Even though the weather report for July 23 warned of high temperatures, the crowd for Samuel Peaches’s Peripatetic Players’ outdoor performance of “Shakespeare or Space Wars” near the Mission Branch Library didn’t mind. And while the library staff offered free popcorn and lemonade to soothe the warm crowd, the audience was already “cool”–they clamored to participate in the show and roared with laughter in all the right moments.
The award-winning five player troupe, which debuted in 2013 at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, is dedicated to classic adaptations–previously, they created tributes to Rudyard Kipling’s stories and Aesop’s fables. Rebecca Longworth who plays Madame Directrix, explains, “This show is our most ambitious yet. Where else can you see two well-known stories performed together in about eighty minutes?”
This script relies on a charming conceit–confident troupe leader Samuel Peaches (Casey Robbins) wants to showcase his acting talents in Shakespeare’s famous story of Verona’s star-crossed lovers while his easily-excitable younger sister and prop-master Thumper (Joan Howard) prefers to replay the action scenes of her favorite space opera–a certain sci-fi hit by mastermind “Leorge Geucas.” Princess Gwen (Marlene Yarosh) and Percival Perkins (Soren Santos) provide plenty of comic relief through their many character roles while also comforting poor, timid Meekins (Sam Bertken) who frequently begs to switch the scene between shows so none of his favorite characters are harmed. Along the way, the players offer up clever inside-jokes and asides reminiscent of The Princess Bride, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and, of course, Spaceballs.
This two-summer-run of “Shakespeare or Space Wars” is also focused on expanding free theatre opportunities in local communities. Longworth adds, “We really like to go to smaller parks in neighborhoods to perform. […] We love meeting an all-new audience every time and we get excited to see people experiencing theatre with friends and family. We want to make creativity accessible.”
While enjoying an ambitious summer run in over a dozen parks, the players have also carefully maintained their trademark DIY aesthetic–relying, for example, on plastic buckets for Stormtrooper helmets, audience-played kazoos for musical interludes and multicolored paper airplanes for the final “Death Moon” explosion scene–to the delight of the all-ages audience. The stage itself is built into what the troupe affectionately calls the “FluxWagon” so it is easily transportable.
Joan Howard who built the FluxWagon says, “Our mission is to bring delight to public spaces. It feels like one of those Medieval pageant wagons has come to town. Everyone can find a way into our stories because there’s something so deeply satisfying about low-tech theatre magic. We’re inviting the audience to believe along with us.”
Santos couldn’t agree more: “Our shows are more of a conversation that includes the audience.”
And, clearly, Santa Clara was happy to participate. For more information or to attend a different performance, visit peripateticplayers.org.