Shakespeare brings sexy back to Chicago Theatre Week



Fifty Shades of Shakespeare

By Carolyn Bradley

In an effort to promote positive attitudes about sex, the (re)discover theatre is hosting a series of shows titled “Fifty Shades of Shakespeare” in which a four-person ensemble portrays love scenes from various Shakespearean plays.

Every night, the audience chooses which of the actors will play each role. Once chosen, actors portray their selected characters with the lines from the script while incorporating different sexual acts into the scene. The time between scenes features cast members reading the audience’s anonymous answers to questions about intimacy as well as some sex trivia. 

Ann Kreitman, the show’s director, is a resident artist with (re)discover theatre. She said (re)discover takes old theater texts and revamps them, similar to the style of this show. She also said the show’s title is inspired by the popular book “Fifty Shades of Grey” because the show brings alternative sexual lifestyles to the public consciousness.

Kreitman said the show was a real challenge for her as the director. She said the audience understanding the show’s message was paramount for her.

“It was important to me to make it about releasing the shame that we have around sex,” Kreitman said. “I think we will reach some people who need to hear this kind of material.”

To ensure the cast members were comfortable with each other and with the activities they would be portraying, Kreitman said her focus was on uniting the actors by doing team-building exercises. She said it was important that the actors would grow together as a unit.

“Once I leave, it’s their show,” Kreitman said.

The cast said the use of Shakespearean text in a modern setting allows an altered perspective of Shakespeare’s work.

“It’s taking us back to the original process of doing Shakespeare because they would learn new plays every week,” said cast member Andrew Lund.

When it comes to the language in the show, cast member Kelly Schmidt said the Shakespearean words relay subjects and themes that are still relevant in our society today.

“I like when you make it really relatable,” Schmidt said. “Because even though it’s language and text we don’t use colloquially, it’s still talking about the same stuff.”

Schmidt said she enjoys acting in the show because it can take new twists and turns every night, forcing all the actors to improvise. 

“Every night, it levels the playing field because you don’t know what you’re going to be doing [on stage],” Schmidt said. 

Cast member Shaina Schrooten said the ensemble works to make the show a sex-positive experience for the audience. According to Schrooten, the goal of the show is “to be able to bridge that gap and create that relationship and break down some barriers that might make people uncomfortable.”

Fellow cast member Gary Henderson said “Fifty Shades of Shakespeare” is one of the most collaborative shows he has ever worked on. 

“I’m enjoying using this really beautiful, concise language to break down a lot of gender roles that a lot of people might feel trapped inside and let people know that they don’t have to conform,” Henderson said.

Lund said the group was able to gauge the audience even just after opening night, and he said the show seems to be drawing in a diverse variety of attendees. 

“I’m really happy to see all sorts of gay couples, straight couples, trans couples and everything in between coming out to see the show,” Lund said. “That’s totally the message we’re hoping to convey.” 

“Fifty Shades of Shakespeare” runs every Monday, Friday and Saturday through Feb. 23 at The Pony, 1638 W. Belmont Ave.