Nonprofit group brings Shakespeare to life

Blake Howell and Blake Howell

In their three performances of “The Comedy of Errors” last weekend, William Shakespeare was yet again brought to life by Beautiful Kids Independent Shakespeare (BKIS), a 17-year-old community theatre company passed down from one generation of students to the next.

BKIS hosted three performances in Bowling Green City Park at Needle Hall Stage, the oldest outdoor theatre in Ohio.

“The Comedy of Errors” is the tale of two sets of identical twins separated at birth that find each other in the same city, causing an array of mishaps based on mistaken identity. BKIS utilized the original script with played-up, slapstick comedy of their own improvising.

With no set pieces, limited but improvised costuming, a group of around 20 people and only three weeks to practice, the performances went extremely well and were thoroughly entertaining, sophomore Sophia Moretto said by email.

“Beautiful Children Production Company put on a spectacular modern adaptation of ‘The Comedy of Errors’ that was able to capture my attention for the entire duration of the performance,” she said.

Moretto also said the low-budget production, accompanied by talented actors, reminded her of how Shakespeare’s original performances would have been, something company producer and graduate student Ryan Albrecht said the performances try to achieve.

“I think we succeed in making Shakespeare more accessible,” Albrecht said. “You don’t necessarily go to see a play, but to hear a play. So not only do we get to pay homage to Shakespeare and do things a little more the way he did it … but it’s also cheaper.”

BKIS was established in the summer of 1997 when a group of University students decided they wanted to continue doing theatre into the summer.

Enough of them loved Shakespeare and decided that Shakespeare in the park needed to be something that existed.

According to Albrecht, the company is passed down from a graduating student to another, who will be around for another few years, and then he or she does the same.

Because the production company holds their performances on public property, they do not charge for tickets and are only in existence thanks to fundraising and generous donations throughout the years.

However, Albrecht said they wouldn’t charge people even if they were allowed to.

“We’re not doing it for money, we’re doing it for fun, for theatre. It’s Shakespeare,” he said.

BKIS has been a tight-knit group of people doing what they love: Shakespeare and small-community theatre.

Although the production value is minimal, junior Griffin Coldiron said he loves being a part of the family-like organization and never really understood the adage of “Shakespeare in the Park” until he joined. He also said he thrives off the vacancy of set pieces and a grand stage.

Coldiron is in his second summer with the production company and starred as one of the twins in “The Comedy of Errors.”

“I’m a big fan of minimalist work,” Coldiron said by email. “Without elaborate sets and costumes, the pressure is on for us as actors. It’s on the voice and body alone to really strike the story home.”

Coldiron and Albrecht both feel that a BKIS production is unlike any other theatre production people will see in Bowling Green, and it often feels like they’re flying by the seat of their pants.

However, since the cast, director and other crew members all spend about 20 hours a week with each other rehearsing after the last week of classes so as to not to interfere with classes or exams, the dedicated group bonds and is able to come together to do Shakespeare justice.

“It’s really cool to see people from all walks of life, to come together for a common bond,” Albrecht said.

Whether rehearsing, grabbing a beer or watching “Game of Thrones,” the BKIS production company has been a bond between friends and passionate people for 17 years and is still going strong.

In fact, for the first time ever, BKIS is putting on its second show for the summer, something they’ve never been able to do because of limited funds.

William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” will be put on at Needle Hall Stage starting July 17 and ending July 19.

All are welcome to attend, free of charge, to see what Albrecht calls “Bowling Green’s Best Kept Secret.”