A stage sits at the edge of a peninsula in Mary Alice Park. On it is a simple set: a two-story structure like the exterior of an old Tudor home in London, with three doors and a single balcony in the middle. It is purposefully plain, and most importantly outdoors, according to Dr. Brent Griffin.
This new formation will be the site of Griffin’s experiment to test north Georgia’s enthusiasm for Shakespearean performance, and whether Cumming can be the hub of it.
Griffin is producing the North Georgia Shakespeare Festival through his Resurgens Theatre Co., which begins with performances of “Twelfth Night” at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That will begin a three-weekend run, including performances of “The Tempest,” of what Griffin says is the only outdoor “original practices” event in Georgia.
What to know
When: “Twelfth Night” – 5:30 p.m., Sept. 13-15 and Sept. 27-28, 2 p.m., Sept. 29; “The Tempest” – 5:30 p.m., Sept. 20-22 and Sept. 29, 2 p.m., Sept. 28.
Where: Mary Alice Park, at 1820 Mary Alice Park Road in Cumming.
More info: www.resurgenstheatre.org
Griffin grew up in Stone Mountain and went on to earn a doctorate in Renaissance drama and performance. A past member of the research staff at the famous Globe Theatre in London, England, Griffin formed Resurgens in 2012 while teaching at Florida State University and always envisioned his small troupe producing an outdoor event.
And Griffin always wondered if the place to hold such an event should be Mary Alice Park. He first visited its shores in 2002. Linda Heard, the longtime executive director of the then-Cumming Playhouse, was developing a production about Forsyth County’s history and hired Griffin, then living in Atlanta, to portray Col. Hiram Parks Bell. The production eventually fizzled, but in the interim, Heard brought Griffin to Mary Alice Park to see if it was suitable for some kind of theater development.
Griffin had something else in mind.
“It just screamed to me Shakespeare festival,” Griffin said.
Now that he has the production company and the support of the city of Cumming, that vision has finally coming to fruition.
Resurgens has a number of unique qualities, according to Griffin. The company not only produces Shakespeare’s plays but also those of his 16th-century contemporaries: Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher. And they do so using “original practices,” a method of performance that’s meant to create an experience closer to what 16th-century audiences would’ve seen and heard, particularly through original pronunciation, minimalist staging, “organic music” and audience interaction.
“If they want to experience something that is as close as you’re going to get to the oral environs of early English, this is it,” Griffin said. “You’re not going to come closer to it.”
Griffin and Resurgens also try to follow several other aspects of early modern English theater. He employs “judicious editing” like would have been done for those original performances and chooses plays based on the skillsets of his actors, not the other way around.
Griffin also keeps the company small. Resurgens has 9-10 Atlanta-area actors, and each fill multiple rolls. One is the set designer. Another scores music. It keeps Resurgens lean, which has allowed them to slowly grow in the Atlanta area while other Shakespeare companies have folded.
Their absence has created a void of Renaissance theater in metro Atlanta, especially in North Georgia.
Griffin, who now lives in Forsyth County, thinks Resurgens Theatre Co. can fill it, and he believes Mary Alice Park can be its home.
“There’s a gaping hole there that we’re looking to jump right into,” Griffin said.
For the latest news
Support local journalism
A subscription to the Forsyth County News is the best way to support quality local journalism, and you can get started for just $0.99. Sign up HERE.