Category Archives: Shakespearean stage

The Taming of the Screw

Couplets have been rhymed and codpieces have been salted away.

The Worcester Shakespeare Company bids farewell to another great summer of outdoor theater at The New Napkin Stage in Whitinsville, Mass.

For the last several years we’ve raised up an ongoing reproduction of a Shakespearean stage (based on London’s Globe Theatre) and taken it down when the play has concluded its run.

This makes us not a little melancholic-


But the show mustn’t go on…


Then the hammer says to the mallet, you catch my drift?







Mel and Chris are always there to help-



Mr. Starbuck wilt thou not chase the pumpkin spice latte?


Chiaroscuro or gtfo



Some of the players themselves came to lend a hand in the deconstruction-



Bucket o’ Pins, a seasonal delicacy-


Brace yourself-


So much drama and yet the post is still good as newel-


One of our crew (whose name begins with CHRIS) was once a roadie for a certain band…


If you think that is real marble then you are in the throes of a phallicy-


Phallicy, because, you know, phallic.

Arise, I bid thee!


Soon to be roaming numerals-




When Broseph needs a smoke now, and then-


So they loaded up the truck and moved to Chiltonville…








Tagged , ,

Playing many parts-

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

(Act II, Scene I, As You Like It)

That’s some dank verse, Will.


Amy with the season’s first performance on The New Napkin Stage.

A few years ago, we cut a frame for the non-profit Worcester Shakespeare Company and their Artistic Director Mel Cobb, who helped with the building of the replica Globe Theatre in London.

Each summer WSC performs Shakespeare along the scenic Blackstone River in Whitinsville, Mass. It’s a talented and energized group from all over the world who put on the best Shakespeare locally. This year’s play is As You Like It.

For us, it’s a July tradition to truck the stage’s many parts 60-odd miles from Plymouth where they are stored for the off-season.

 Once we remember which part goeth where, that puppy is raised.


As is tradition, Mel, Chris, and all the players help us raise the timbers.



The “pillars of Hercules” were made out of a single piece of pine. The impossibly talented Pen Austin painted the faux marble.


Detail of Pen’s “heavens” panels.

A little more has been added to the stage each year, bringing the experience that much closer to the ol’ scribe’s original vibe.

After we raised the main stage, we scooted back to the framing yard to cut this year’s addition: A 2-story wing off stage left consisting of chambers for Lords and Ladies, who, historically, wouldn’t be caught dead with the hurly burly down below in the cheap seats.

Michael laid the frame out via proportional geometry, which is a whole other story.


With the help of several chisel and saw jockeys, we got busy cutting. Scene 1, Act 1 was breathing down our necks.


Amy and Kevin cutting joints in iambic pentameter.



Brock paring a tenon for The Bard



MLB test-fitting braces to avoid a Shakespearean tragedy.


As You Like It, A Space Odyssey.


nonplussed pussy

Sweet are the uses of adversity…

(Act II, Scene I)


Rain made an unexpected cameo in the second Act.


You and you are sure together,

As the winter to foul weather. 

(Act V Scene IV)

A week’s work done and the stage, of many parts, to be continued…


Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things.

(Act V Scene II)



First performances are just underway and continue through August 21st.

Click below for information on the Worcester Shakespeare Company’s 2016 Season:

Tagged , ,

All the world’s a stage…

The final 2013 performances of the Worcester Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice go on this weekend, August 23-25th. Here’s to good weather and broken legs!

Our part in this drama was to get the stage to a presentable stage for the 2013 season. This meant some late hours for Mr. Burrey in his workshop:


Michael working the stairs. Treadest thou on me.

The newel post spoke with an Elizabethan flourish…



And was joined into the stairs…


Frame and paneling for the rear stage wall gave the stage depth. All the joints were hand-cut and the pieces hand-planed.


I was a little worried that the period appropriate colors would be tres gauche and reminiscent of a fast food joint…


But the linseed oil-based paint really hinted at the spectacle which any self-respecting London play-goer would reasonably expect in the early 17th-century.

So from Plymouth to Whitinsville, this year’s final touches departed.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Moving Co.

The colorful front steps really popped against the stage and gave a preview to next season’s stage finishing. Skirt boards trimmed both front and sides. LIke the steps, these will be further embellished with color and moldings in time for next year’s performance.


The rear wall frame and panels were stood and joined ere WSC’s first performance.


An MLB joint. Eat your heart out, Spike Lee!


Artistic Director Mel Cobb and Michael have big plans for significant additions to the stage. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to do in the greater Worcester area this weekend, hie thee to Whitinsville post-haste ere ye players and their play exeunt!


Photo courtesy of “Alternatives”

blue acornblue acornblue acorn

Tagged , ,

A pound of flesh, please…


It’s right there–in the middle.

There was a tidy write-up of one of the initial performances of The Worcester Shakespeare Company‘s The Merchant of Venice in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette recently:

We’re happy to say that it was a very favorable review. Even our recreated Shakespeare stage made a cameo in the article.


But the stage–dubbed McCurdy’s “New Napkin” Stage”, in homage to one of its designers and the medium on which it was designed–was built in Plymouth and it needed to commute to Whitinsville in time for the Companys’ first performance.

So we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly…


What a great old mill town along The Mumford River–


But enough site-seeing. We had a stage to raise.


The Riverside Piazza is the framed by the Whitinsville Mill and the nice folks at Alternatives. It’s an ideal setting for a play. Many of the company’s actors were there to help us. This was not a rehearsal.


Artistic director and actor Mel Cobb and Chris Gates, production manager, were also there to meet us. Mr. Burrey, an accomplished playa himself, would brook no idleness among the thespians, and immediately set them a-work.


Truthfully, the actors were VERY helpful and gracious in their helping. After all, how many actors get to help build, then perform on a stage plucked from the Elizabethan era? I imagine it would be like playing an exact replica Mozart’s violin…or something like that.


Once the supporting timbers were fit, trenails followed. Each actor had a turn driving an oak pin to hold fast the joint:





Including Mel himself, who seemed all-too-comfortable with mallet in hand:


There are rumors of Mel having had a bit part in the original Hawaii 5-O.

Joists and floorboards made their entrance, stage right:



The posts followed. Chris was a natural using the beetle:


There are rumors that Chris used to drive tent stakes for the circus…

As the shadows drew longer, the actors went to rehearse. We wound the day down by setting lintels between the posts and attaching a temporary set of stairs.


The company returned, ready to take this stage for a spin in its new home. Mel put the day’s work in context, reminding the players of their “ownership” and stewardship of the stage and of the unique opportunity it presented them. At Mel’s behest, the actors took a stroll around the stage in a circle for a few moments. I could only imagine it helped them “hear” and feel the floorboards and frame. It seemed almost a form of meditation.


Stage rehearsal in Whitinsville began for the first time.


Performances of The Merchant of Venice continue through August 25th. Visit the Worcester Shakespeare Company’s web site for more information:

If you are interested in auditioning, offering your expertise in box office, stage management, design, running crew or helping in any other way, please email to:

blue acorn

Stay tuned for more posts on the snappy finishing of the 2013 version of The McCurdy “New Napkin” Stage…!

Tagged , , ,

The Scottish play and other superstitions

images (1)

No one told me that I wasn’t supposed to say “Macbeth” on stage…

I mean, clearly you don’t change your socks during a hitting streak, you put your pillows on left to right, and you most certainly keep it to yourself when a pitcher has held opponents hitless through 7 innings.

But uttering that word while constructing a Shakespearean stage for the Worcester Shakespeare Company in the lovely former mill-town of Whitinsville, MA? My bad, good people. If the gudgeon gives way or a spindle splinters, it’s on me. Let’s back up a little and see if we can’t wrest some good karma from the humble beginnings of this project’s origins…

Out of his self-drawing web, he gives us note  King Henry VIII: I, i


As with so many good endeavors, it’s helpful to have input and to have plans. Michael and Pret (above) along with internationally renowned timber framer Peter McCurdy and Worcester Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Director Mel Cobb put their heads together and drew up an historically-minded design which Elizabethan actors would have been very familiar with.

Peter, you should know, was the primary builder of the Globe Theatre reconstruction in London. Just a little something for his resume. And Mel, well, Mel was part of the inaugural performance on that very stage, which involved  an actual broken leg and a guy plastering who knew the lines.

When workmen strive to do better than well   King John: IV, ii

The stage began humbly, its framing elements delivered to Michael’s yard.


This is direct evidence of the first performance on this stage!

Joinery fell out…


and pieces started to fall together as they had been drawn up and had once been.


Work continued apace…



and the principal carpenter put on quite a performance:


Click on me for gif magic!

Though from an humble stock, undoubtedly   King Henry VIII: IV, ii

Some good and talented friends came to help out, including teacher Rich F. from The North Bennet Street School in Boston. Rich laid floorboards like a BOSS. He is as talented as he is humble. If you’re ever driving north on route 93 into Boston, you’re probably stuck in traffic. When you get towards the gas tanks in Dot on your right (hey Maaaky Maaak!) have a look over to your left at the church steeple behind the windmill. Rich and his second-year North Bennet students made that.


“Bigger Hammer Hardware Company how may I direct your call?”

Go, go, cheer up thy hungry-starved men  King Henry VI, part I: I, v


There’s more than one merchant in Venice.

More relative than this: the play ‘s the thing   Hamlet: II, ii

Things began to look…staged!


Mel arrived early for the stage’s first rehearsal.


He was followed by Worcester Shakespeare Company actors, who were given a “staged” briefing and some historic context by Michael.


Onto rehearsal. This summer’s play: The Merchant of Venice.


What a great group of kids: One’s in pre-med, several are NY-based actors, another from France.

You do their work, and they shall have good luck:   A Midsummer Night’s Dream: II, i

I may have ill-referenced that bloody Scottish noble while upon the stage, but the white dove who landed above us counts for something other than a Stevie Nicks song, amiright?


Playahs play!


to be continued…

For more information on The Worcester Shakespeare Company’s summer 2013 production of The Merchant of Venice, see their website:

blue acorn

Tagged , , ,