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Shakesbeers Showdown: A Conversation with Spur of the Moment Shakespeare Collective | Shakespeare in Toronto

By April 18, 2017 No Comments

This is part of an ongoing series of regional Shakespeare coverage. It’s Tori here with the latest in Shakespeare news from Toronto.

In less than two weeks, star-crossed lovers and performers of Shakespeare will gather together for the sixth annual Shakesbeers Showdown to help raise money for Spur of the Moment Shakespeare Collective’s Shakespeare in Hospitals Initiative. The premise is simple: actors from some of Toronto’s best Shakespeare companies will gather together to attempt to read sections of the first folio while consuming enormous amounts of beer. For every mistake that is made, the competitor must drink. The last competitor standing this year will receive the coveted Heavyweight belt and the heavyweight of the beer in their stomach. I caught up with the teams competing this year and will be posting their responses over the next two weeks, but first I caught up with Torey Urquhart, the Artistic Director and co-founder of Spur of the Moment Shakespeare Collective to find out what this event means to her.

Tori: What can you tell me about this event?

Torey: We at the Spur-Of-The-Moment Shakespeare Collective are gearing up for our sixth annual “Shakesbeers Showdown” in support of our Shakespeare in Hospitals program. On April 30th Toronto’s hottest indie Shakespeare companies will face-off in a battle of winner-takes-all, loser-drinks-most, as contestants cold read scenes from Shakespeares notoriously-hard-to-read First Folio. The winner will be crowned the revered Shakesbeers Showdown Heavyweight Champion (complete with championship belt). This event has been rated by NOW magazine as “One of the top shows of the weekend” (2014) and was rated as one of the top events to celebrate the bard’s birthday by the Toronto Star this past year.
The rules are simple: If you screw up, you drink! Competitors will read from one of what is considered the most accurate editions of William Shakespeare’s canon, complete with illegible calligraphy- some say Bill even originated an emoticon or two. The winner with the least drinks from each round advances and the others enjoy their frothy just desserts, provided by Amsterdam Brewery this year.

This event raises money for your Shakespeare in Hospitals Initiative, what should people know and how is it related to the Showdown?

So, the #ShakesbeersShowdown is a Fundraiser for the Shakespeare-In-Hospitals Program each year. It’s a great connector for the program because artistically, that program is a roundtable for discussion about traditional and modern approaches to Shakespeare and performance, which I like to think is very reflective of how our company approaches the text. That was a mouthful. In short: we all do it differently. We all have our own set of rules that we choose to follow and not follow, not just in the text but on the stage. So let’s talk about it. Let’s share it. Not everyone is going to work for every person, but having that community and base for approaches makes it more accessible, not just for audiences, but for artists too. And it makes for some really exciting and risky theatre- that’s what I want to see.

Besides raising money for a fantastic cause, what does this event mean to you?

HOO BOY. That’s a tough question. I think for me this event is a great opportunity for many things within the theatre community and the indie Shakespeare community. It definitely brings us together in many ways, but I think the biggest one of all is the fact that we get to laugh and celebrate our mistakes. People don’t realize how much of an opportunity there is for mistakes in Shakespeare, and let’s be honest: Bill certainly made a few in his time too. It’s humbling but in an open and free way. It’s very easy to take ourselves wayyyy to seriously in Shakespeare. This cracks that facade that you have to be a super scholar- not that being a scholar is bad! It’s just welcoming to everyone.

So yeah, it’s an opportunity to laugh at ourselves, to be unapologetically nerdy, to open up to the community, to be inclusive, to smash concepts of age determining skill, and much more, but perhaps most importantly, it’s an opportunity to celebrate our mistakes. And I love that.

This event has become a well-loved tradition in Toronto in the last six years and you definitely do not want to miss it! Get your tickets to the 2017 #SHAKESBEERSSHOWDOWN (on April 30th) before they’re gone!
Check out the buzz here:

And check back here for more from the rest of the competitors in the coming days!

Author Tori Carlisle

Toronto Regional Editor. Tori is a passionate high school English teacher based in Toronto. She holds a BA from the University of Toronto in English, History, and Renaissance and Reformation Studies, an MA in English Literature from York University, and a Masters of Teaching from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She is a lover of all things Shakespeare and cats!

More posts by Tori Carlisle

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