authenticity, The Baron’s Men painstakingly research the proper dress for the period and do their best to recreate it. Sewing parties are held weekly as the troupe stitches together costumes that could have been worn by Lord Chamberlain himself. Some member of the sewing circle come from as far as Houston.  Add to that all the crowns, capes and shoes that are hand made by The Baron’s Men, and the payoff is worth the sore fingers and tired eyes. These finely crafted costumes are the thread that weaves together the stage, the authentic script and the rabble-rousing crowd into a truly magical evening of Elizabethan theater. Go see The Baron’s Men and witness the best dressed people in Austin.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

As if Spaceman Richard Garriott didn’t give Austin enough by building the Curtain Theatre for The Baron’s men, the theatre is actually nested amidst his lakeside estate, Britannia Manor.  Getting there early and exploring the grounds is half the fun.  Some locals may know the property from the world class haunted houses he holds biannually, other, braver souls might know about the jousting spectacular, Lysts on the Lake, which happens in May each year (Bonecrusher knows that it sadly will not be held in Britannia this year, but Taylor, Texas.)  For those not in the know, Britannia Manor is a renaissance wonderland, complete with its own castle and pirate ship.  The grounds have a complete miniature village of tiny houses that is topped by an aerial wooden bridge.  The village is not populated during the run of The Baron’s Men, but an imaginative person can see pirates from the moored ship attacking the castle across the field as the village folk barricade their homes and shops from plunderers.  The ship even has a rope to swing from, though I recommend trying it before too many tankards of ale.  The grounds close at the end of the performance so I recommend getting there early with a picnic, stroll the grounds and climb the castle walls.  If that isn’t enough, take a spin of the play ground swing-n-spin (I just made that name up).  I mean this place is so bad-ass that Mr. Garriott once had to defend it with an Uzi…really.  I am proud that a citizen his stature chooses to call Austin home, a man who has gone to outer space.  I am even happier that he chose to come back to earth and defend us from the banality of life.  Go see The Baron’s Men and frolic in the play ground of Spacemen.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

Ever wonder why Lord of the Rings won 17 Academy Awards and Star Wars only won 10?  (Sorry Lucas, I have been a fan boy since age 3, but really, “Hold Me Annie, Hold me like you did by the lakes of Naboo”?  Really?)  Authenticity!  That is the answer, my friends.  Instead of Manikin Skywalker standing in front of a blue screen trying to create the scene from nothing, Frodo and Sam are in the depths of Mordor, fighting for their very survival.  Peter Jackson took a year to create the sets of LOTR, allowing the flora to grow in naturally, and that depth of set design is felt not only by the audience, but by the actors as well.  Richard Garriott knows this.  That is why he built the Curtain Theatre for the Baron’s Men, his former cohorts from the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA…people that get dressed up in medieval garb and drink from goblets).  Garriott built the Curtain Theatre, a 1/3 scale replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, in an effort to give the troupe a place to call home and to give the public a slice of authenticity. The investment has paid off.  The 220 seat theatre transports the crowd back to 16th century England like no standard set design can.  The extreme effort the Baron’s Men put into recreating authentic Elizabethan performances shines in the light of the flaming braziers while the voice of Shakespeare can almost be heard echoing off the cozy wooden façade.  Go see the Baron’s Men and travel back to the 16th century.  Not to worry, no plague this time.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

A draft beer at Cowboys Stadium?  9 bucks.  A sandwich?  14 bucks.  A large pizza?  90 bucks.  Sitting beneath the stars while dining on the feast of your choosing, all while being entertained by top-notch Shakespearian actors?  Priceless.  That’s right.  One of the best things about seeing the Baron’s Men is bringing a picnic of fruits, cheeses, and of course the adult beverage of your choice.  A nice white wine is perfect to wash down the piety of Malvolio, while a good stout beer helps stoke the fire needed for Henry V.  A couple of suggestions, though.  The actors are not mic’d, so leave the crinkly wrappers at home.  Or better yet, show up early and enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds Mr. Garriott has provided (more on that later).  So what’s better than dollar dog night at the ball game?  Free Picnic night under the stars.  Go see the Baron’s Men and feast not only your body, but your mind and soul as well.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

I am a firm believer in the power of booing.  It is a healthy cathartic action that allows for the release of the venomous buildup that threatens to over take our fast paced, modern lives.  It is part of why we enjoy sporting events so much.  The focused vitriol of a group foisted upon a neutral third party helps us come together as a society.  It is probably why the Gladiatorial Games were so popular for the Romans.  This holds true for Elizabethan theater as well, although at the time, they hissed, not booed.  Iago is not just the villain of Othello, to the 16th century groundling he represents the scheming, back stabbing, motiveless malignity that permeated his world.  Placing such a character on stage allowed the masses to have a focus for their hatred and helped them come together against a common enemy.  This is part of the power of live theater, the group involvement of cheering for the hero and hissing the villain.  The Baron’s Men know this.  They don’t want prim and proper ladies and gentlemen to sit on their hands and watch the drama unfold.  They want the crowd to hiss the villain, the cheer the hero.  They want the crowd to be part of the production, fueling greater performances with their energy.  Hate your boss, hate traffic in Austin, or do you just need to get out and cheer for the good guy?  Go see the Baron’s Men and save yourself the therapist bill.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

     It is often misconceived that Shakespeare and his ilk are for the high-brow, refined part of the populace.  This could not be further from the truth.  Granted, the use of the English language that stems from this period is, in my opinion, without equal.  That does not mean, however, that the baser, more ribald aspects of human interactions are not covered.  The Elizabethan playwrights were not above sprinkling their prose with more flowery language.  But in the hands of such genius these flowers take bloom and grow to a life of their own.  It is unfortunate that our Hollywood depiction of Shakespeare is only moonlit serenades and battlefield speeches.  True, these high-minded sentiments have given us some of the most powerful looking glasses from which to view life, but the true genius of the Bard is the craft he displays when talking about whores, sailors, and everyday riff-raff.   Shakespeare was meant for the masses, and the masses appreciated a good curse now and then.  And what cursing!  Did she just say cunt?  Yes she did.  But amidst such beautiful language that the mind takes a moment to catch up with the ear.  If you want to learn to curse like a sailor, join the Navy.  However, if you want to weave curses into the tapestry of life like a poet, come see the Baron’s Men.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/