TheatreSquared featured the premiere of “Shakespeare in Love” at its newest facility, which brought a newfound sense of modern theater in an exceptional first performance due to the new spaces configured specifically for the experience and proficiency. 

Based on the screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, “Shakespeare in Love” encapsulates the language of love and comedy and delivers in its promiscuity and light-hearted fun as a young William Shakespeare (Mathew Goodrich) looks for his inspiration in Viola de Lesseps (Stephanie Bignault) to dash his creative block and finish writing “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter.”  

Action-packed swordplay, live music and a dog named Pearl all added to the whimsical and wonderfully dramatic ambiance that transported audience members into the world of fated love and scandalous social class relations loosely related to Shakespeare’s classic tragedy “Romeo and Juliet”. 

The play explores what it means to fall in and out of love, the relatable experience of writer’s block and scandalous nighttime rendezvous between Will and Viola.

Shakespeare wrote, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” in his classic “Romeo and Juliet”, but in TheatreSquared’s case, it just leads to a new beginning in an even better facility. 

The previous building was much smaller, and the lobby became a bit cramped come intermission. In the new facility, space is not an issue.

The architecture and space provided a chic, rustic environment complete with a café in the lobby, which sold pastries and coffee to perfect the experience. During intermission, audience members walked out into the lobby and utilized the new and comfortable place to socialize. They placed orders at the complete bar and café, and appreciative murmurs and excited buzz arose about the new building.

TheatreSquared, which was founded in 2005, is a professional performing arts center in Fayetteville that serves more than 50,000 patrons each year. The theater’s recent renovation came as a result of the “Our Next Stage Campaign,” according to TheatreSquared. 

Joanna Bell, Communications Director for TheatreSquared, said that for their entire time at the Walton Center, there were always some inherent challenges in producing some of their plays such as limited studio space and seating capacity.

Bell thanked the City of Fayetteville for granting TheatreSquared a 100-year lease on their plot of land. 

“We got to build something from the ground up, which even these world class theater designers who are working in major cities, don’t get to do,” Bell said. 

TheatreSquared’s new building is a custom-built space that was made keeping in mind the things they loved about the old space, Bell said.

This is evident once inside the new building and experiencing the new facility for the first time.

Bell said that they made everything about “Shakespeare in Love” to the scale of the newest facility. Bell called the new production a “love letter to theater,” and even said that it had the largest cast they’ve ever had on stage with more than 200 costume pieces that constantly kept audience members on their toes. 

The levels to the new theater include both ground floor and upstairs circular seating that provide great views of the production and leave little else to miss as the audience is right in the midst of the action.

The new building holds two additional performance spaces, the West Theatre and the Spring Theatre, Bell said. The West Theatre features a capacity of 290 seats, which is about 100 seats more than the old facility. 

Bell also said that building the new facility was an opportunity to share their new productions and spaces with as many people as they wanted.

The renovation and construction project are only the beginning for TheatreSquared, Bell said. 

“The sky’s the limit from here on out,” Bell said. 

With this mentality, the production of “Shakespeare in Love” was a success in every form including acting, set design and costume variety. All of which was created with the intention to give audience members the best experience possible at the new theater space.

With fresh architecture and wide-open spaces to practice and produce creatively, this opening season is one of the best TheatreSquared has seen in a  while. 

“Shakespeare in Love” was TheatreSquared’s largest cast production to-date, Bell said. 

Productions of "Shakespeare in Love" will be on stage until Sept. 15. The play has a run time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Tickets range from $37-49 and can be purchased on TheatreSquared’s website. 

The next production in Theatre Squared’s new space will be “Native Gardens”, a play following the relationship of two neighboring couples that turns into an issue regarding the fence between them. The play will run from October 2- Nov. 11. 

The remaining productions in TheatreSquared’s include “A Christmas Carol”, “The Royale”, “Ann”, “My Father’s War” and “Matilda: the Musical.”

Discounts are offered to patrons under 30 years old, groups of 10, 20 or 40 people, according to TheatreSquared. Families who qualify for federal SNAP assistance can show their current Electronic Benefits Transfer card in person at the box office to gain access to $5 tickets all year.

Caitlin Lane is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since April 2019.

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