Improvised Shakespeare Company to Appear in Peristyle As Part of Holy Toledo Laughfest, Exhibition Activities

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What will happen on stage is anybody’s guess, but one thing is for sure: whatever you see and hear will be created right on the spot when the Improvised Shakespeare Company appears Oct. 8 at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle as part of Holy Toledo Laughfest.

The 6 p.m. performance by the critically acclaimed improv group is among a series of fall programs being offered in conjunction with the Museum’s free exhibition Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part, on view Sept. 2 through Jan. 8, 2017 in Gallery 6.

The Museum is honoring the great playwright 400 years after his death with an exhibition that explores The Bard’s band of characters and a series of performances, a Shakespeare on Film series and a lecture by exhibition curator Christina Larson, TMA’s Mellon Fellow.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company has been performing to sold-out audiences in Chicago since 2005. Based on one audience suggestion (a title for a play that has yet to be written), the company creates a fully improvised Shakespearean masterpiece right on stage. Each of the actors has brushed up on his “thee’s” and “thou’s” to provide an evening of off-the-cuff comedy using the language and themes of William Shakespeare. Nothing is planned out, rehearsed or written in advance.

Featured at the Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival, Off Broadway in New York City, the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival, San Francisco Sketchfest and the prestigious Just for Laughs festivals in Montreal and Chicago, the company has been named Chicago’s best improv group by both the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Examiner. The troupe also has received awards in Los Angeles (Best of LA-LA Weekly) and New York (New York Nightlife Awards).

Tickets for the performance at the Peristyle are $20 each and available for purchase online at

Approximately 30 paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs and illustrated books bring the beloved playwright’s works to life in the Shakespeare’s Characters exhibition. Among the works of art are Fred Wilson’s sculpture Iago’s Mirror (2009), which references “Othello,” and Arthur Hughes’s painting Ophelia (1865), which takes its subject from “Hamlet.” Other works dramatically represent scenes from “Romeo and Juliet,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “The Tempest” and other plays.

A list special events related to the free exhibition follows:


FREE Midweek Shakespeare
Wednesdays, Sept. 7, 2016 through Jan. 4, 2017: 2 p.m., Libbey Court
This midweek, mid-afternoon series celebrates the plays and poetry of William Shakespeare, including a reading of all 154 sonnets, famous and lesser-known scenes and monologues, plus music and other Shakespeare-inspired creative works.  Participants include students, faculty, and actors drawn from the Toledo School for the Arts, the Actors Collaborative of Toledo, the Bedford Community Players, the University of Toledo and more.

Toledo Symphony Orchestra: Shakespeare under Glass
Sept. 18: 7 p.m., GlasSalon, Admission charge
Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

Toledo Symphony Orchestra: “Romeo & Juliet” and “Much Ado About Nothing”
Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1: 8 p.m., Peristyle, Admission Charge
Two works inspired by Shakespeare, Korngold’s “Much Ado About Nothing Suite” and selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet” are performed under the baton of guest conductor Eugene Tzigane. For tickets, call 419-246-8000 or visit

The Improvised Shakespeare Company
Oct. 8: 6 p.m., Peristyle, Admission charge
Based on one audience suggestion (a title for a play that has yet to be written), The Improvised Shakespeare Company creates a fully improvised Shakespearean masterpiece right before your very eyes. Nothing has been planned, rehearsed or written in advance. The performance is presented as part of Holy Toledo Laughfest ( ) and in conjunction with the exhibition Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part. Tickets are $20 each and available at

FREE Great Art Escape Performance: Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits
Dec. 28: 2 p.m., Peristyle
Classic scenes and monologues will be performed by actors from the Toledo School for the Arts, the Actors Collaborative of Toledo and other organizations.

FREE Lecture

Christina Larson, “On a Role: Shakespeare’s Characters Imagined”
Nov. 12: 2 p.m., Little Theater
Christina Larson, TMA Mellon Fellow and curator of Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part, will talk about the imaginative images of the Bard’s beloved characters. She will discuss works of art in the exhibition and other favorite Shakespearian scenes.

FREE Film Series

Shakespeare on Film: Orson Welles’s “Chimes at Midnight” (1966, 116 minutes)
Oct. 16: 2 p.m., Little Theater
The crowning achievement of Orson Welles’s extraordinary film career, “Chimes at Midnight” was the culmination of the filmmaker’s lifelong obsession with Shakespeare’s ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff. Usually a comic supporting figure, Falstaff – the loyal, often soused friend of King Henry IV’s wayward son Prince Hal – here becomes the focus: a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero played by Welles with looming, lumbering grace.

Shakespeare on Film: Akira Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” (1957, 109 minutes)
Nov. 6: 2 p.m., Little Theater
A vivid adaptation of “MacBeth,” the film “Throne of Blood,” directed by Akira Kurosawa, sets Shakespeare’s definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan. As a hardened warrior who rises savagely to power, Toshiro Mifune gives a remarkable, animalistic performance, as does Isuzu Yamada as his ruthless wife.

Shakespeare on Film: Derek Jarman’s “The Tempest” (1979, 95 minutes)
Nov. 19: 2 p.m., Little Theater
Shot on location at the ancient, ghostly Stoneleigh Abbey, “The Tempest” is Derek Jarman’s acclaimed 1979 film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s final play. It tells the story of the magician, Prospero, who lives with his daughter on an enchanted island and punishes his enemies when they are shipwrecked there. A study of political power in the guise of a fairy tale, “The Tempest” in Jarman’s hands becomes an original and dazzling spectacle mixing Hollywood pastiche, high camp and gothic horror.

Shakespeare on Film:“Forbidden Planet” (1956, 98 minutes)
Nov. 27: 2 p.m., Little Theater
This pioneering work of science-fiction filmmaking retells the story of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” on the surface of Planet Altair-4 with Dr. Morbius and his daughter Altaira as the interplanetary stand-ins for Prospero and Miranda.

Shakespeare on Film: Grigori Kozintsev’s “Hamlet” (1964, 140 minutes)
Dec. 3: 2 p.m., Little Theater
Considered by many the finest screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest work, Russian director Grigori Kozintsev’s “Hamlet” is a spare, haunting interpretation based on a translation by novelist Boris Pasternak. The malevolence afoot in the state of Denmark is magnificently captured by the foreboding black and white cinematography and the dark, dramatic score by composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Shakespeare on Film: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935, 133 minutes)
Dec. 10: 2 p.m., Little Theater
Theseus, Duke of Athens, is going to marry Hyppolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Demetrius is engaged with Hermia, but Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius…and so unfolds one of Shakespeare’s most fantastical comedies.  In this early Hollywood adaption, Puck is played by a 15-year-old Mickey Rooney in an exuberantly astonishing performance.

FREE Community Bike Ride

Color Wheels Community Bike Ride: Dramatic Ride
Sept. 24: 10 a.m., Meet at Glass Pavilion Parkwood Entrance
TMA’s popular bicycle rides take a dramatic turn with tragedy and comedy inspired by the exhibition Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part.

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