Naked Shakespeare is Acorn Productions’ acting ensemble dedicated to presenting the works of the Bard in non-traditional venues without sets, lights, and with minimal costumes, in a style that hearkens back to the manner in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed.
The ensemble participates in ongoing training sessions that involve voice, body and text in order to assist them in speaking the text in an embodied and authentic way. Naked Shakespeare performances are designed to be accessible to all audience members, even those that are not familiar with his work. The ambiance and performance style encourage an intimate relationship between actor and audience that allows the language to take center stage.
Naked Shakespeare began in the fall of 2004 as a way to continue working with actors who had been a part of the production of Twelfth Night at the Stage at Spring Point. From the beginning, the company has explored techniques of presenting short snippets of text through innovative and accessible productions, by mingling actors in and around the audience, delivering sonnets and soliloquies conversationally and in unexpected ways to allow listeners to find new meaning in the text.
Over the company’s first few years, we performed a series of scene nights at SPACE Gallery that gradually morphed into a monthly series of Sonnets and Soliloquies that were presented first at Meritage Wine Bar on Preble St., and then during a five-year run at the Wine Bar on Wharf Street. Naked Shakespeare has also produced a number of adaptations and shortened versions of full-length plays, including The Life and Times of Falstaff, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II, As You Like It, Antony and Cleopatra, The War of the Roses, and Hamlet. These plays have been mounted in a variety of venues including One Longfellow Square, Riverbank Park in Westbrook, the Portland Museum of Art, and the St. Lawrence Arts Center.
Naked Shakespeare has also created two performance installations: Cymbeline Underground at Battery Steele on Peaks Island, and All’s Well on the Waterfront at the Portland Yacht Services Building 11. In addition to these performances, Naked Shakespeare regularly toured hour-long productions to high schools, retirement communities, libraries, and colleges.
In 2014, Naked Shakespeare took up residence in Mechanics Hall in downtown Portland. The First Friday performing series was born, and continued with two full seasons (from October to May) of hour-long adaptations in the historic ballroom. Naked Shakespeare has also appeared twice in PortFringe: Dark Rooms (2016) and The Cursed (2018).
For 2018, we are returning to our wine bar roots, in local venues, and will be presenting a full-length adaptation of Pericles at Space Gallery in March 2019.