Once a celebration of the slice-free swing and the perfect putt, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens is, for a few performances, at least, being transformed into an enchanted isle where shipwrecks, first love and other acts of romance and revenge will be played out.
Behind the Masque, the Augusta troupe, best-known for bringing creative performance to the streets, is staging William Shakespeare's The Tempest at the gardens for two weekends of intimate walking tour performances.
Using bunkers, buildings and bays of exotic flora as the backdrop for Shakespeare's distinctive prose, the group hopes to take the play back to its arboreal roots.
"We fell on The Tempest because so many of the other popular Shakespearean works have been overdone in this market," said Gary Dennis, Behind the Masque's co-director. "This would have been a wonderful setting for A Midsummer Night's Dream, but who wants to see another interpretation of that? The Tempest fit the set locations better than any of the other things we looked at."
While the garden setting is picture-perfect in terms of the story and setting, working outdoors has thrown up the occasional hurdle.
"The challenges involve trying to deal with light and sound requirements," said Behind the Masque co-director Joel Hodges. "In the open air, you can't control the light or the sound, as effectively as you can inside a theater. Still, the only time I worried is when we dragged that ship up the hill."
Perched above the garden waterfall, the hull of a wooden ship is clearly visible. The elaborate platform will place the actors about 20 feet over the audience, the largest expanse that will ever separate actor and patron.
Tyfanni Chaney, who plays the central role of innocent-in-love Miranda, said the secret of playing Shakespeare in such close proximity with an audience is in becoming comfortable with the role.
"It comes back to rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal," she said. "And then you go out and try to do it the way you would on a regular stage. Still, you are always aware that they (the audience) are there and that makes it fun."
WHAT: The Tempest
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and Oct. 14-17; wine and cheese reception at 7 p.m.
WHERE: The Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Botanical Gardens, 1 11th St.
COST: $35 show only, $45 reception and show. Visit www.behindthemasque.org.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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