Theater & Dance
"ShakesBEERience: Your Way" benefit

Produced by: ShakesBEERience
Directed by: John McCluggage
When: September 22, 2015
Where: Café Stritch, 374 S 1st St, San Jose,California
Up next
"The Tempest"
By: William Shakespear
Produced by: ShakesBEERience
Directed by: John McCluggage
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, October 26, 2015
Where: Café Stritch, 374 S 1st St, San Jose,California
Tickets: Free. Visit ShakesBEERience

Urbanowski, McCLuggage
Tony Lacy-Thompson / Regarding Arts
Producers Alexandra Urbanowski, left, and John McCluggage at the "ShakesBEERience: Your Way" benefit on September 22, 2015, at Café Stritch.
Forsooth, for Shakespeare,
for beer and good times!
ShakesBEERience raises some money
and more than a few tankards of ale
October 4, 2015

You ever have one of those dreams where you kind of recognize the people, and they keep saying bizarre things, but in context?

There was a lot of that at the "ShakesBEERience: Your Way" benefit on September 22, 2015, at Café Stritch, San Jose. Especially in the Madlibs section of the evening. Here members of the audience were encouraged to shout out words of a particular category (verb, noun, etc) and ShakesBEERience actors then inserted the words in passages of Shakespeare text, replacing the original words. On reading, the "edited" texts the effect was quite hilarious.

ShakesBEERience brings Shakespeare to the masses by putting on the Bard’s plays in an informal setting at Café Stritch, with no costumes and the actors reading their scripts and passing amongst the audience. Yay verily, and sometimes audience members themselves even become part of the play.

The end result is either an easy introduction, or a new appreciation for Shakespeare’s plays in a fun evening which tends to get rowdier as more beer is consumed. And beer drinking is mandatory when anyone dies. In the play, that is.

The regular quarterly ShakesBEERience plays are free, but the September event was a fundraiser to support the productions. They may not have had Bingo in Elizabethan times, but it seemed to matter not a jot to the assembled patrons, with words from various passages taking the place of numbers, requiring a little more concentration than the standard form. The winner was Lucas Imboden.

Lucas, who, despite his young age I suspect is no stranger to treading the boards, also participated in the Shakespeare karaoke, and did a great job reading a sonnet. Music was not involved; instead, brave souls were given a speech or soliloquy to read to the audience. No easy task, reading a Shakespeare passage for possibly the first time, in front of an audience. Luckily, they were not too critical, and anyone who stepped onto the stage got an encouraging round of applause.

A few drinks and a nice dinner and we were all ready for dessert and the main event. Act III of the evening was provided by the talented improv team at San Jose’s ComedySportz. ComedySportz has nothing to do with sports per se, but is comedy played AS a sport. Normally, two teams of "act-letes" compete for audience laughs and points while improvising scenes, games, operas and musicals based on the audience’s suggestions. Well this time the improv was all Shakespearean, and there was no lack of comedy. The audience suggested the title "Twitter A-go-go," though the subtitle was "Much Improv About Nothing, the Greatest Play Never Written By Shakespeare."

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The action started with the lord Anthraxio, played by Drew Simchik, discussing with his brother Artifax (Jimmy Snell) their shared interest in the lovely Rosalinde, played by the excellent Derek McCaw. Loose references to both Shakespeare and Twitter resulted in lines such as "How do I love thee, let me count the ways" (wait, that was Browning wasn’t it?), followed by "Oh do so, in words of 140 characters or less" (that was definitely Twitter).

Though a number of deaths ensued, Jeff Kramer as the messenger seemed to come out the worst, losing a hand with the delivery of each message, though I often feared for the life and limb of Thomas the servant, played by Tom Gough.

Then there was "The Assassins Guild" to be reckoned with, played by Kevin O’Shea and Andy Alder, each trying to outdo the other in their method of dispatching their victims. And of course, "What happens in the Assassins Guild, stays in the Assassins Guild." With references to Elvis of Presley Woods, former King, what started as light comedy gradually descended into Shakespearean farce, accompanied by raucous laughter from the audience. The plots twisted and turned and although the Bard didn’t actually write this particular play, I think he would have been proud of it if he had. More or less.

As the improv team carefully pulled the various plot themes together, a number of deaths ensued, though no actors were actually harmed in the process. We were all there to enjoy some Shakespearean shenanigans, but we came away with a resolution to visit ComedySportz at the earliest opportunity.

The benefit and all productions are produced and directed by John McCluggage, and the next ShakesBEERience production is "The Tempest," on October 26, 2015, at Café Stritch. Come early, as the place gets packed.

"Watch out he's winding the watch of his wit, by and by it will strike." Aye, and on that day it will strike at 6.30 p.m.

Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at

Lucas Imboden
Tony Lacy-Thompson / Regarding Arts
Lucas Imboden is one of the audience members who got up and performed Shakespeare Karaoke at the "ShakesBEERience: Your Way" benefit on September 22, 2015, at Café Stritch.
McCaw, Alder, O'Shea, Snell, Simchik
Tony Lacy-Thompson / Regarding Arts
The ComedySportz team at "ShakesBEERience: Your Way" on September 22, 2015, included, from left, Derek McCaw as Rosalinde, Andy Alder as Assassin 1, Kevin O'Shea as Assassin 2, Jimmy Snell as Artifax, and Drew Simchik as Anthraxio.