The Tennessee Stage Company is upping the ante on William Shakespeare.
While the play traditionally has two sets of twins as lead characters in the play, an additional set of real-life twins from Maryville will be cast in supporting roles for this year’s production of “Comedy of Errors.”
The company’s actors will perform at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 25, on the lawn of the Blount County Public Library, 509 N. Cusick St., Maryville.
Company executive director Tom Parkhill said “Comedy of Errors” is one of the famed playwright’s early comedies. “It is before William Shakespeare became a very sophisticated writer, so all he was trying to do in this one was get some yucks,” said Parkhill. “It is a big, funny play. He wasn’t ‘William Shakespeare. ‘ He was a young fellow trying to put his plays on stage.”
Parkhill said the original story is from a Roman play called ‘The Brothers.’ The original Roman play is the story of two twins, separated at birth. One starts looking for his brother and finally comes to town where his brother lives, and everyone confuses the two.
“Shakespeare doubled the ante by writing about two sets of identical twins. The two brothers each have servants growing up with them who are also identical twins, separated at birth, so there are four identical twins running around,” he said. “I’ve gone further. We had two young men from Maryville who auditioned, and they are identical twins. Chase and Chandler Condrone, who just turned 17. We didn’t cast them in lead roles, but in supporting roles, so we’re going to have three sets of ‘identical twins on stage. You can’t beat three sets of identical twins for confusion.”
Joan Van Sickle Sloan, community outreach coordinator with the library, said play-goers will want to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on the lawn for the production. Folks also are welcome to bring drinks or water, but no alcoholic beverages are allowed on site. The library’s Bookmark Café also will be open to sell cold drinks and smoothies before the play begins and during intermission. The show should wrap up between 8:30 and 9 p.m., she said.
Van Sickle Sloan said the first year the actors came to Blount County, they weren’t sure they wanted to come. The warm reception they received have kept them returning each year.
“They said the audiences in Blount County are so receptive and appreciative for having a Shakespeare play performed in Blount County that they now love coming to Blount County,” Van Sickle Sloan said.
Parkhill said the company started coming to the library in 2006. “It’s a real different experience out there, but the crowd is always enthusiastic, and it is always great to play to them at the library,” he said. “They have always been attuned to the performers, and they pick up on nuances. They are a great crowd to play to. When the crowd is involved, it brings out the best in the performer. The energy of the crowd in Maryville has always had a great impact and positive impact on shows over there.”
Van Sickle Sloan said the productions are always family-friendly affairs. “Families can come to these plays, and this one is a comedy so it is suitable for all ages. Little children can sit on the ground or on blankets at the front of the stage area and see very well,” she said.
The company always brings speakers along so the audience can hear what the actors are saying. “We usually have anywhere from 250 to 500 people for our audience, and it is just fun.”
Parkhill recalled how, over the years, he heard people in Maryville say, “We go to Knoxville all the time, and people in Knoxville don’t ever come out here.” Parkhill said those comments from various people resonated with him.
“I absolutely want to do whatever I can to make it work out to where we can come play in Maryville,” he said. “If we can bring a show to Maryville, we love to do that. It is a great community. The library is a great facility and organization. There is so much they offer to the community, and it is a real honor for us to be able to be a part of that and show that the Maryville audience and community is important to us. It is great for us to have the opportunity to come over.”