A time traveler has come to alter the present, change the past and perhaps create an alternate future — and his name is William Shakespeare. In this scenario, the Bard comes to present-day Nashville, armed only with the First Folio and a seemingly unlimited arsenal of epigrams, aphorisms, couplets and (when big guns are needed) maybe a soliloquy or two. With these ageless weapons, he intends to protect modern audiences from one of the 20th century's most odious threats: James Cameron's dialogue.
Cameron's storytelling, though — that's a different matter. When longtime friends Marshall Weber and Cody De Vos (who worked together on the award-winning indie feature Make-out with Violence) started comparing the director's 1990 blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day to The Riverside Shakespeare, they were startled to find many of the same elements. Not just broad narrative strokes such as parental bonds and bold hero-villain conflicts, but lines that actually sound similar themes of imminent cataclysm, deceitful appearances and concern about the future. By the time they reached a declaration by Hamlet uncannily suited to Robert Patrick's molten-metal T-1000 — "Oh, that this too, too solid flesh should melt" — a seed had taken root in their minds.
For Terminator the Second, the first production of their Husky Jackal theater company, the authors began combing through Shakespeare's plays. Specifically, they sought dialogue and characters that would hew to the plot of Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza.
"It was easy to find the parallels," says Weber, who's known De Vos ever since they both appeared in a Hendersonville High production of James and the Giant Peach. (De Vos played an earthworm; Weber was a centipede who "looked like a giant piece of poop with a face hole.") Nine months later, they emerged with a script that translates Cameron's dystopian thrill ride into a patchwork quilt of quotations from Macbeth, Richard III, Titus Andronicus and other canonical texts. Only proper nouns, pronouns and corresponding verb tenses were changed, De Vos says.
It's a gimmick that could easily exhaust its novelty. But judging by a recent run-through at an equally unorthodox rehearsal space — a sweltering van-repair shop in a grimy Sixth Avenue industrial district not unlike the world after SkyNet— Husky Jackal's cast is treating the script with equal reverence for Cameron's film and Shakespeare's plays. NYU-trained stage actress Kahle Reardon may have been speaking a passage Frankensteined from Hamlet's "There are more things in heaven and earth than dreamt of in your philosophy" and Richard III's "I prophesy the fearfull'st time to thee." But as she snarled the words, they morphed like the T-1000 into Sarah Connor's terrifying vision of the future.
"We're really being sincere," says Jamie Bradley, the 26-year-old actress assigned the role of Cameron's 12-year-old savior John Connor. Other cast members include Jasson Cring as the Terminator, Weber as T-1000, Kyle Williams, John Silvestro, Wes Lewis, Sarah Van Arsdal, Diana Holland, Todd Rowan and Alex Ezell. How on earth will they pull off the movie's show-stopping effects sequences — the shape-shifting, the reservoir chase, the chopper crash? Hell, fans will even want to know whether Reardon has mastered Linda Hamilton's ability to cock a pump-action shotgun one-handed.
All will be answered Oct. 14-17 when Terminator the Second opens at Nashville School of the Arts, boosted by a Kickstarter campaign that went viral and netted the production significantly more than the $3,000 it sought. Sitting in the gravel lot behind their rehearsal space, flanked by rusted Volvos, Weber and De Vos now say they're glad they didn't pursue their first fundraising idea: manning a chili food truck in fake mustachios. Didn't some guy once write something about how the play's the thing?
Sept. 29-Oct. 2: Sideshow Fringe Festival
Fringe festivals, long staples in big towns like New York and LA, offer exposure for alternative performers. Actors Bridge Ensemble paves the way for Music City's entry into the genre, providing a forum for aerial dancers, jugglers, fire eaters, magicians and puppeteers, plus Caffeinated Theatre (a live-theater version of the 48 Hour Film Project), stand-up comedy, original scripts and storytelling, and one-woman shows from singer Annie Sellick and writer-choreographer Gabrielle Saliba. Music, visual art and workshops are also part of the celebration. Belmont's Black Box Theater and surrounding venues
Sept. 30-Oct. 31: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Richard O'Brien's "fright" musical is a campy hoot and a certain people-pleaser. It's been mounted in Nashville before —by Circle Players and others not too long ago — but Boiler Room Theatre's first-ever attempt at the piece bears watching, especially since the roof could be seriously raised in the company's intimate venue, with the culminating fanatical performance taking place on Halloween evening. Megan Murphy Chambers directs, Pam Atha choreographs, and among the cast are Geoff Davin, Melodie Madden Adams and Patrick Kramer, with Mike Baum and Britt Byrd as the betrothed Brad and Janet. The supporting players are talented and experienced as well. The Factory at Franklin
Oct. 1-15: All My Sons
This tense Arthur Miller story of family, friendship and personal ethics on the World War II homefront was mounted successfully in early 2010 in a joint collaboration by Actors Bridge Ensemble and Belmont University. Similar and possibly even better results loom with Tennessee Repertory Theatre's season-starter, which promises to be a feast of serious thespian craft, with a cast that includes Chip Arnold, Holly Allen, Ruth Cordell, Nate Eppler, Isaiah Frank, Emily Landham, Marin Miller, Eric Pasto-Crosby, Peter Vann and Patrick Waller. (Whew!) Rene Copeland directs. TPAC's Johnson Theater
Oct. 19-Nov. 6: Wicked
If there's a traveling show that defies gravity, it's definitely the musical Wicked, which may never be brought down to earth as it tours the world. The Sept. 2009 TPAC touring engagement was a smash, not least because the show was as advertised, i.e., stirringly written, beautifully acted and sung, dynamically staged and keenly — and lovingly — conscious of the Dorothy Gale in all of us. Bringing it back through Nashville is a no-brainer, and those who've never seen it should swell the already built-in audience of committed returning fans. TPAC's Jackson Hall
Oct. 28-30: Cinderella
Sergei Prokofiev might be identified more readily with the charming children's tale Peter and the Wolf or even his eccentric piano pieces, but he remains underrated where big and influential orchestral works are concerned. His Cinderella is a masterpiece, filled with exoticism and darkness plus broadly animated romantic strokes, all of it consummately arranged. Here, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra plays while members of the Nashville Ballet perform artistic director Paul Vasterling's original choreography. This large-scale production, the ballet company's season opener, also features an expanded ensemble as well as 18th century period costumes and impressionistic settings never before seen in Nashville. TPAC's Polk Theater
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